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LAPD Chief Williams

LAPD Chief Williams

Los Angeles, California -- 1996

The verdict in the Rodney King trial, which acquitted four LAPD officers, and the subsequent April rioting were flash points that placed the Los Angeles Police Department under a microscope of public scrutiny. In the midst of this community trial, Chief Willie L. Williams took command in 1992 as the 50th Chief of Police and the first African-American to be appointed that position.

A few years later, my music career was enduring personal examination. The 1993 international release of my "Tigress" CD by Warner Music Discovery had felt like sweet success. But in the realm of daily life, this newfound notoriety had not translated into financial security. As a thirty-something professional living in Los Angeles, the day to day grind of just trying to "pay the rent" had become unbearable. In my disillusionment, I began to look for a career change.

My steady Tuesday night gig at JAX Bar & Grill in Glendale CA evolved into a favorite hang-out for off-duty police officers and I soon made new friends. My band was hired to perform for many LAPD events, such as the Chief's Holiday Party (where this snapshot was taken), the Los Angeles Women's Police Officer Association (LAWPOA) Jazz Benefit Concert and numerous Retirement parties. I began to understand the culture, comradery and commitment of those who choose a life "to protect and to serve". And I learned to appreciate the security and benefits a career in public service offered. So, I applied to become a Los Angeles Police Officer.

The process to be hired by LAPD is long and hard. To my amazement, I scored very high on every test. Physically, I was able to scale that 6 foot wall and drag a 250-lb "body" to safety. The psychological testing proved me to be sound of mind. And I scored 98% on my oral interview, losing points only because I neglected to address the interviewers as "sir" and "ma'am" (not a common practice in the music world!) Amazingly, In less than three months, I was hired!

I bought the required shiny manly shoes, washed off all make-up, slicked back my hair and began the military-style training at the Police Academy. Waking at 4 am each morning was completely upside-down from my music world and made me feel slightly schitzo. When I got the call from the funky band Brothers Johnson to go on tour to Japan, I knew my heart would break in two. Being hired by LAPD was quite an accomplishment, but I had dedicated 12 years of my professional life to music by this point. What if this was my big break?

After much soul searching, I decided to defer out of the police department to see what the music business was now offering. (Boy, were my parents relieved!) I could have returned to LAPD within a year if I chose, but my life moved on and ultimately I stayed with music. I think I could have been a really good police officer. But I have absolutely no regrets about returning to my true passion for music. Only once in a great while do I ponder what my life may have been like if I had traded in my saxophone for a handgun and billy club....