To Protect and Serve: The LAPD Archives, 100 Years of Photography
June 13 - August 4, 2002
The exhibition consisted of rare, black and white photographs from the Los Angeles Police Department archives. Most of the photographs had never been published or even viewed by anyone outside the police department. The images of crime scenes, training aides, publicity stills advertising the LAPDs ideals, training sessions, and ceremonial events had been locked away in steel case file cabinets or deposited in the back rooms and basements of the city. The seventy-seven photographs in the exhibition, taken by police officers during investigations, date from the late 1800s to the 1980s. They proffer a comprehensive insider's view of police investigative work, from a photograph entitled, "Morgue, Woman Lying on Autopsy Table" (1931) of a woman, her arms crossed as if in sleep, her face serene, to the photograph of a sparsely worded hold-up note scrawled in childish handwriting: "stick up, don't move, smile."
The exhibition was designed to remind the viewer that the record shown is not one of Hollywood sensationalism but of real men and women engaged in dangerous but important work. Considering the present-day troubles of the LAPD, the exhibition is "fair without being propagandistic," according to LA Weekly magazine. Although the majority of the photographs portray graphic crime scenes, there are whimsical moments - ten young women officers in beehive hairdos, elegantly coifed and groomed, hold handguns in preparation for shooting practice; policemen line up for free donuts; and a police motorcycle outfitted with a sidecar jail.