LAPD memorial for fallen officers finds its way home

Crews prepare to lift the Los Angeles Police Foundation Memorial to Fallen Officers. The brass structure will sit on an elevated plaza in front of the new LAPD headquarters on West First Street.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Accompanied by a Los Angeles Police Department motorcycle escort, a memorial wall for fallen officers was delivered Tuesday to the department’s new downtown headquarters.

LAPD staff gathered at the windows and in the street with cellphone cameras to record the arrival of the nearly 11,000-pound brass structure from Kansas City, where it was assembled.

But when a crane finally hoisted the wall onto an elevated plaza in front of the Police Administration Building on West 1st Street, the horrified designers realized that it was facing the wrong way.

After hurried consultations with contractors, it became apparent that it would not be possible to simply flip the wall around to face the area where ceremonies will be held, because brackets securing it to the ground would no longer be aligned.

But all was not lost. The more than 2,000 brass plaques that make up the structure were designed to be removable so that the names of additional officers who die in the line of duty can be carved out.

After reviewing the drawings, it was decided that the more than 200 plaques already bearing the names of fallen LAPD officers could be unscrewed and moved to the front of the wall, instead of having to move the structure again, said Li Wen, who was part of a team of architects who conceived and developed the memorial.

“It is anticlimactic,” said Wen, a senior associate at the Santa Monica office of the Gensler architecture firm, which provided its services for free. But he was confident the mistake would be rectified in time for the Oct. 14 dedication.

The wall is intended as a tribute to the entire force, as well as to individual members who have lost their lives, Wen said.

“When you approach it from a distance, it will appear as a wall, reflecting the unity of the police force,” said David Herjeczki, another Gensler senior associate. “But as you get closer, you will see it is an assemblage of individual pieces, each one paying tribute to a fallen officer.”

The Los Angeles Police Foundation raised the funds for the $725,000 memorial through private donations, officers said. The original tribute to fallen officers, a memorial fountain in front of Parker Center, crumbled when it was moved to make room for a new jail, said Alan Atkins, executive director of the Los Angeles Police Memorial Foundation.

The Kansas City-based architectural metal firm A. Zahner Co. built the new memorial. On Friday, it was boxed and loaded onto a trailer for the trip to California. In a show of support to fellow officers, Kansas City police escorted the memorial out of town.

When the truck reached Los Angeles, passing firefighters pulled over and turned on their lights out of respect, said Ed Thomas, who drove the memorial across the country. Other drivers honked their horns and gave thumbs-up signs, said members of the LAPD escort.

“The names on the memorial are all heroes,” said Officer Brenan Booth, a 22-year veteran of the force. “It was an honor to escort them here.”

When the memorial was in place, First Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell dropped by for a closer look.

“It’s beautiful,” he said, running a finger over some of the names. “The sad part is, there’s plenty of blanks. Unfortunately, they won’t be blank forever.”