Los Angeles Police Commission Comes to Town
Most Harbor Area residents missed the historic Los Angeles Police Commission meeting held at Peck Park on April Fool's Day. All joking aside, this was the largest contingent of badged officers I'd seen in this town, at one place, since the Rose Room Bar was raided back in the 1980s. There were almost as many cops as there were citizens, but perhaps that was a good thing since the upper brass got to hear a few choice public comments. It was the first time in recent memory that they've ever ventured down the Harbor Freeway to hold a meeting.
The Central San Pedro Neighborhood council was well represented by Leslie Jones who delivered the council's letter to Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, asking for the Harbor Division jail to be opened and staffed. I reinforced this message by arguing that if there were just eight arrests made per day and that if it takes two officers three hours to book each suspect into custody at the 77th division jail, they lose 48 officer hours per day. If you multiply this by 365 days you end up losing some 17,520 hours per year, which would seem to be enough hours to pay for the staffing of a local jail. This would seem to be an argument about efficiency in policing, but it is something even more.
It is about access to the criminal justice system for everyone. Think about it, if every one of those eight arrestees per day have a lawyer or a relative drive all the way up to Los Angeles to post bail or to consult with them before arraignment that's another 2,920 car trips at a hour and a half round trip. This is actually a civil rights issue. The distance to the jail only exacerbates our decline of access to the justice system with the closure of our court houses. We need, and we should demand both a local jail and a local criminal court! Access to justice is our right. By the way, I was told that my example of eight arrestees per day is just a conservative estimate.
However, here are a few more minor gripes that I wish to share with the Police Commission- First the deployment areas of Senior Lead Officers do not coincide with the political boundaries of the neighborhood councils. This ends up meaning that the SLO officer who represents the LAPD at the council meetings may or may not be the SLO officer for your particular neighborhood- so who do you call?
Second, the LAPD is fascinated by crime stats. At every meeting the Senior Lead officers, like Chief Beck did at the commission meeting, recite a very succinct list of crime stats, but what do they really mean? There is no analysis of the trend up or down, no correlation between property crimes and drug arrests and the numbers seem meant to justify deployment without any understanding of the causes. The neighborhood councils need to have more than just a dry recitation of numbers and it's not the Senior Lead officers' job to do crime analysis, but somewhere up the chain of command it's being done. Give us the real scoop and share those reports with the community.
Third, the Harbor area seems to have its share of homeless and mentally ill people, having one of the largest residential care facilities in California right here in San Pedro. We also have the Los Angeles County Mental Health Clinic here as well. Without making any judgement about this population, we need to have not just a few officers trained in intervention tactics, but one in every patrol car.
Fourth–Rotation of Harbor Division Captains. It seems like the captain's chair at Harbor Division is a revolving door. No sooner do we get to know one captain and feel like they know and understand the community, they are moved up or out or retire. Chief Beck said it himself, “San Pedro is the biggest small town,” perhaps in the entire city of Los Angeles. The communities served by Harbor Division like to think of it as, “Our police station.” But the decision as to who leads it is always made downtown usually by the chief and maybe with the influence of the Councilman, but without any input from the community. This “top down” management grates at the very concept of “community policing” that Beck and the Police Commission like to toss around, but does little to reinforce it locally.
Fifth, but hardly last (as I could go on at some length beyond this) -- is CPAB membership. The Community Police Advisory Board is derived from the community policing model. It doesn't get noticed much since they hold their meetings at Harbor Division’s community room where only a handful of residents even knows it exists.
If this is to be a true “community policing” effort, take it out of the police station and hold the meetings in public facilities in the community. Voting membership on the CPAB should come from elected representatives neighborhood councils within the boundaries of Harbor Division and the Harbor Division Captain should be an ex-officio member, not a co-chair of this community board.
It was my intention last September at the Town Hall meeting with the LAPD, hosted by the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council to address this list of concerns as they relate to community based policing and Constitutional policing. However, my efforts to publicly address these issues were successfully circumvented and undermined. My concerns do persist and will be forwarded directly to the Police Commission and the new Harbor division, Capt. Gerald A. Woodyard, with this editorial.