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Photo collection reveals life as Pasadena Police Officer in the 1980s

Photographer William Valentine grew up surrounded by criminal situations and was used to witnessing life threatening circumstances. William’s father was a Police Officer with Pasadena Police Department, in California, so even before the age of eight William had already seen a dead body.

Officer Walton [Via]

William would go along with his dad to work at the police station and do some admin or small tasks to help the officers out. He got to know all of the officers, how they worked and what their job was really like.

William didn’t grow up to follow in his father’s footsteps, instead he attended Arizona State University to study photography.

It was after his studies in the 1980s that he teamed back up with the Pasadena Police Department, not to catch criminals but to photograph the officers at work. William still knew all the officers well from when he had worked there as a child. But he says it took a while for them to trust him since he now had a camera in his hands and was capturing them at work. (The Huffington Post)

Agent Baroni with PCP suspect who attacked [Via]

Once William had taken his first few shots the officers could see that he was trustworthy. He made sure he stood back, out of their way, so that they could do their jobs. Yet his images began to capture the raw reality of life as a 1980s police officer in Pasadena. William wasn’t there to be critical of the force, he was there to show what they had to go through on a day to day basis.

William recalls how at first he thought he might have taken on more than he could handle, when on his first night out accompanying officers he witnessed a suicide in the street. But instead of backing out and not facing these kinds of situations, William decided that these kinds of experiences were just too important to miss.

Agent Lionel Salgado looking for rock cocaine in suspected Crip’s mouth [Via]

Today, William has a huge collection of photographs. They show the extremes of police life, from practical tasks such as paperwork and checking evidence, to catching a criminal. All of the images were taken in black and white.

William says that when summertime hit, crime would go up and he would be following police officers to capture drug dealers, going on chases and coming face to face with violent crime.


William remembers that while he had no official role on the force, he enjoyed the chase and hunting down the suspected criminals. Finally, after capturing hundreds of photos, William did himself become an officer for the City of Chino in California.

The collection comes at a time when police tactics in the US are under more scrutiny than ever before. However, William’s photos show the police of yesteryear when life was less complex and the force was much less under the microscope.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News