Category Archives: Emil Harris

Emil Harris: Marksman and First Jewish Police Chief of Los Angeles

Today I bring you an interesting Jewish marksman. From Wikipedia:

Emil Harris was the only Jewish police chief in Los Angeles, California. He was appointed to serve for one year from 1877 to 1878. He was born in Prussia and immigrated to Los Angeles in 1869. He helped create the city’s first volunteer fire department. He began on six-person police department where he quickly became a deputy chief. The Yiddish-speaking cop became chief after his leadership in the Chinatown massacre of 1871. He was also a detective. His conduct during the capture of the horse thief Tiburcio Vasquez in 1874 at the present-day intersection of Santa Monica Blvd. and Kings Road led to his promotion to chief.

He had a really amazing and colorful life as a law man, discussed in an article at the Western States Jewish History web site. The article is really worth reading, especially the parts about the Chinese massacre (As a side note, I have always thought that relations between Jews and Chinese have had an interesting history, both in this country and world wide. I joke with my wife that I want our daughter to someday marry a Chinese Jew…). Harris sure had some adventures…and a sense of Yiddish humor. But he was also a skilled Marksman:
The Turn Verein Germania [(sports club)] had a military section. The rifle division listed its officers in 1876: Emil Harris, captain; Conrad Jacoby, lieutenant; E. Neitzke, sergeant; W. Marxsen, first corporal; and Charles Gollmer, second corporal. When Captain Harris received his sword it was in time for the May Day parade in which he led the Turn Vereins military company. When the rifle section planned target practice in East Los Angeles at their own shooting range, Harris assured the public, through the daily press, that every precaution was taken to prevent accidents and “that it is utterly impossible for anything of an untoward nature to happen.” To accommodate the expected crowd at the rifle practice, “Trains on the East Los Angeles Street Railroad will run every half-hour.” The shooting match in the fall of 1876 saw Emil Harris win the top award, the silver medal for rifle marksmanship. “He has to win once again when it will become his permanent property.” In the summer of 1876, Harris had been re-elected to another six months term as rifle section captain. In 1902, J. M. Guinn recorded that Harris was one of ten to organize “the Turner Germania, which has grown to be a very important organization, with five hundred members.”
The Western States Jewish History page is very interesting…I always enjoy reading about Jewish life in America outside of New York and Florida!