UCLA’s new interim chief of police, John Thomas, is not only a veteran of nearly four decades in law enforcement but also an accomplished amateur historian.
Over the course of his career, he has had a few important opportunities to marry those two passions, correcting longstanding errors in how the LAPD had recorded the stories of two Black officers from decades earlier.
In 1997, when Thomas was a sergeant in the Los Angeles Police Department, then-Chief Bernard Parks tasked him with finding photos from the LAPD archives to adorn the walls near Parks’ office. And he wanted images that would reflect the department’s diverse history.
“I became fascinated by the photos of all the individuals I found reflecting that diversity,” said Thomas, who is Black. “But for obvious reasons, I felt a stronger connection to those Black officers who laid the foundation for my career of service. Sadly, not much was documented about their careers, so I felt compelled to help tell their stories.”