Was Coleman Harris From ‘Gangster Squad’ a Real Person?

'Gangster Squad"

Josh Brolin, left, as Sgt. John O’Mara with Anthony Mackie as Officer Coleman Harris in “Gangster Squad.” Drinking in uniform in a nightclub while on duty? I don’t think so.


Now that “Gangster Squad” is out on DVD and available “on demand,” I’m getting more questions about the film’s historical accuracy. Executive summary: There is almost none.

“Was Coleman Harris from ‘Gangster Squad’ a real person?” No. The LAPD in the 1940s was strictly segregated and its so-called gangster squad had no African American officers.

In fact, Mayor Tom Bradley,  a former LAPD sergeant, said in a 1978 interview:

Dec. 29, 1978, Tom Bradley Dec. 29, 1978, Tom Bradley

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About lmharnisch

I work at the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1949, African Americans, Film, Hollywood, LAPD and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Was Coleman Harris From ‘Gangster Squad’ a Real Person?

  1. Really interesting post–thanks. There are arguments to be made for “revisionist” period films that ignore color barriers, just for the fun of the current actors and viewers, but it doesn’t sound like this story is a good choice for that approach.

  2. Great post, Larry. Nobody loathes prejudice and social injustice more intensely than I do, however I find it insulting to our intelligence and to the people who suffered the discrimination when filmmakers blithely whitewash the reality, no pun intended. Why, that would be as silly as doing a movie about a black secret service agent who works for President Grant. (Oh wait, they already did that, didn’t they?)

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