Editor’s Note: “My Write” columnist Bill Bauer is a longtime volunteer with the Santa Monica Police Department assigned to the Homeless Liaison Program (HLP) Team — a special SMPD unit that works closely with Santa Monica’s transient population. This is the first installment of a three-part series by Bill describing his experience assisting HLP Officer Jacob Holloway in the field on Friday, Jan. 16.   

Friday, Jan.16, 4 a.m. The Santa Monica Pier Substation is abuzz with police officers, park rangers and me, a 12-year citizen volunteer assigned to the Homeless Liaison Program (HLP) team headquartered there.

The mission: one of a series of community livability operations instituted to respond to numerous complaints from residents and businesses alike about trespassers on private property and to locate and arrest subjects with warrants and identify parole and probation violators. Tonight, the operation will work the downtown area. Previous operations have included the I-10 Freeway embankments, beach and the Broadway/Colorado and Olympic Boulevard corridors.

In charge of the operation is HLP team Sgt. Joaquin Vega. Robert Martinez is the team’s lead officer. After a brief orientation, everyone splits up. Martinez and Monique Carrillo are in one car. HLP Officer’s Steve Wong and Joshua Hall in another. I’m assigned to HLP Officer Jacob Holloway.  

4:20 a.m. Holloway and I check the nearby Santa Monica Urban Runoff (SMURF) facility. Surprisingly, nobody’s there. However, we spot a couple camping under the pier ramp. Both are well known to the department as being on probation and one has a $40,000 warrant for her arrest. They are taken by another team to the Public Safety Facility (PSF) where they are booked into jail. These prisoners will be in jail until arraignment in court Tuesday after the Martin Luther King holiday. 

From the pier, we drive to Colorado Avenue in front of Sears. Another camper is awakened and she too has warrants for her arrest. We drive behind Sears and find a couple in a nylon camping tent under the Fourth Street overpass. Both have a history of drug use and Los Angeles Police Department warrants for their arrests, so they are also transported to the PSF behind City Hall. 

Their property including tent, blankets and personal items are searched for weapons, contraband and perishable food which is removed prior to being tagged and then taken by park rangers to the PSF property room for storage until the owner’s release.  

As the scribe, I compile a list of arrestees and basic information as to when, where and time picked up, charges, the incident number assigned of the arrest and other information from field interviews such as camping, alcoholic, new — from Texas, registered at “Step Up …, Wants into the Veterans Administration, refuses help, wants to go home to Fresno, etc.

5 a.m. The three HLP units on patrol have arrested 10 individuals. We return to the PSF for the booking process and more detailed criminal history search including “wants and warrants” along with parole and probation status. While officers complete their reports, the department’s outreach contractor Ron Hooks from West Coast Care arrives.

The community livability operations have two purposes. One is to get law breakers off the street including those violating city ordinances on camping on public property, possession of open containers or placarded shopping carts, public intoxication and trespassing on private property. In addition, the operations help deter more serious crimes including assaults, burglaries, vehicle break-ins and vandalism. It also gives the department the opportunity to connect persons (excluding criminals or those with serious warrants or felony charges pending) to social services.

6:45 a.m. After reading my notes, Hooks confers with the arresting officers and when the booking process in complete, he goes into the jail to talk to some of the arrestees about their interest in services and rehabilitation programs. 

Those who want services who are not incarcerated for serious crimes are made aware of available programs involving drug and alcohol rehabilitation, temporary housing, and employment training as well as the option of being sent back “home” for services if family or friends will take responsibility for them.

One subject tells Hooks he’s been trying to get into the Veteran’s Administration. Hooks calls Michelle O’Neil, nicknamed “The Headhunter” because she does such a great job of helping people. Sure, she’ll come down and pick him up, get him into shelter at the VA and enrolled in services. Another call goes to CLARE for two subjects interested in rehabilitation programs. 

8:30 a.m. Most of the reports are completed and property has been checked in. O’Neil shows up to take her “client” to the VA. While they wait for a final “OK” on all the paperwork, Hooks volunteers to accompany her and her “client” to the VA because female social workers must have an escort when transporting male clients.

9:15 a.m. Hooks finds out O’Neil’s client has an “indecent exposure” offense on his record and his release to her is contingent on him registering as a “290” (sex offender) within five working days. She promises that she’ll register him Tuesday, in West Los Angeles after the King holiday. The trio heads off to the VA.


Tomorrow: Part 2: Officer Holloway and I hit the streets, again.

Bill can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com.

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