This police officer gets it! OTHERS can be policing with dignity, respect and fairness.
Read the following piece by NPR’s Kurt Siegler on LAPD Officer Deon Joseph who patrols a very tough neighborhood and does it not by intimidation or domination but by good old “Community Policing 101!”
“LAPD Officer Deon Joseph patrols one of the toughest places in America: Skid Row, a 50-block concentration of drug dealers, gangs, chronically homeless and the mentally ill — and the shelters and clinics in downtown Los Angeles that serve them.
“‘About 2,500 people on probation for violent crimes or narcotics crimes. Registered sex offenders, which can range from 500 to 700 individuals concentrated in here because there are no services anywhere else,’ Joseph says.
“As he talks stats, he interrupts himself to say hi to people on the street — something that happens regularly as he walks his beat up and down San Pedro Street. “I’ve been here so long that it’s like, they’re like family. I spend more time with these folks than my own family,” says Joseph, who is married and has three children.
“Everyone on these battered sidewalks knows him, too. He’s been the senior lead officer here for 17 years.
“Marcus Butler, security director at the Midnight Mission, one of the largest Skid Row shelters, says Joseph is that rare cop here who’s earned deep trust and respect within the neighborhood.
“‘When you see Deon Joseph in this police uniform and he’s a black policeman and he’s all muscles and big. But that’s not what you get. You get a person that cares, that asks what he can do to help,’ Butler says.
“This is a big deal. People here say Skid Row’s number of mentally ill has swelled to near historic highs. It’s estimated that at least a third of the 3,500 people living on the street have a mental illness or are disabled.
“Make no mistake, the scope of the problem is huge.
“At least every half block, Joseph encounters some sort of issue. It’s truly remarkable to watch him see through all this hostility and aggression.
“One minute he’s engaging with a homeless man who wants to talk religion, if in a bit off-colored way. Joseph politely tells the man he has to move on, only to have him chase him seconds later, shouting and getting in his face. Joseph skillfully keeps his cool and talks him off the ledge.
“A few minutes later down the street, a woman screams for Joseph. ‘Officer! Officer! This man is trying to hurt me,’ she shouts. He knows exactly who she is; he talks to her out here almost every day. She and another man are arguing. Joseph gets in between them — again keeping his cool — and defuses the situation.
“He says later that the woman, who has schizophrenia, is an example of how vulnerable the mentally ill are out here. Drug lords or gang leaders might just get annoyed with her shouting and come after her, and if the cops don’t know her or the situation, the bad guys might just try to brush her aside.
“These are skills and a knowledge set Joseph didn’t just learn overnight. But he’s passionate that an arrest out here should be the last resort. ‘I don’t want to be your security guard. I want to be an agent for you. That’s my personal goal,’ he says…”
For more on the October 14, 2014 article CLICK HERE.