Dec. 9, 1907: Black LAPD Officer Blames Firing on Racism, Rejoins Fire Department


Note: This is an encore post from 2006.

Dec. 9, 1907
Los Angeles

Mayor Harper has restored E.J. Bowen to his old job in the Fire Department after the rookie police officer was fired for allegedly being a coward—a charge that Bowen, who is black, blames on racism.

Bowen transferred to the Police Department almost six months ago and his probationary period was almost over when he was accused of cowardice in two instances. In the first incident, Bowen allegedly refused to enter a house where burglars had been reported and in the second, he would not enter an unlocked store until another officer accompanied him.

He gave the following accounts: Two daughters of an attorney named Sturgis [possibly Alonzo A. Sturgis] thought they heard burglars in their home on Chicago Street, which was apparently in Boyle Heights. They ran out of the house and told a streetcar crew, who reported the incident to Bowen. Bowen allegedly was afraid to go into the house unless a streetcar motorman accompanied him, but the officer said he went to the home at once and searched it. The motorman came along on his own initiative, Bowen said.


He also said that while patrolling his beat, he found an unlocked cigar store, but refused to enter until another officer arrived, not out fear, but because he was afraid that if anything was missing, he would be accused of theft.

After the allegations were made, the streetcar motorman and the second officer from the cigar store incident visited Mayor Harper, saying that Bowen was being “jobbed” out of the department.

Police officials told The Times that Bowen wasn’t actually found guilty of cowardice, but lack of aggression and being too timid about taking responsibility.

Shout out to Nathan—Happy birthday, crime buddy!

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1907, Crime and Courts, Fires, LAPD, Streetcars, Transportation and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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