Sergeant-at-Arms : Veteran of Council Wars Retiring After 10 Years

Times Staff Writer

During his 10 years as sergeant-at-arms to the Los Angeles City Council, John Madras has dragged noisy demonstrators out of the council chamber and stepped between council members to prevent fistfights.

On Wednesday, Madras, a 58-year-old Sepulveda resident, retired from his job.

Madras, a uniformed Los Angeles Police Department officer who once walked a beat in the high-crime downtown area, was responsible for keeping order in the council chambers, and especially for protecting the lives of elected Los Angeles. He also was regularly sent scurrying through City Hall to round up the 10 members required for a quorum.

No Cushy Task

Those who think it's a cushy job should have been in the council chamber in April, 1983, when a demonstration by the Revolutionary Communist Party escalated into a wild, free-for-all wrestling match with Madras and the one other police officer stationed at City Hall. The pair got some help from off-duty officers who happened to be in the chamber on another matter. Reinforcements also were brought in from police headquarters nearby. Eventually, 27 people were arrested, most on suspicion of disturbing a public assembly. Madras came away with a wrenched back.

Usually, however, council meetings have been orderly, in large part because the crew-cut sporting Madras, who looks like a Marine Corps drill sergeant, firmly but politely told the often emotional audiences to refrain from booing council members.

At Wednesday's meeting, council members took time out to thank him.

Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky recalled that, when Councilman Gilbert Lindsay became ill several years ago and collapsed on the floor of the council chamber, Madras' training came into play. With a single hand gesture he fended off a horde of cameras and reporters who pressed onto the scene.

Bernardi Quip

"The Knights of Columbus (of which Madras is a member) will have to build a bigger hall to hold the people who will want to come to hear your City Council stories," quipped Councilman Ernani Bernardi.

For his part, Madras, who holds the rank of a senior patrolman, not a sergeant, said he thanked God the council had been spared major threats while he was in charge of its safety.

"I hope the Good Lord continues to watch over you," Madras told the council. He introduced his wife, Vivian, and said he plans to travel.

Then, as the council went into closed session, Madras took charge one last time and nudged reporters out the door of the chambers.

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