It took 150 years, but a Filipino American police officer has now risen to the rank of LAPD commander.
New Jersey-born Donald Mendoza Graham, moved to Los Angeles as a teenager to consider the entertainment industry.
But instead, he found his calling behind the badge, while in Los Angeles Valley College.
“I happened upon a part-time job at the police department there, just to pass the time. But as it turns out, the people that work there, the officers that work there were all retired LAPD officers and were some of the most high-quality people I’ve ever met in my entire life. People who dedicated their efforts not to blaming people, but to solving problems,” said Donald Graham, LAPD Commander.
Graham has gone on to a 24-year career in the nation’s second-largest police department where only a handful of Filipinos have risen to the ranks of captain.
Earlier this year, chief Michael Moore promoted Graham as commander of the Homeless Coordinator, where he will find solutions and recommend policies when it comes to dealing with LA’s homeless crisis.
An estimated 36,000 people are homeless in LA.
“It is the social fight of our generation, so the fact that the chief of police has entrusted me to help him provide the leadership for the organization through this time, is an honor for me. I know it’s not going to be an easy job. I didn’t take this job because it’s easy.”
As he gets to work in this new role, the nation’s second-largest police department celebrated Filipino American History Month by honoring Graham.
Among the police and local officials, and Filipino community leaders, were Graham’s family members including his mother Amalia, who once expected him to follow in her footsteps and join the medical profession.
“I’m so proud, I was scared when he said I want to be a policeman, but he went all the way.”
Perhaps one reason it took 150 years to get a Filipino American police commander: there are not many Filipino officers to begin with.
There are only 241 Filipinos in LAPD’s force.
And now with commander Graham at his post, he’s hoping to be an inspiration and a role model to the next generation of young FilAms who are interested in law enforcement.