Captain III Craig Heredia was appointed to the head the 65-square mile West L.A. Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) at the beginning of November. Heredia was the West L.A. Patrol Commanding Office under Captain Jonathan Tom, who was promoted as Operations-West-Bureau Commander.
Tom wrote in a message to the community that Heredia would be replacing him, and Captain Yasir Gillani would replace Heredia: “You are in good hands with both of these gentlemen, and I have faith that they will do right by both you and our officers.”
Heredia spoke to CTN at Estate coffee on Via before Thanksgiving and was asked about the crime statistics.
“One crime is too many,” he said. “Crime is up for that person – and it’s up for anyone who knows that person.
“Every crime report represents a victim,” said Heredia said, who was born in Inglewood and moved with his family to Westminster in Orange County as a youth.
“I’ve known since the time I was little, that this was what I wanted to do,” Heredia said and added that an uncle who was a deputy sheriff with Riverside County, which was a positive influence.
He also watched CHIPS, SWAT and even Cops, “which looked exciting and a career that everyday would bring something new and different.”
Heredia, who had worked part-time as a police intern after high school, knew in order to be an officer, he had to be 21. He continued to work and go to community college, but once he reached the magic age, he applied and was accepted by LAPD in July 1995.
But with a wife and three kids, the Captain decided education was a must because “I didn’t want my kids to say you did okay and you didn’t go to school.”
Heredia said he also wanted to stress “Education is important not only for me, but for you, too.”
He would receive his associate degree from Golden West College in 2007, his bachelor’s degree from Cal State Long Beach and his master’s degree in criminal justice from Chapman University in 2010.
When he was initially hired by LAPD, his first assignment was with the Southwest Division, where he spent eight months patrolling around USC.
Then he was assigned undercover “My ’21 Jump Street’ experience,” Heredia said. “My job was to infiltrate a school as a student and identify on-campus drug dealers and then work my way up to identify and arrest off-campus adult dealers we were selling drugs to kids.
“My first-time purchasing drugs was in class,” he said.
He was working in the Valley and noted the contrast from when he was in high school when his parents expected him “to learn.” Going back as a “student,” he would try to get others to let him copy homework that was due. (The juvenile narcotics division does not exist anymore.)
In 1997, Heredia chose to go to the Ramparts Division, which is one of the most densely populated divisions and the site of numerous criminal street gangs. He worked with CRASH (Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums) an anti-gang unit.
“I chose Rampart because it was a busy station with a lot that needed to be done because of gangs, drugs, gun violence,” he said. “The community needed a police presence because kids were afraid to walk to school and parents were afraid to let kids play outside.”
From Rampart, he next worked with recruits out of the academy.
Then he moved to plain clothes with the gang detectives of the major offenders unit. “I did a lot of surveillance, we identified informants who bought guns,” Heredia said.
His career continued among the most dangerous.
“I was assigned to the violent crime impact team,” he said. His job was to take guns off the streets and helped build cases for federal and state prosecutors. After he was promoted to detective, he elected to stay at the Rampart division.
When he was promoted as a sergeant in 2006, he moved to the 77th Division and worked in the special problems unit. The objective was to identify crimes, where they were occurring, identify the cause and prevent additional crimes from taking place.
Next Heredia moved to the South Bureau in the Criminal Gang Homicide Group, (renamed South Bureau homicide group) as a detective supervisor. “We had federal partners that we worked with to provide long-term investigations,” he said. “We provided surveillance to get guns off the street and suppress gang activity.
“I enjoyed that job because it was fun,” Heredia said, but decided to make a change because of the expectation that officers would put in long hours and work extra days, which he didn’t feel was fair to his wife and kids.
He was one of the officers who opened the Olympic station in 2009, working in patrol, and then as an officer in charge of the special problems unit.
Heredia worked as adjutant for Captain Tina Nieto, when she was at the Olympic Division.
When she transferred to West L.A. in 2014, Heredia was promoted to Lieutenant I and returned to Rampart, where he worked as the watch commander. Five years later, he applied for and was selected as the Commanding Officer of the Rampart Detective Division.
This past February, he was promoted to Captain by the Chief of Police and was assigned as Commanding Officer to West L.A. Patrol Division.
(This is part one of a two-part interview with Captain Craig Heredia. Tomorrow he speaks about local crime and police recruitment.)