March 31, 2022

Photo Essay: The Grub, Grottos, and Gunfire of the Los Angeles Police Academy, Elysian Park

[Last updated 2/25/23 11:21 PM PT—Video embed added to bottom of post]

The Los Angeles Police Academy is one of the most recognizable landmarks of LA's Elysian Park...

...starting with its "Academy Arches," which have appeared in many TV and movie productions, including American Beauty and episodes of Dragnet and T.J. Hooker.

Located off of Academy Road (the former  Effie Street, renamed for the police academy in 1962), much of the academy campus was built using salvaged street lamps from the Bureau of Street Services—as well as lava rocks, bricks, and other building materials scrapped from businesses gone belly-up during the Great Depression.

The parcel of park land it currently stands on—once adjacent to the Chavez Ravine residential community, and in a natural canyon—was previously used as a pistol range for the Los Angeles Police Pistol Club, formed in 1925 as a private organization of sworn members of the Department.

At the time, cadets and new officers had been training at the nearby naval reserve armory since 1924—and for 70 years before that, the only training they'd receive would be on the job! But in 1933, then-police chief James E. Davis began converting it into a training facility for new recruits. 
Part of the building out of the campus occurred thanks to the 1932 Olympic Games, which had borrowed the academy's shooting range for its pistol and rifle competitions. In exchange, the Police Academy inherited the Baldwin Hills Olympic Village's former athletes' dormitory, which was dismantled, moved to Elysian Park, and reassembled and is still in use today. 
Today,  the Los Angeles Police Revolver and Athletic Club is amazingly open to the public. 
In addition to a gift shop (and officer supply store), there's the Academy Cafe coffee shop inside the Daryl F. Gates Lounge and Dining Center.

The building is named after the former LAPD chief who served from 1978 to 1992, when he retired in the wake of the LA riots. It was the LAPD's second-longest tenure in that position, right behind Chief William Parker.

Anybody—including civilians—can go without a reservation during open hours and sit where they want. 

I prefer sidling up to one of the U-shaped counters, which are often full of cops taking a meal or coffee break and talking shop. 
There are lots of historic photos and other artifacts (like handcuffs) to peruse on the walls...

...but even the menu itself is entertaining, with themetically-named dishes like the "Hit and Run" Bowl or the "Sleep With the Fishes" tuna melt. 
While the jokes may be in poor taste, the food itself is really good if you're looking for a greasy spoon type of experience. 

The Academy’s first class graduated in 1936—and since that time, notable graduates have included former Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, who rose to the rank of Lieutenant, the highest rank for a black LAPD officer at the time. Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry became a sergeant in 1953 and resigned from the force in 1956 for a full-time Hollywood career. 
Behind the dining center building, there's an other-worldly landscape of boulders, rock benches, stone stairs, an outdoor kitchen, and and winding flagstone paths...

...where the Academy Chapel Meditation Center is tucked away...

...and where a chaplain can occasionally be found, offering peace to all who enter. 
It's part of the Los Angeles Police Academy Rock Garden, constructed in 1935-7. 

It was originally designed by French landscape artist Fran├žois Scotti, known for his work with concrete sculptures...

...including a waterfall installation inside the Clifton's Brookdale Cafeteria in Downtown LA (which is still there). 
This built environment of geological grottos and meditative niches was designated Los Angeles Historical-Cultural Monument #110 in 1973. 

It's not easy to find—not even if you're looking for it, which I did in 2014 upon my first meal at the Academy Cafe, before it shut down for a multi-year renovation. 

The Academy Cafe was closed for the COVID-19 pandemic—but it's opened back up again. And the rock garden is a nice place to go after your meal and digest. 

The only problem?

The occasional blat-blat-blat of gunshots and a stomach-churning boom every now and then, from cops receiving in-service training. (New recruits now train at a facility near LAX.)
Adapted somewhat from my article "How to Discover the Wonders of Elysian Park by Car" on

Update 2/25/23: Watch the video I produced for KCET's SoCal Wanderer in the player above.
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1 comment:

  1. "Once upon a time, there were three little girls who went to the Police Academy..." Thanks. I never knew about any of this. I can't wait to have my Hit and Run Bowl.