LA's Gangster Squad

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Journalist Paul Lieberman chronicles the true story of the secretive police unit that waged war to drive Mickey Cohen and other gangsters from Los Angeles after WWII. Gangster Squad: Covert Cops, the Mob, and the Battle for Los Angeles tells the story of the LAPD’s real-life Gangster Squad—eight men who met covertly to combat what city fathers saw as an “invasion of undesirables.”


Paul Lieberman

Comments [5]

Paul Lieberman from New York

Cole, the "Gangster Squad" was different from the "Hat Squad." The Hat Squad was the unofficial name given four guys in the LAPD's Robbery Division who operated a bit later and much more in the open. The Gangster Squad, formed right after WWII, in 1946, was designed basically to be invisible while targeting the mob -- those men were never supposed to make arrests, for instance, and most wanted to take their secrets to the grave.

John, no question there were moral and legal dangers with such a shadowy operation. A different secretive Los Angeles police squad a decade earlier, in the 1930s, served a corrupt city administration by bugging a vocal reformer and then planting a bomb in the car of his chief investigator -- the lieutenant who headed that unit was sentenced to San Quentin as a result and the city's mayor was recalled. The Gangster Squad guys were hired in the wake of that scandal, part of the generation that was supposed to remake the LAPD, though that did not happen quickly or easily. And while they harassed the mobsters every way they could, they certainly never killed anyone...though Mickey Cohen did complain to federal authorities that one (Jerry Wooters) threatened to shoot him.

Cole and George: my main character, Sgt. Jack O'Mara, loved "Mulholland Falls," and thought it quite true to life. He disliked "L.A. Confidential," however, because so many of the cops in it were depicted as crooked and even killers. In fact too many L.A. cops were that crooked earlier on, at least through the 1930s, but by the late '40s -- and certainly during the tenure of Chief William Parker -- a series of crime commissions (including the famous Kefauver Committee) noted that the outrageous corruption in the LA area was in the turf patrolled by the County Sheriff while the LAPD was way out in front in combating organized crime. FYI, I thought L.A. Confidential was terrific -- few understand the Noir mindset better than James Ellroy.

Thanks for listening in. All the background you ask about is in the book.


Aug. 22 2012 01:56 PM
Suzanne from Sparta

Loved listening to Paul Lieberman. It was like hearing my father (Prohibtio and Narcotic agent NYC) again.

Aug. 21 2012 01:50 PM
Cole from Atlanta, gA

More like Mulholland Falls w/ Nick Nolte... the Hat Squad

Aug. 21 2012 01:25 PM
john from office

This sounds more like a death squad, not proper policing.

Aug. 21 2012 01:13 PM
George from Brooklyn

What did Mr. Lieberman think of the movie L.A. Confidential and the portrayal of the LAPD in this time period?

Aug. 21 2012 12:18 AM

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