L.A. County has seven female police chiefs. They've brought different skills — and set an all-time high

Lisa Rosales met Spooky in the 1980s when she was a 25-year-old police officer in Pasadena.

He was a shy teenager, a gang member with a shaved head who always wore a white tank top and blue jeans.

At first he and the other gang members were suspicious of Rosales; they would run away when she approached and were hesitant to talk.

But Rosales, who grew up in a tough Highland Park neighborhood, was interested in their lives — and took a particular interest in Spooky. She wanted to learn about gang affiliations in the area, but her approach was non-confrontational; they chatted about things they had in common.

“I knew that they respected their mothers and grandmothers, so I told them to be protective of them. I shared stuff about my family and upbringing in a pretty rough area, and it broke barriers. They took an interest in my life,” Rosales said.

Rosales became a police officer at a time when few women joined law enforcement. And while her unorthodox policing style might have raised eyebrows, she rose through the ranks to become chief of the Glendora Police Department.

Rosales is one of seven female police chiefs in Los Angeles County, an all-time high. Women lead departments in Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Claremont, Hermosa Beach, Alhambra and Manhattan Beach.

Several of the chiefs gathered recently at USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy for a panel discussion on female leaders in law enforcement.

Amid the growing national debate over aggressive policing tactics, the presence of women in high ranks of law enforcement raises the question for many of whether their perspectives and experiences might lead to reforms in police culture.

Chris Alexakis