UPDATE: This story has been updated to include comments from Capt. Holly Perez in an interview with WEHOville.
The West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station has a new captain. After a search that spanned several months, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, in consultation and collaboration with West Hollywood officials, selected Holly Perez for the position. Capt. Perez will assume the office on Feb. 14.
City Manager Paul Arevalo announced her appointment in an email message today to City Council members and city employees. “Captain Perez brings with her to West Hollywood over 28 years of law enforcement experience,” Arevalo said in his announcement. “She has risen through the Sheriff’s ranks serving as an operations lieutenant, a service area lieutenant and a recruit training staff sergeant, and she is an international defensive tactics instructor.
“She has held a variety of assignments, at other area patrol stations including transit services, custody and, until recently, the parks bureau. Captain Perez spent two years specializing in surveillance and covert investigations, studied counter-terrorism at the FBI and is a graduate of USC’s Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE). Perez is a UCLA graduate.
Arevalo said Perez has experience with large-scale special events, which is meaningful in West Hollywood, a small city that is home to large events such as Halloween Carnaval and LA Pride. Arevalo said that Perez also has “assisted several communities with their rape awareness, domestic violence, child abuse, and anti-gang programs and is also a cultural diversity instructor for the Sheriff’s Department.”
In an interview with WEHOville, Perez, who grew up in the Los Angeles area, described West Hollywood as “one of the jewel cities of the area. My sisters used to go up for nightlife. I was the youngest in the family so I didn’t go out much, but I would sneak up sometimes … I do like it up there.” After supervising a staff as large as the 700 at Twin Towers Correctional Facility and 250 at Transit, Perez said she’s looking forward to her West Hollywood position. “This is going to be kind of refreshing to be a part of a community, I’m really looking forward to it.”
When asked about how she would deal with crime issues such as cell phone theft and assaults that are on the minds of WeHo residents now, Perez said she intends to apply various tools to study when and where various crimes occur in West Hollywood so she can figure a rationale, fact-based approach to deal with them. She also said she wants to interact with West Hollywood residents. “I firmly believe in a collaborative effort with law enforcement and the public,” she said, noting that meeting and interacting with people was one of the best parts of her jobs with parks and transit.
“We are there to serve the people. That’s the job of law enforcement,” Perez said. “You can call that old school, but that’s our reason for being there. We work for you. If my folks aren’t doing their jobs, I want to know about it.”
When asked about her approach to relations with the city’s large LGBT community, Perez noted her work on cultural diversity coaching for law enforcement with the Covey Institute , an international coaching firm. “I don’t tolerate any kind of prejudice or mistreatment of any people whatever,” Perez said.
Perez has a minor blot on her record. In 2013 she was demoted by then-Sheriff Lee Baca after an internal affairs investigation implicated her and at least one other officer in an effort to introduce a “ringer” on their team in the annual Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Race. Baker to Vegas, a 120-mile charity foot race from Baker, Calif. to Las Vegas, is a major event in the law enforcement community with competitors from all over the country. Perez and others were alleged to have engaged the son of a department member to run on the Transit Services Bureau team, although the son was ineligible because he was not a department employee. He was reported to have turned in one of the best times for any leg of the race. Perez noted that she was in Los Angeles and not involved in the race at the time. Her suspension was later reviewed and revoked.
In his announcement today, Arevalo also expressed appreciation to Lt. Sergio Aloma, who has served as acting captain since Capt. Gary Honings retired in September.
Perez assumes the captain’s role at time when West Hollywood residents have questioned the effectiveness of the Sheriff’s Station. The city, which doesn’t have its own police force, contracts with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement services at a cost of about $18 million a year.
The latest issues include street crimes and dealing with an influx of homeless people. While the city has appropriated extra money to pay for more foot patrols in West Hollywood, the Sheriff’s Station sometimes cannot staff those patrols unless deputies are willing to work overtime. Other issues have included allegations of deputies dismissing complaints about crimes, being insensitive to the city’s LGBT population and communicating poorly with local residents and the media.
In July, Mayor Lindsey Horvath convened a community meeting called “Coffee with the Captain” attended dozens of local residents, some of whom complained that deputies were unresponsive to their calls and complained about crimes in the city’s Boystown nightlife area. In August, the City Council approved a proposal by council members John D’Amico and Lauren Meister to hire outside consultants to study the organization and management of the Sheriff’s Station. That study includes a survey of local residents, some of whom have been receiving calls from surveyors recently.