Captain Rich Gabaldon Takes over the West L.A. Command

Captain Rich Gabaldon heads West L.A. LAPD.

Captain III Rich Gabaldon was appointed to the head the 65-square mile West L.A. LAPD at the beginning of July. He replaces Criag Heredia, who was moved to Hollywood.

“This is a great community and I’m happy to be here,” Gabaldon said over coffee at Estate/Flour on Via de la Paz on July 26.

Gabaldon, who was raised in Torrance, came here as a child. His father was a contractor and “we came to Mort’s for breakfast,” he said.  “I’m excited to be back.”

Friends of the family still live Alma Real on the Potrero rim, and Gabaldon remembers the canyon before it was filled in.

He played soccer at West Torrance High School and when he graduated in 1988, he went to California State University Dominguez Hills on a soccer scholarship.

After two years of playing, he suffered a knee injury and although it was rehabilitated, he realized he wasn’t going to be a pro. Then, he had an opportunity to transfer to a school he said he had always wanted to attend, the University of Southern California.

There he took some law enforcement classes because, “I originally thought I wanted to go into the F.B.I,” he said. “Or maybe law school.”

A friend’s father was an F.B.I. agent and told Gabaldon to qualify he needed a law degree, an accounting degree or four years in law enforcement.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in communications and criminal justice from USC in 1993, Gabaldon applied and was accepted to LAPD.

He put in four years and then realized his heart was in Southern California, he didn’t want to go back East.

“I was 27 years old and working gangs and having a blast,” Gabaldon said, and adding it was busy with foot chases, vehicle pursuits and the adrenaline rush was nonstop.  Looking back, he realizes now the danger, but then thought, “I’m going to stay because this is what I want to do.”

After his probationary period with the department, he went to the Southwest Division because that is where USC is located.

In 2000, the Captain transferred to the Metropolitan Division, working in crime suppression and crowd control. He was responsible for training the department for the 2000 Democratic National Convention.

That same year, he earned a master’s degree in public administration from Cal State Dominguez Hills.

He was promoted to sergeant in the Harbor Area in 2002 and after 10 years in different assignments including gang enforcement and internal affairs, Gabaldon was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and transferred to Hollywood Area.

Two years later, he was promoted to Commanding Officer of Hollywood Detectives.

Chief Moore promoted Gabaldon in February of 2020 and assigned him as the Commanding Officer of North Hollywood Patrol Division.

About the West L.A. area, Captain said, “One of the biggest challenges is resources. This is a big area. We’re trying to bolster the ranks to make LAPD available.”

The reality is that since LAPD has fewer resources, and because violent crime is not as much of as issue in the Palisades as other neighborhoods, police cars are sent where the crime is highest.

“We’ll try to keep the car up here,” said Gabaldon who is aware of the time it takes for a police response. He said it took him about 24 minutes to get from the station to Via de la Paz, and that was without traffic.

Earlier this week, Senior Lead Officer Brian Espin, gave him a tour of Palisades problem areas. Gabaldon is aware of the fire danger and the importance of the Beach Detail.

Gabaldon is the parent of three children, has coached AYSO soccer and also refereed. And even though his college soccer career was cut short, he did play on the “elite” LAPD soccer team (until he aged out at 33). Surprisingly all the agencies, including the fire and sheriff’s departments, have teams.

“I’m a sports fan,” he said, and pointed out the U.S.’s woman’s soccer team was playing tonight. “I’m a USC football fan.”

Warned that the community was evenly divided between the Bruins and the Trojans, he added diplomatically, “Both are really great schools.”

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