A police officer with more than a dozen years of experience on the force has written a book that describes widespread discrimination and power-hungry sergeants as all part of a day’s work in the Pasadena Police Department.
“Roses Have Thorns,” a semi-autobiographical account of Officer Naum L. Ware’s 16 years with the department, details the trials and tribulations a young black police officer encounters after he accepts a job with the Pasadena department in the early 1980s.
Ware, who is still with the department, said he wrote the book to try and make some good come out of his bad experiences with racism and favoritism on the force.
“This book is a manual for the green troops, it’s an encyclopedia for the new people,” said Ware, 35, in an interview at police headquarters. “It’s supposed to teach them how to get by if they’re not one of the beautiful people around here.”
Naturally, Ware’s airing of his disenchantment with the department has not endeared him to Pasadena’s top brass. Chief Jerry Oliver has not read the book and does not plan to, said Cmdr. Gary Bennett. Oliver became chief in 1991, well after the majority of Ware’s problems had occurred.
“We’ve got enough to do around here without reading his book,” Bennett said. “I haven’t read the book and probably won’t. I don’t know how much of the events he talks about are true, but it all happened in the past, and life goes on.”
Though Ware admits that much of his story is set a decade ago, many of the characters mentioned under pseudonyms in the story line are still with the department. Some characters in the book--such as Sgt. Yoda and Lt. Highstrung--have monikers that reflect how Ware sees their dispositions.
Police Officers Assn. President Dennis Diaz said that for many of his colleagues, the biggest challenge in reading the book is matching up the characters with their counterparts in real life. “He changed their names for good reason, although internally it almost didn’t matter. Almost everybody’s able to pick out who’s who,” Diaz said.
“The book is his version of what happened to him. But when it comes to the circumstances where he describes how he was treated, we know that is what happened,” said Diaz, who has been with the department for nearly 25 years.
Diaz recalled an incident when Ware wanted to leave the Northwest Crime Task Force, an anti-drug unit set up to police northwest Pasadena. Ware was one of the task force’s best “buyers” and made countless drug arrests, but as time went on, the pressure of being undercover for eight hours a day wore on him and began to break up his family.
Ware put in for a transfer back to patrol, Diaz said, but the department did its best to force him to stay with the task force, telling him that he was ruining his career and putting him on graveyard shifts. “We all remember what happened to him when he tried to leave,” he said. “We remember those incidents of how he was treated.”
Diaz added that he had no idea the book was being written. “This is the first time that this has happened,” he said. “We’ve gotten books about Pasadena or referencing cases in Pasadena, but nothing where an individual is still here and working when he wrote something.”
Ware only smiles when he hears about the reactions to his book, especially when he is told of the frowns on the faces of higher-ups and comments from other officers that publishing it was “departmental suicide.”
“I know this is not going to change anything for me,” he said, adding that his reputation as a troublemaker started when he complained as a rookie about being placed with a bigoted training officer.
“I put on that jacket then, and I’ve worn it for the rest of my career,” said Ware, adding that he has never been promoted in his 16 years with the department, though he has consistently scored among the top candidates every time he has taken the investigator’s exam.
Department officials confirmed his scores.
“My hope is that the book will change some things for other people. This book was published out of principle,” Ware said.
He paid for the book’s publication himself. He will not reveal how much it cost.
Ware, who also preaches at the Plain Truth Missionary Baptist Church in Pasadena, said he has sold more than 150 copies since the paperback rolled off the presses April 18.
Vroman’s Books, the only local store now carrying the novel, reported it had sold about 60 copies of the $16.95 book as of last week.