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On the Up Beat : Despite a long partnership in L.A.'s deadliest police precinct, these guys are more like Mayberry's Andy and Barney than they are Dirty Harry.

July 08, 1994|DUANE NORIYUKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Officer Cliff Lloyd yanks the black-and-white patrol car to the curb at 48th and Hoover. Half a dozen people, some of them sipping beer, sit in a circle on folding chairs and plastic milk crates in the balmy, late afternoon shadow of the Caribbean Market.

They turn their heads and seem anxious until they recognize Lloyd and his partner, Officer Roger Gaylord, climbing out of the car. Azalea Usher, wearing a T-shirt that says "I Survived the 6.6 Tremor," reaches out and hugs Lloyd. One guy knocks over his drink as he stands to shake hands.

On the streets, they are known as "OGs"--Old Gangsters. Their names--Gaylord and Lloyd--befit a Vegas magic act, and it's true that they sometimes work from a bag of tricks, stuffed with bits and pieces of street-cop wisdom from the 77th Division, the deadliest precinct in Los Angeles.

They have learned that sometimes it is best not to play things strictly by the book, and sometimes police work is a crap shoot--like the time Gaylord, working alone, wandered into a park where Rolling 40s gang members were drinking and gambling.

"I wasn't gonna arrest everybody, 'cause I only got two handcuffs," he recalls. He decided to deal with them on their own terms. "Tell you what," he told the group. "I roll seven, you guys take it somewhere else. I don't roll seven, I'll leave."

Gaylord rattled the dice and, sure enough, he shook out a seven. Everybody left smiling.

What makes Gaylord and Lloyd unique is that they have been partners for eight years in a division where officers constantly are shuffled to fill gaps. In most cases, partnerships are measured in months rather than years.

It is difficult for them to define their relationship: two heavily armed people who spend much of their lives distanced only by the width of a Chevy seat, who ride together through dark corners of Los Angeles. Who lay down the law in a quiet, human way that contrasts sharply with the shoot-'em-up image that dominates headlines and TV drama. Who love each other like brothers.

They work as a team, like two basketball players who know instinctively when the other will fake right, go left and cut for the hoop. They complement each other. When the only way into a building is through a window, it is the beefier Lloyd who will lift Gaylord on his shoulders to climb through and open the door.

When they were younger, they bulldozed through the hook 'em and book 'em years, but those days are long gone. They could have busted a couple of people at the Caribbean Market. But without mention, the alcohol seems to have disappeared, allowing Gaylord and Lloyd to get on with what they do best. Lloyd pulls up a milk crate while Gaylord engages in a separate conversation.

Lloyd is 49 and has worked in South L.A. for 21 years. Gaylord is 40 with 12 years experience in the 77th. That, too, separates them from their younger, less seasoned cohorts.

"You have to be young to work down here," says Sgt. Phil Jackson. "The pace is very fast. It's constantly boom, boom, boom. You have to be young to keep up with it."

So, where does that leave Gaylord and Lloyd?

"They pace themselves because they're no spring chickens," Jackson says. "That's one of the benefits of maturity and experience. You know how to pace yourself and get the job done as opposed to bam, bam, bam like a Ping-Pong ball and burning yourself out in a couple hours."

On the boom-boom-boom, bam-bam-bam streets of the 77th, experience has taught Gaylord and Lloyd that there's a time to boom, a time to bam, and a time to pull up a milk crate and shoot the breeze. It is amazing, they say, how many crimes can be solved by merely getting to know people and developing a sense of trust.

They once were stopped by a man who tipped them off about a burglary that was to take place that night at the Northridge Fashion Center. After the entire plan was laid out to them, Gaylord and Lloyd contacted the Devonshire Division. Suspects were arrested en route to the shopping center in stolen vehicles, and the heist was prevented.

In many ways, Gaylord and Lloyd are throwbacks to Mayberry, where officers sipped lemonade on front porches, hunted down lost cats and, on those rare occasions when trouble drifted into town, chased down and chastened criminals in unlikely and humane fashion.

But they are not Andy and Barney, and the 77th Division of South-Central Los Angeles is no Mayberry.

More homicides and other violent crimes are committed in these 12 square miles than anywhere else in the city. A history of distrust between police and residents has created ongoing tension. On the surface and in the headlines, South-Central is fused to such tensions: gang against gang, ethnic group against ethnic group.

Gaylord and Lloyd, however, know a different side of the city. They have watched children grow up here, taught them how to ride bicycles and catch baseballs with both hands, given them rides home when they were out too late at night, gone to their birthday parties . . . their funerals.

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