Larry J. Wallace
Recently the Attorney General announced a series of appointments which included veteran law enforcement official Larry J. Wallace
As a 25-year veteran of law enforcement, Larry J. Wallace was an ideal choice to serve the attorney general as director of the Division of Law Enforcement. He is the first African-American to hold this position in the California Department of Justice. In this role, Wallace has day-to-day oversight of the department’s $238 million budget, 437 special agents, 281 criminalists, and 693 non-sworn personnel. Wallace most recently served as the deputy chief of the bureau of investigations for the San Francisco district attorney’s office. He began his law enforcement career in 1987 with the Berkeley Police Department, where he was named Officer of the Year and awarded the Medal of Valor. Wallace also worked for 10 years as a special agent with the San Francisco Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement.
In speaking with the Sentinel, Wallace explained his passion for law enforcement and the reason(s) why he believes that he was selected for such a sensitive post in the state’s Department of Justice. According to Wallace, he cut his “law enforcement teeth” as a narcotics detective in the Berkeley Police Department for approximately eight years “and that’s how I got affiliated with DOJ (Department of Justice) in 1994. I went to work there as a special agent and worked narcotics there for approximately 10 years. Now I’ve come back to DOJ to run the entire department.”
Since Wallace had worked there (at DOJ) before, he was familiar with the state, the various bureaus within the California DOJ, the people and protocols and procedures; and just what needs to be done. “I have a lot of local and federal contacts from working with the Department of Justice over the years. And I think that’s one of the good things here because one of the things the attorney general is talking about is that we have to do more with less. With my contacts, I can reach out and make sure our department is collaborating with these other entities to ensure we’re getting the most bang for our bucks.
“We have to be creative and innovative and think outside of the box; it’s very important to collaborate with other entities to make sure that you’re getting the work done.”
Since his responsibility will be statewide, he said, “I’m currently working in Sacramento at the Division of Law Enforcement headquarters .. and I’m actually overseeing five bureaus: the Bureau of Forensic Services – with 10 laboratories statewide; the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement; with 10 regional offices statewide and 52 task forces … we assist local law enforcement with forensic services especially in the smaller and the rural counties … they rely on the DOJ laboratories.”
In terms of the narcotics problems throughout the state, Wallace stated, “I think what we’re seeing now is the local street gangs are affiliated now with drug trafficking,” which translate into a directed relationship between street gangs and drug trafficking … “and that’s what we’re trying to attack with our 52 task forces.”
Wallace was the attorney general’s deputy chief when she was the district attorney of San Francisco. “I spent six years there. I was in charge of her special operations program, major fraud, witness relocation and assistance program, and trial preparation unit.”
As one who has previously worked with A/G Harris in a similar capacity, Wallace was asked to expound on how he thinks she will implement her campaign slogan/focus: ‘Smart on Crime.’ He responded, “Being smart on crime, that’s a part of collaborating and working with local entities and other forms of law enforcement, other groups within the community … not just a lock-’em-and-throw-away-the-key approach. You have to be smart … that may work in some aspects (cases) but in other aspects, we have to do me … think outside the box … and especially doing more with less.”
A native of California, Wallace grew up in Oakland, attended Oakland High School, went to Merritt College and got an Associate of Arts degree there.
Then he received a basketball scholarship and went on to Eastern Oregon State College where he earned a Bachelors degree in business in 1986.
Finally, to sum it all up Wallace concluded, “Based on my experience, I’m able to cultivate relationships between local, state and federal agencies to oversee and manage major operations and investigations.”
About law enforcement, Wallace said, “I was always intrigued by it … always wanted to do the right things … and I just thought, it would be a good career … and I never thought about another career for the past 25 years.”