Jan. 16, 1 p.m. I’m a Santa Monica Police Department volunteer on patrol with Homeless Liaison Program (HLP) team Officer Jacob Holloway on a stepped up neighborhood resource, crime-fighting operation in Downtown. We’re in Holloway’s police car.
Holloway is on his cell phone. An 18-year-old girl who attends a local high school and is active with a city youth organization is in crisis. Evicted, her parents recently arrested and younger siblings in foster care through Child Protective Services, she’s now alone and homeless. Friends paid for a motel for a couple of nights, but she’s in serious need of long term assistance.
Holloway phones the SMPD’s outreach contractor Ron Hooks with West Coast Care to help find shelter for the young woman. It’s a desperate situation. Fearing she could fall prey to dangerous persons, drugs or alcohol, Holloway phones Daybreak, a women’s shelter which has an emergency bed assigned for police/HLP Team use. The bed is available, but only for a limited time.
1:15 p.m. Holloway spots a disheveled man riding a bicycle on the sidewalk on Fifth Street near Broadway. He pulls him over. “It’s illegal to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk in Santa Monica,” he tells the man and asks for identification. The bicyclist has none but tells Holloway his name and birth date.
He’s not on the computer. Holloway reruns him and the computer spits out a “want” for a dangerous felon with a $50,000 kidnapping warrant — same name but different birth date than our sidewalk bicyclist. We wait. Holloway looks up a mugshot of the “wanted” person and it doesn’t look like our guy. We thank him for his time and advise him about bicycle safety. He rides off — in the street this time.
1:40 p.m. On Ocean Avenue and we see an elderly man in Palisades Park sleeping on a bench surrounded by trash. Holloway wakes him. His exposed legs are covered in sores and ulcerated skin. Filthy gauze bandages unravel from his ankles. The air is filled with a foul odor. Holloway approaches, “What happened to you?”
“I have diabetes and high blood pressure,” the man mumbles. A heavy-set woman lying on grass nearby starts berating Holloway. He ignores her.
Holloway is clearly distressed by the man’s appearance. “I’m not going to let you lay here and die,” he says. “Do you want to have your legs amputated?”
“No,” the man responds weakly. Holloway insists on taking him to the hospital. We pick up the trash and help the man into the car. As we prepare to drive to the emergency room at Santa Monica/UCLA Medical Center, we hear the heavy-set woman shout out, “You’re a good guy,” to Holloway.
At the hospital, staff doesn’t hesitate to accept him. We leave knowing he’ll get good care.
2:15 p.m. At Santa Monica Boulevard and Ninth Street a pedestrian yells at us, “Fight down the street!” More pedestrians and motorists flag us. Holloway asks, “Where?”
“On Lincoln Boulevard. One is wearing black and the other doesn’t have a shirt.”
Holloway hits the lights and siren. We cut left on Lincoln and are directed to Alley Eight south of Broadway. “White guy, no shirt,” another pedestrian shouts. We spot a shirtless man crossing Colorado Avenue and catch up with him in the parking lot behind Norm’s restaurant. He is ordered to stop. Other police cars arrive.
It seems that the “man in black” got into a fight over two bucks that “shirtless” supposedly owed him. Each claims the other person swung first. Because it was a “mutual” fight, neither man had a serious criminal history, no harm was done and the dispute involved two measly bucks, Holloway suggests that “shirtless” could pay the two bucks owed, they could both apologize and go their separate ways.
They agree and “shirtless” gives the other guy $2. “Sorry” and vows “not to fight again” are exchanged and each is sent off in opposite directions.
2:45 p.m. Nearing the end of his shift, Holloway drops me off at the Pier Substation and heads back to the Public Safety Facility to finish reports and follow up finding shelter for the homeless high schooler.
My experience proved to me once again that the men and women of our Police Department are a thoroughly hard-working and caring group of professionals. Holloway says that providing services such as taking a sick transient to the hospital or helping finding shelter for a desperate youth is what any good police officer would do.
For the 12 years I’ve been a Santa Monica police volunteer, I’ve seen many officers like Jacob Holloway — who do their job competently and with great compassion. It’s why I volunteer for the SMPD and treasure every minute I spend doing it.
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org