A Satisfying Third Career

Richard Moak

Richard Moak
Lieutenant
Los Angeles County (CA) Sheriff’s Department


I didn’t originally plan on a law enforcement career. My original idea was to become a professional musician, having played alto sax and clarinet in my high school’s dance band and symphonic wind ensemble, along with being part of the Barton Rogers Orchestra in Indianapolis. But I decided that being a musician would not provide for a stable future and in 1965 enrolled at Wabash College for a liberal arts education and to find a proper career path. I graduated with a B.A. in German that included two semesters at the University of Vienna in Austria. I received a three-year National Defense Education Act Fellowship to pursue a doctorate at the University of Southern California. At the conclusion of the fellowship, I had my M.A. degree and passed the written and oral exams for a Ph.D. Needing to complete a dissertation and also needing an income, I was a teaching assistant for one year then was hired as an administrative assistant at the university. While in that position, I discovered law enforcement.

In 1975 I became a reserve deputy sheriff for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. I found my weekend duties at the West Hollywood Patrol Station to be more interesting and rewarding than the thought of becoming a college professor, so I transitioned to a full-time deputy sheriff and left USC in 1976 without completing the dissertation. My assignments as a deputy progressed from working in the county jail to prisoner transportation. While working prisoner transportation, my right eye was damaged in a caustic chemical attack by prisoners attempting an escape from a courthouse. After a 4-month recovery, I returned to duty, but was warned that the damage was permanent and might progress. I was able to transfer to patrol and had a unique assignment: I was part of a two-man, four wheel drive patrol of a 250 square mile area of the Angeles National Forest, an area so large that code 3 or backup calls from one side of our area to the other could take up to 45 minutes! I subsequently worked both a one man traffic car and a two man crime car in a normal city area.

In 1983 I was promoted to sergeant and assigned to the West Hollywood Station where I began my law enforcement career as a reserve deputy. West Hollywood was then a small, 7 square mile, unincorporated county area, fielding only 3 patrol cars and a field sergeant. Traffic enforcement was handled by the California Highway Patrol. In 1984 it became an incorporated city and contracted with the sheriff’s department for law enforcement services. Almost overnight our strength increased to 17 patrol cars, running the gamut of traffic, routine patrol and specialized problem enforcement and still included the unincorporated area of Universal Studios in Hollywood and the area surrounding the federal building and national cemetery in Westwood. That was undoubtedly my favorite assignment, not to mention where I met my then future wife, Suzie, who was night manager of Barney’s Beanery, a famous restaurant and celebrity hangout. I next transferred to an administrative position as personnel sergeant at the Reserve Forces Bureau, which managed the nearly 1,000 reserve deputies in the department.

In 1989 I was promoted to lieutenant and had watch commander duties first at the Mira Loma Custody Facility and then the Malibu/Lost Hills Patrol Station. I enjoyed being in charge of the patrol night shift and its complement of diligent deputies, but was tapped in 1994 to become the operations lieutenant for the Court Services Central Bureau. Among the bureau’s half dozen different courthouses, the downtown Los Angeles Criminal Courts Building became a national focal point during the trial of O.J. Simpson. I subsequently had operations lieutenant and acting captaincies at the Medical Services Bureau and the Pitchess Detention Centers’ East and North County Correctional Facilities.

In 2004 I retired due to the progressive blindness of my right eye.

1984 Rich Moak making a play arrest of Rick Dees

In 1984 I was asked to make a “prank” arrest for making “Annoying Telephone Calls” of radio talk show host Rick Dees, while he was at a celebrity dinner at the Hotel Bel-Air.

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