L.A.’s Last Street Cop: Surviving Hollywood Freaks, The Aryan Brotherhood, and the L.A.P.D.’s Homicidal Vendetta Against Me (281 pp. Highpoint, $24.99, hardcover; $9.99, Kindle) is Al Moreno’s memoir of his years with what he calls “the premier police department in the United States.” Moreno went to work for LAPD soon after coming home from the Vietnam War feeling like it was the job he was born to do. But just a few years later he was fired in what he says was an “unlawful procedure.”
The book’s main story takes place between 1975 and 1982. Moreno, grew up, as he puts it, in the “gang-infested” Florencia-13 part of South Central Los Angeles. His father was abusive and his family very poor—and large. He had eleven brothers and sisters. He joined the Marines in 1968, three years after dropping out of high school and served in Vietnam with India Company, Third Battalion, Seventh Marines as a fire team leader and radioman. After leaving the Corps he obtained an associate’s degree and was accepted into the Los Angeles Police Academy in late 1975.
Always remember, a veteran cop told him, that “this world out here is a shithole with no long-term fixes. Your main responsibility is to keep the peace for that instant in real time and prevent the situation from escalating.”
Moreno had no confidence in the weapon he was issued, describing it as a Smith & Wesson “piss-ant” .38 six-shot revolver with no knock-down power. He describes “greasy spoon” meals on the job, and how routine arrests would typically require five hours of paperwork, and how he served during a time when there were few female officers in the department. He points out that many of the men were war veterans, but that 90 percent of the officers on the force “had never dropped the hammer on an asshole.” He says the term “war brides” was used to describe women who chased cops, hoping to date or even marry them.
Moreno writes that he had a “natural pugilistic talent,” and received a suspension for an off-duty fight while working the Hollywood Division. He went on to work his way up to a specialized unit dealing with gang-related incidents. For political reasons there was intentional under-reporting of gang-related statistics, a situation Moreno helped bring to light, putting him at odds with the department’s bureaucracy. He was suspended again.
In 1981 Moreno had more serious charges brought against him by a department he believed had it out for him. Then came death threats, then termination, an action he has worked ever since to have reversed.
The stories Al Moreno tells and incidents he describes in his book are often blood-soaked ones. He does a great job of putting the reader next to him in the front seat of a squad car—or on a bar stool.
L.A.’s Last Cop is an exciting story, excitingly told, with serious undertones of a man still trying to reclaim his good name.
The book’s website is laststreetcop.com