"See these guys?" retired officer Larry Manchester gestures around a reception hall at the Hyatt Recency in Huntington Beach, CA. "Manson? The Weather Underground? The Watts Riots? These guys were there." Manchester is referring to the few dozen cops, all in their 70s, fraternizing gregariously on the 50th anniversary of their graduation from the LA Police Academy. Their service spanned some of the most iconic events in LA history.
"We are the Parker class," Frank Vergeletto explains proudly, referring to police chief William H. Parker, who died the day after he inspected the class of 1966 at the Academy. "We were the last of his group. That's what made us special. Before chief Parker the city of Los Angeles was very corrupt. We had a chief Davis that went to jail. We had a mayor that went to jail. There was a lot of graft and corruption, and Chief Parker cleaned that all up."
"Some of the officers in this class were involved in a shooting where I got shot," recalls retired officer Frank Pettinato. "At that time when I came on the job, S.W.A.T. wasn't there, we were not equipped with bulletproof vests, and the only thing we had was a six-shot revolver. Our communication was limited to the length of a microphone cord."
Retired Sergeant Joe Cupo says the training he got at the academy saved his life many times. "I had a World War 2 combat veteran who was my training officer and he told me, 'You can either fight everybody into jail, or you can talk 'em into jail, and kid, it's a lot easier talkin' 'em into jail than it is fightin' 'em.' I never killed anybody, I never fired my gun, and I never had a citizen complaint for 30 years, and I was in the busiest crime laden areas the whole time."