Friday, Jan. 16, 9 a.m. — A Santa Monica Police Department Neighborhood Resource Operation (NRO) is just beginning. It is focusing on stepped-up enforcement in response to increases in vehicle break-ins, thefts, burglaries and shoplifting complaints Downtown.
This operation followed a periodic, early morning (4 a.m.) community livability operation, responding to citizen and business complaints about public camping activity, public intoxication and trespassing. As a citizen volunteer with the SMPD’s Homeless Liaison Program (HLP) team, I’m partnered to assist HLP Officer Jacob Holloway in the NRO detail which includes officers on daywatch, HLP team and the Third Street detail.
9:45 a.m. Holloway and I head up Wilshire Boulevard to Seventh Street. Holloway spots two familiar faces on a bus bench. He stops and asks, “How ya’ doin’?” They respond. Holloway parks and enters their names and birth dates into the computer. The male has a $5,000 warrant.
Andy (pseudonym) is handcuffed, arrested and will be taken to jail. The woman moves on. Holloway asks Andy, who has a history of alcoholism and seems to be mentally impaired, “Did you get rid of those bugs?” Holloway has treated him for lice in the past. Putting on heavy, blue rubber gloves, he checks Andy’s hair and collar for signs of vermin and sees nothing moving. Andy and his property are placed into our car.
10:20 a.m. Back on Seventh Street, I point out a “body” rolled up in blankets on the sidewalk. Holloway pulls over. He shouts, “Hey! You OK?” Thankfully, the sleeping man wakes and sits up. “Yeah, I’m waiting for somebody.” It appears that nobody is really coming for him.
His bare legs are thin and almost white while his face is deeply sunburned with scabs. Holloway obtains his name and birth date and runs him for preliminary wants and warrants. Nothing’s on the computer. Holloway asks, “Any other names? When were you born?” He offers a different birth date. Nothing, again. “What name were you arrested with before?” The man gives a different name: “Cooney (pseudonym).”
We have a hit. He has one minor unpaid citation out of Los Angeles. “You look terrible,” Holloway says. “You hungry?” The man nods. “What do you do for a living?”
Cooney replies, “I’m educated. I was a chef.” He admits to bouts with alcoholism but says he’s sober at the moment and although he’s been in and out of Santa Monica for months, maybe years, he’s not in services.
Holloway asks, “What do you want to do with your life?” His mental conditions becomes apparent.
“I want to be a doctor and help people.”
Holloway responds, “How can you help people if you can’t help yourself?” Holloway offers to get him cleaned up, a meal, into services — and hopefully off the streets. Cooney shrugs. Holloway tells me that although there are many options, the best thing to do in Cooney’s case is take him to OPCC (formerly the Ocean Park Community Center) on Olympic Boulevard and get him cleaned up and started in services.
11:00 a.m. We escort Cooney into OPCC’s drop-in center and Holloway tells the intake person, “This is Cooney. He’s not in services, has a history of alcoholism, is hungry, needs some clothes and a caseworker.” As we leave, Cooney is given a cup of juice and signed in to meet with a counselor.
There were easily 100 people in OPCC’s courtyard. A number of individuals called out to Holloway and thanked him for helping them. One lady in a wheelchair approaches Holloway. She had a large volume about the “History of the United States Marines” and wants Holloway to have it. Holloway has a long association with her and her late husband.
She identifies Holloway with her deceased husband because they are/were both ex-Marines and proud of their service. He told her he couldn’t take it because police officers aren’t supposed to accept gifts.. She insists. He relents and tells her he’ll only keep it until she wants it back. She nodded “OK.” We head back to the Public Safety Facility.
11:30 a.m. By this time, Andy is booked into jail and is heading to the shower. Holloway assists him with the de-licing shampoo. It’s Andy’s first shower in a week.
With reports finished, the department’s outreach contractor Ron Hooks from West Coast Care is notified about Andy although it appears to us that with Andy’s continually repeating himself and inability to stay on subject for more than a few seconds, he might need some extra special attention.
12:15 p.m. Finished, we finally take our first break — eight hours after we started — and go to lunch.
1 p.m. We’re back on duty. Holloway is on the phone. A local 18-year-old high school girl is facing a crisis.
Thursday: Part 3: Dealing with two crisis.
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org