By JOHN REDICAN
(Editor’s note: After two different homeless fires in the bluffs of Pacific Palisade came close to wiping out entire sections of the town, a different tactic was used in dealing with the homelessness here. In addition to the community fundraising and hiring social workers, a police presence was needed in the Very High Fire Severity Zone brush areas. Officer Redican was assigned to this area in 2016 and offered his insight.)
I was having yet another exchange with a friend who is also genuinely trying to push forward with solutions to the homelessness crisis.
In my experience, mental illness, drug addiction, alcoholism and bad outcomes of key life choices must be acknowledged as significant contributing factors. Further contributing factors and stressors are the overwhelming feelings of despair, that are many times brought on by significant trauma the individual person has experienced in their lives. It’s vital that we try very hard not to add to that despair, but instead, when able and applicable, start to try and build up their self-esteem.
The Beach Detail out of LAPD West Los Angeles Area, is assigned to the Will Rogers State Beach, the adjoining Bluffs, wooded areas, portions of Pacific Palisades, Rustic Canyon and Santa Monica Canyon areas of West Los Angeles. This part of West LA Division is approximately 26 square miles. The area we serve is a vast area that has unique residential, mountainous, wooded and beach terrain.
We work with the PPTFH (Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness), the TPC (The Peoples Concern) with their outreach workers and medical personnel… (invaluable!), LAPD MEU (Mental Evaluation Unit), LAPD HOPE Detail, DMH (Department of Mental Health), LA County Lifeguards, LA Beaches and Harbors, LA Parks and Recreations, National Parks Service Rangers (Santa Monica Mountains), Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, LAFD and various faith based groups who offer food and services to the homeless.
The people in the Palisades deserve a lot of credit for how they have put their money where their mouths are. There will always be bench sitters in the world who always complain yet offer no solutions to these very complex issues. But this community saw a problem, identified it, researched it, decided what to do, and did it!
Officers have taken a completely different approach to addressing the homeless situation than that of a standard law enforcement approach. We did this, while sticking to Department policies and the law. Making these adjustments took some getting used to, but have yielded quantifiable results, and saved lives.
When having a conversation with folks who are interested in getting help, and when safe to do so, we often ask them if we can sit down and talk to them. That approach greatly helps us build or strengthen that relationship with them.
When we’re conducting outreach with homeless who are lucent as well as willing to take services to get off the streets, our method of treating them is genuinely appreciated by them.
An important thing to understand is that many in the homeless community have a low, or non-existent self-esteem, so it’s absolutely vital, that we recognize that, when talking with them.
Our aim is to reduce incidence of fear and crime, as well as assist some of our most vulnerable in getting off the streets.
This is an arduous process.
Since 2016 our efforts have led to 115 homeless being housed. Seventy-six of those we’ve engaged and are in resources are off the street. There has been a fifty-eight percent reduction in the number of homeless individuals in this area.
We find that the overwhelming majority of the homeless we encounter are happy that we are there. It is important to recognize that those most victimized by predatory homeless individuals are other homeless.
The people we talk to tell us it’s the other homeless that steal their property, rob them of their personal belongings and physically attack them.
Since committing to this model, LAPD West LA has reduced crime by 17 percent in this area.
We could not be as successful as we are, without the overt support and involvement of the community and our LAPD Leadership.
There are areas that should be addressed immediately by elected officials:
1.) UPDATING MENTAL ILLNESS LEGISLATION. We live in a constitutional republic, but it is not compassionate or civilized to continue to allow people to die on the streets, in squalid, disease infected and infested conditions, when it is abundantly clear that they cannot care for themselves.
Bottom line…. we need more secure facilities, and mandatory, secure inpatient drug rehabilitation facilities. All should have complete wrap-around services, and accountability.
2.) CITIES MUST REPLICATE a model of assistance after what the people of Pacific Palisades, the LAPD, PPTFH and TPC have been doing since 2016.
3.) WRAP AROUND SERVICES. It is vital to put in place complete wrap around services that not only focus on treatment but continue to build the self-esteem and sense of purpose for individuals experiencing homelessness.
These Citizens who are homeless, are our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, friends, family members and veterans. Many of these folks, if left to fend for themselves, are in situations where they don’t see a pathway to salvation.
As a United States Marine, and a police officer, I’ve taken an oath, a few times. My pledge is not only to uphold the Constitution, but to also fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.
I personally believe that we are all morally obligated to help those who legitimately cannot help themselves…..or….. who are addicted to narcotics and refuse to help themselves.
It is quite simply not compassionate, or civil to allow these conditions to persist, and to let people die on the streets alone. If we don’t, we all pay, either financially or physically.
In working with the homeless, and the many times squalid conditions, my partners and I have personally contracted Staph infection, Scabies, Klebsiella, MRSA, Klebsiella pneumonia, lice and other serious consequences of these conditions.
We Officers, in my opinion, are lucky. We have a Department, a Union and Supervisors who care and ensure we get proper medical treatment.
People who are mentally ill, drug addicted and/or live on the streets aren’t so fortunate. Clearly, in many cases, they are a danger to themselves and to others.
I believe this City and State can make these life-saving changes. But we have to start bringing the right people to the table. This has to be a team effort – much like what has made us successful in the Palisades.