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LAPD Closes Iconic Parker Center Headquarters

Parker Center, the iconic headquarters of the Los Angeles Police Department for over half a century, has closed its doors for the last time.

Using a chain of handcuffs, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck on Tuesday locked the doors as several active and retired police officers, some wearing uniforms of years past, looked on.

"Some of the brightest days of the LAPD have occurred here, and also some of the darkest," Beck said.

"It is the history, the ghosts and the glory of Parker Center, that have made us what we are," he added.

The LAPD began moving out of the antiquated facility at 150 N. Los Angeles Street in 2009, after the opening of its replacement, the modern Police Administration Building at 100 W. First Street. The new PAB with its gleaming facade of glass, cost about $600 million, Beck said.

The Scientific Investigation Division's Photo Section was the last to leave Parker Center, vacating on Friday. An environmental impact study is under way to determine the building's fate.

LAPD Assistant Chief Michel Moore felt nostalgic during Tuesday's ceremony, which featured an honor guard lowering the flags in front of Parker Center for the last time, as well as an "end of watch broadcast."

The latter is traditionally done for retiring officers, when their accomplishments are read aloud and

broadcast over police radios across the city.

"Seeing those flags come down, hearing the end-of-watch broadcast, the chains going on the door, I'm sure tugs on the heartstrings of every LAPD officer, sworn and civilian, past and present," Moore said.

"This has always been our place," he said. "We're going to miss it."

Parker Center was completed in 1955, designed by the influential architect Welton Becket, who also built the iconic Capitol Records building and the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles.

Originally called the Police Administration Building, it was named after legendary Police Chief William H. Parker upon his death in 1966. Over the years it not only become a local landmark, but appeared nationally in film and television, from "Dragnet" in the 1950s to TNT's 2005-12 police procedural "The Closer."

Built for about $6 million, the almost 398,000-square foot building opened when the city had about 4,500 officers -- less than half as many as it has now.

It featured state-of-the-art equipment for its time, such as a crime lab and hidden recording devices in jail cells.

Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan and the Hillside Strangler were among the most notorious criminals

booked there.

When an all-white jury acquitted LAPD officers of beating Rodney King in 1992, Parker Center was targeted during the riots, its parking facility set on fire.

But over the decades, the building deteriorated.

Moore remembers creaky elevators -- "It was always a challenge whether or not you would reach your floor, or end up halfway between floors" -- and how the faulty ventilation system allowed the smell of seized marijuana to waft across the hallways.

The building also flooded when it rained, had crumbling plumbing and asbestos in the walls and was missing fire sprinklers. It was also infested with vermin.

The LAPD eventually decided to abandon the building instead of doing a costly seismic retrofit.

Retired Detective Jerry Sparks used to worry about its structural integrity during earthquakes.

"It would rumble and roll pretty good," he said. "That was always an experience."

Copyright 2013 - Daily News, Los Angeles

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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