Mrs. Lucy Thompson Gray , in 1888, became the first woman to enter Los Angeles Police Department employment. Her duties largely concerned female prisoners. Mrs. Gray was successful in reforming female offenders and the prevention of juvenile delinquency. She established her residence within the City Jail. In 1910, Alice Stebbins Wells became the first female anywhere in the world to join the ranks of sworn personnel. She retired after 30 years of pioneer service. Minnie Barton was the Department's second policewoman. Ms. Barton founded the Minnie Barton Home for Girls in 1917 which was to become the present Big Sister League. In 1929, Rose V. Pickerel was the first female officer assigned to walk a beat. There were no females sergeants in the Department until 1945 when Leola Vess and Laura Churchill attained the distinction. The first rank of sergeant was awarded in 1950 to Vivian Wilson Strange. The extreme changes that have occurred since the days of Alice Stebbein Wells find over 900 females officers presently in the Los Angeles Police Department. This was a result of the adoption by the Department of its Unisex policy.
In 1895, Robert William Stewart was the City's first Black officer. Georgia Robinson made history in 1916 as the Department's first Black policewoman. The first Black female sergeant was Vivian W. Strange. Willie L. William, former police commissioner of Philadelphia, was sworn in on June 26, 1992 as the first black chief in the history of the Los Angeles Police Department.
The actions of LADP resulted in two major riots, the Watts riot and the riots of the Rodney King verdict. The Watts riot was one of the most violent social events to confront the Los Angeles Police Department occurred on August of 1965. For seven days the south central Los Angeles community of Watts was engulfed in rioting and looting. The worst riot in the United States in the 190's erupted in Los Angeles on April 29, 1992. In five days of violence, looting and arson, more than 50 people died and hundreds more were injured. The rioting was ignited by the verdict in the case of Rodney G. King, a black motorist who was beaten in March 1991 by four white Los Angeles Police Department officers after a high-speed pursuit. A bystander videotaped the beating, which was shown widely on television, attracted national attention.