Mentor Spotlight – Officer Culpepper
Officer LaSalle Culpepper is a massively built man, adept with his fists and firearms, but also with a caring heart.
As a member of the LAPD’s elite Metropolitan Division, he often finds himself patrolling the streets of Southwest Division—the same streets where he grew up. In his younger days, he used to relish the chance to jump out of his black and white police car and sprint after troublemakers. Through Operation Progress, however, he has come to see he has another tool in the fight between good and evil.
“You can still be a warrior and do good police work, but you have to give something back,” said Culpepper, a 21-year LAPD veteran. “That’s part of our job, too. You hunt the bad guys, but you find the good kids, too. They need our help.”
Growing up in South Los Angeles, he saw many of his classmates were taught to hate and fear the police. When he moved out of state at the age of 15, he began boxing and received mentorship from cops—something he now credits with steering him onto the right path in life.
Culpepper, inspired both by his own athletic mentors and his longtime LAPD friend, Officer Jonny Coughlin, decided he wanted to fulfill that role for the next generation. When he discussed OP’s mission with Coughlin, who founded the organization, remains on its board and patrols the streets of Southeast Division, Culpepper realized that he, too, could be a positive force in a young kid’s life. He recently joined OP and now looks out for Robert Turner, an aspiring young Verbum Dei football player with a rough home life.
He now meets with Robert whenever possible, catching his games and pushing him to improve his grades and become a better-rounded student. He sees great potential in the teenager, much like his own coaches did when he was 15.
“When I heard his background, his story, it made me say, ‘whoah!’” Culpepper said. “But he wants to do better, so I thought, ‘Great! I want to help.’”