Crime & Justice

Longtime LAPD shoeshine man dies

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Family, friends, and LAPD officers today gathered to remember the longtime shoeshine man who'd worked at police headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. KPCC's Frank Stoltze says that for more than two decades, David Briggs was a fixture at Parker Center - shining the shoes of everyone, from chiefs to rookies.

Frank Stoltze: David Briggs' shoeshine stand occupied an alcove off the main hallway on the ground floor of LAPD headquarters. Officer Jack Richter remembered Briggs sitting on his stool like a cobbler, a self-proclaimed "minister of leather."

Jack Richter: You know, his greeting would pan from his face to, yes, your shoes. "Do those yourself?" he would ask me. Yeah, I reluctantly admitted. And without looking up, he would say good-naturedly to himself, "Looks like it."

Stoltze: That's how it was between Briggs and officers, who relied on the man they called "Dr. Dave" to clean up shoes they'd scuffed and dirtied running down leads and chasing suspects.

Richter: And after several layers of polish and the application of nylon brushes, the final procedure would begin: a light coat of polish with intermittent sprays of water. And then, out came that magic cloth – pop, pop, pop.

Stoltze: Richter said Briggs would pull the cloth tight and whip it across your shoes 'til they shone like new. A lot of cops passed inspection, thanks to him.

Fifty-six-year-old Briggs died of apparent natural causes last month. The department's top brass attended a memorial at the Police Academy. Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell sat in Brigg's shoeshine chair many times.

Jim Mcdonnell: Dave would talk about stuff and you'd go "How do you know about that?" And it was stuff that hadn't even been made public yet. But Dave was in the loop on it.

Stoltze: Briggs enjoyed an unusually close relationship with the men and women who worked at police headquarters. Officer Ruby Malachi:

Ruby Malachi (in interview): He would even allow some of the guys to drop off our shoes and our Sam Brownes at his house.

Stoltze: Sam Brownes are the thick leather uniform belts officers wear.

Malachi (in interview): And we would give him a ride to and from work and sometimes he'd say "Ya know what, just drop me off around the corner. I don't want everybody to see a black and white pull up out in front of my house, ya know." He'd go "I'd have to answer too many questions. Just drop me off around the corner and I'll pick up my gear."

Stoltze: A group of LAPD officers collected donations to fly Briggs' son from South Carolina to attend the memorial. David Briggs Jr., who's trying to make it as a musician, said only a few words at the service.

David Briggs Jr.: Gonna miss my dad. Ya know we didn't see eye to eye sometimes. But ya know I knew he was proud of me and he really was supportive of what I was doing, and I know it's kinda hard for any parent – you want to be a musician, ya know. (chuckles)

Stoltze: Briggs said his dad actually loved music, and helped him buy his first set of drums. He also remembers his dad taking him to work at police headquarters.

Briggs Jr. (in interview): I thought it was kinda cool because like, as you guys seen today, he had so many friends, and I think more importantly, they were like family.

Stoltze: As the memorial wound down, Chief Bill Bratton presented the younger Briggs with an American flag – on behalf of all his father's friends at the LAPD.