With support from rank-and-file officers and Chief William Bratton, recently the Los Angeles Police Commission will consider a proposal by Commissioner Alan Skobin to create the LAPD Purple Heart to be awarded to officers killed or seriously injured in the line of duty.
Commissioner Skobin, a Reserve Chief in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, proposed that the Police Commission create the Purple Heart in response to discussions with officers who were shot in the line of duty but never recognized for the injuries they sustained while serving the city.Â As a result of the request by Commissioner Skobin, a working group was formed and criteria were developed for the Purple Heart.
The medal is not intended to replace the Medal of Valor, which recognizes LAPD officers who go above and beyond the call of duty to protect the people of Los Angeles. While medals alone can never recognize fully the dedication to duty of these police officers, they are emblematic of courage beyond the common human experience.Â The LAPD can award officers a variety of medals, reflecting the gratitude of the city for a variety of situations where officers serve the community bravely and honorably.Â
“We applaud Commissioners Skobin and Pacheco, as well as their fellow Commissioners, for what we expect will be approval of the Purple Heart award.Â Chief Bratton and the Commission’s leadership on this issue speak volumes about the Department’s concern for the welfare and safety of police officers, and for the Department’s formal recognition and appreciation of the extraordinary sacrifices made by officers and their families,” said Paul M. Weber, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents the over 9,800 sworn officers of the Los Angeles Police Department.Â
“Creation of the Purple Heart award is long overdue for the men and women who serve the city of Los Angeles as police officers, and for the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Weber.Â “It should be promptly adopted by the Police Commission because it is the right thing to do and now is the right time to do it.”
The creation of a Purple Heart for LAPD has been rejected by the Department in past administrations.Â In one instance, it was determined that “an award for injuries sustained in the line of duty serves little or no useful purpose.”Â However, many law enforcement agencies in the United States have seen things differently and adopted medals similar to the Purple Heart.Â They include police departments in New York City, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Denver, Las Vegas, Tampa, Tulsa, Spokane and Albuquerque; the Departments of Public Safety in Texas, Utah, New Mexico and Illinois State Police; the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The idea for the LAPD Purple Heart resurfaced after Commissioner Skobin had dinner with five LAPD Officers to thank them for all they do, and to ask them for their thoughts on things he could do to be a better Police Commissioner.Â Commissioner Skobin learned that two of the officers had been shot in the line of duty, with a total of five bullets entering their bodies. The officers not only risked their lives for the public, as all LAPD officers do daily, but they also suffered traumatic and life threatening injuries in doing so. Their injuries were severe enough at the time of their encounters that both officers feared they would not survive and worried about who would take care of their families. The officers explained how not only did they suffer severe physical injuries, but were traumatized emotionally long after the physical wounds healed.Â Even though these officers literally took bullets protecting the people of Los Angeles, they said there was no form of recognition for their sacrifice when they returned to work.Â Commissioner Skobin vowed to do everything in his power to right that wrong, and has spearheaded the effort to implement the LAPD Purple Heart.