1965 Watts Riots
L.A.P.D. Radio Calls
On Wednesday August 11, 1965 rioting broke out in the Watts area of Los Angeles, following the arrest of a suspected drunk driver by California Highway Patrol officers. Law Enforcement agencies hadn't been confronted with such widespread violence in decades, and the Los Angeles Police Department never had. After the riots, California Governor Edmund G "Pat" Brown appointed a commission to investigate the causes of the riots, and their report is available here for some background information.
I have obtained recording of about 29 minutes of LAPD radio calls, probably from Friday night, August 13, 1965. The recording was apparently made off a home radio tuned to LAPD's radio frequency just above the regular "AM" band, at 1730 kilocycles. It was fortunate timing to make the recording, as later that night LAPD made a quick switchover to the VHF band for the dispatchers; the move had already been in the planning stages for a while, with most of their cars already equipped with VHF receivers, and the likelihood of rioters using "police calls" for their advantage prompted LAPD to make the switch that night. (Los Angeles Times, Aug 16, 1965, p4). The officers in the field transmitted back on separate frequencies, and cannot be heard on this recording.
At that time, all the "metropolitan area" dispatchers (for eight patrol divisions, plus two divisions of traffic cars and motor officers) shared a single "talk-out" radio frequency. Another complication was that units coming in from divisions in the San Fernando Valley had quite a bit of trouble communicating with the dispatchers on their "Valley" frequency (2366 kcs).
Most noticeable is that almost all calls were "broadcasted and filed" for "any unit in the vicinity" rather than assigned to a specific unit. Later procedures for unusual occurrences and Tactical Alerts hadn't yet been put in place. So you'll hear a call for officers needing help in one division, and in another division someone will be making a routine traffic-stop or even requesting "Code 7" - lunch! Or a traffic car being dispatched to take a non-injury traffic accident report in the middle of the riot area.
Special thanks to Chris, Sharon, and Denis for supplying portions of, and information about, this recording.
NOTE: THIS RECORDING CONTAINS SOME TERMINOLOGY (SUCH AS THE WORD "NEGRO") THAT WAS IN GENERALLY ACCEPTED USE AT THE TIME.
Click on either link to play a 3 min 20 sec excerpt from the recording:
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While putting this page together, I also came across a 1965 "Universal Newsreel from PBS" called "Troops Patrol L.A.: Damage Heavy in Coast Riots" - It's also in RealMedia Format:
DIALUP / slow connection: http://media.pbs.org/ramgen/media4/hueypnewton/watts56.rm
Cable/ DSL connection: http://media.pbs.org/ramgen/media4/hueypnewton/watts256.rm
LAPD COMMUNICATIONS HISTORY