An unusually large number of longtime LAPD homicide detectives are retiring this year as their retirement deferments--like those of other people in the department--are expiring.
Investigating homicides is a craftsman's job that takes years to master. Older detectives accumulate skills and train the young, so these detectives take with them troves of experience.
And they worked for it. To be a homicide detective over the past three decades was to see the historic pinnacles of the homicide problem such as may never be seen again--if we're lucky. The years 1980, 1991, 1992 and 1993, for example, saw homicide numbers in Los Angeles reach heights that dwarf current levels. In 1980 alone there were over 1,000 homicides citywide, more than double today's levels amid that era's smaller population.
For the detectives who toiled through those times multiple callouts per weekend were the norm. They sacrificed personal lives and sleep, chasing homicides that got little public attention. For example, Det. Frank Bolan, of Wilshire Division, the precinct covering Koreatown and Fairfax, tells of the days when Wilshire had 85 homicides a year. The present-day division doesn't compare. Wilshire had just 23 homicides last year.
To do such a job long term, you have to like it. "It is not conducive to family life," said Bolan, who retires single. He cites callouts, court appearances, "long hours and search warrants and all that. A pretty dedicated bunch of people work homicide." It suited him, though. "I'm a working cop, man. That's why I never wanted to be promoted or in an administrative job." RHD's Grayson concurred: "They say if you like your job, you never work a day in your life, and that's how it was," he said.
The detectives retiring in April include Lt. Don Hartwell of Robbery-Homicide Division, with at least 39 years on the job; Lt. Jimmy Grayson, also of Robbery-Homicide, also with 39 years; Det. Ron Phillips, the supervisor of West Los Angeles Division homicide, with 40 years; Det. Chuck Tizano, a longtime 77th Division investigator, who has more than 30 years; Det. Brian Tyndall of Robbery-Homicide, at least 36 years; Det. Jack Giroud of Robbery-Homicide, 51 years; Det. Frank Bishop of Foothill Division, and Bolan, who became a police officer in 1969 and who was recently told he has the department's longest unbroken record of investigating homicides: 29 years in the unit and 1,822 homicide investigations under his belt.
(Above, West L.A. Det. Ron Phillips on his third-to-last day at work. Above right, leftover tape at a homicide scene after an investigation was completed.)