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What it's like to be a cop during 'anarchy'

To the editor: Thanks to novelist and former Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Joseph Wambaugh for his Op-Ed article recalling what it was like for officers on duty during the Watts riots. ("Joseph Wambaugh: The Watts riots — from inside a black-and-white," Op-Ed, Aug. 11)

I was 10 years old when the riots occurred and vaguely remember the news broadcasts and not much else. I learned of the seriousness of the Watts riots when I read Wambaugh's book, "The New Centurions," and the closing dealing with the riots and their chaotic effect on the officers. The book's narrative was obviously taken from Wambaugh's personal experience.

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I have recently completed a 34-year career in police work and experienced that feeling of chaos a number of times. Thanks to Wambaugh again for enlightening the public using his experience on what a police officer must deal with during times of violence and disorder.

Kevin Collins, New Hyde Park, N.Y.

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To the editor: I read with great interest Wambaugh's article on the night the Watts riots became especially dangerous.

On Aug. 13, 1965, I was a bus operator for the Southern California Rapid Transit District, a predecessor of today's Metro. I had a run on the 7 Line, which went from Eagle Rock to Broadway in South Los Angeles.

As I ventured south around 5 p.m. that day, I witnessed something between anarchy and a carnival. All the major intersections were filled with looters.

I had a long layover when a group of locals began throwing objects at my bus. I left and drove up Broadway in a hail of rocks and bottles. This was before buses had radios, and we carried money, so we were easy targets.

Funny thing was, I was written up for running "hot" (ahead of schedule) by a supervisor.

Kenneth S. Skolyan, Huntington Beach

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