WEHOville is proud to present the first in a series of Public Safety interviews with members of the West Hollywood Sheriff Station and Block by Block security ambassadors. We begin Part 1 with Ed Ramirez, Captain of the West Hollywood Sheriff Dept. You can listen to the full part 1 of 3, face to face interview below:
Captain Ed Ramirez, thank you very much for your time. Let’s begin with you. Where were you born and how did you become a police officer?
I was born and raised in City Terrace in Boyle Heights and I had positive contacts with law enforcement and I had negative contacts with law enforcement. My positive ones made me want to join the police department and my negative ones made me want to join it even further. A person once told me that in order to execute effective change it has to be done from the inside so when I saw some negative things going on I didn’t like it. I am from a family of folks who are very political but politically minded. They have or my family has engaged in protests where we felt that things were wrong where we felt change needed to be made and I joined the department because I felt that a lot of changes were needed and having been on the sheriff department for past 31 years I have been able to implement some effective change starting with some programs that I built in the jails and segwaying into my job here as the Captain of the West Hollywood Sheriff and setting the tone for how my deputies behave how we treat the public and what the perceptions of the sheriff’s department are to the public and the citizens of West Hollywood.
Are you married and do you have kids?
I am married to my wife. We just celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary in Maui. We had a fantastic time. I do have three adult children. Two of my daughters are nurses and my son is currently in his final year of law school at Boston College. He is a graduate of Princeton and he is also a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. I’m very proud of all of my children.
Where do you live?
I live in Pasadena now for probably the last 16 years. I’ve lived in the San Gabriel Valley for most of my adult life. The trek here to the city of West Hollywood is not as bad as people think. I get here very early in the morning typically takes me about a half hour to get here now going home depending on what time I get here when what time I leave if it’s anywhere around five could be between an hour an hour and fifteen minutes but I typically stay a little bit later so I can reduce that travel time.
Do you go drive back and forth in a Sheriff vehicle?
I do. The County provides Captains a car to respond to emergencies. As you well know the captain has a work schedule. I’m required to work 40 hours a week. However it goes much further than 40 hours and occasionally we have to respond to things that happen on the weekend. So cars are necessary.
If something happened in your own home neighborhood would you be legally allowed to respond to that?
We are legally allowed to respond to that; typically I would be a good witness. I also live in the area of Pasadena that’s patrolled by the Temple Station deputy sheriffs so I would be a good witness and I would telephone a Temple Station unless of course it was a life or death situation then I would absolutely get involved.
Let’s get a little bit into the overall summary of the work of the force. How many officers are under your command?
It varies, but I usually have about 100 officers in total.
How many are assigned at any given time?
That also varies throughout the week according to shift, depending on day shift, early morning shift and pm shift. Early morning shift tends to be our busiest times so we do happen to have more officers on duty at those particular times.
Do you have direct oversight over the Block by Block Security Ambassadors or know their stats? How many people on their force ?
No I do not have oversight of them but we do work very closely together and my service area Lieutenant Bill Moulder works very, very closely with them. I will say that I am a big fan of Block by Block. They are essentially an added set of eyes and ears to the sheriff’s department and they phone us regularly and let us know exactly what is going on in our neighborhoods. But that’s a separate contract than the sheriff contract.
When you have a budget and you have overtime do you plan for the overtime in the budget or is the overtime extra and then you come back and ask for more resources?
No, we have an overtime budget that’s set for the year and we utilize it accordingly. The city and I or the city and sheriff’s department have always had a very, very good relationship. The city has a good relationship with their past captains and me as well and they allow us to utilize the monies overtime given to us for anything we see fit. Let’s say for example we’re having a rash of vehicle burglaries on the west side. I could put together a specialized team I can put together a group of overtime. I can add in some plain clothes officers if we’re experiencing a rash of thefts at the Gateway Center. I can put a foot beat team over there. We can move our people around based on the issues and the problems that are going on in the City of West Hollywood
You spoke in front of the city council a few weeks ago with regards to needs and cost increases and the council allowed you to keep the same amount of budget but you had to trim some places. Can you explain all that? Was that a cut in payroll or overall department?
Yes, when COVID first began every city department took a percentage reduction. I want to say about 10 precent, but I’m not quite sure the exact amount. The sheriff’s department reacted accordingly.
Yes, it was per department, so what we did is we removed a sergeant from the EPT team (Entertainment Police Team). It was the sergeant retired from the EPT team, and then we had one deputy who was injured on duty and we did not bring him back. So there were two items that we gave up during COVID. As you know the city was pretty much shut down and not a lot going on so we really did not miss the items – however with the city reopening back up with the copious amounts of people that are now coming into the city with the crime rate slowly on the rise I could certainly utilize those bodies again so we have not been able to replace the two nighttime police officers.
The biggest thing is losing the sergeant of the EPT team. The sergeant was a big loss. The sergeant provides supervision for the deputies, but more importantly that team is the one on early mornings and pm shiftS who worked the clubs, who worked the Sunset Strip, who talked to business owners, who dialogues with the general managers, with the wait staff, with bar staff, responds to calls for service at restaurants, bars and clubs, and typically on the weekends that could get a little busy. These people are hand-picked by me because of their ability to effectively communicate with the public but more importantly effectively communicate with people who are typically under the influence or may have had a lot to drink that particular night. I picked these people because of their ability to converse, their ability to be professional, their ability to utilize as little force as necessary when dealing with people who have had a little too much to drink
Let’s talk about body cameras at the department because we spoke before and I remember a few years ago I had suggested Axon body cameras and you had told me that the city was going to be buying some. Where are we at now?
I think it’s about three years since we talked about that and yes, yes the West Hollywood Station is fully equipped with body cameras. Every single person has a body camera including myself. Whenever we have contact with the public we are required to wear them and turn them on. It was a learning curve to begin with. You know when you don’t use cameras you’ve got to remember to turn them on. But it’s like anything else with the sheriff’s department; at one point we didn’t have to wear seat belts but we have to wear seat belts now and it takes some time to acclimate. We were initially given a 90-day grace period where maybe you turn them on maybe you didn’t, but after that everybody was going to be held accountable and turning them on every single time they had contact with the public. I will tell you that from my perspective and from the perspective of the deputies. body cameras are great because it tells the true story – it tells what actually happened – it allows me to monitor my deputies – monitor their behavior – monitor their demeanor – monitor their disposition – monitor how they’re dealing with the public – but more importantly from a perspective of complaints it allows me to see exactly what happened and how the deputy handled themselves. Whether they were unprofessional, whether there’s validity to the complaint or not. I’ve told my deputies even before we had cameras do your job like you’re on camera, do your job like your mother is watching you. If you do that you don’t have anything to worry about
I’m very familiar with Axon enterprises because of I’ve been watching them for years. It is a fascinating company in law enforcement, largest in the nation and when we talk about the body cameras there’s also the other side uploading of those cameras directly to the cloud that allows for streamline processing of all the paperwork do we have that here too?
Yes we do.
So the camera and the officers are able to speed up their paperwork by how much time?
I’m not quite sure. It’s actually speeding things up because you have to sit there and watch the video but everybody can log on to view the videos.
There are different levels, I’m just trying to figure out what we have.
I guess it is because it is centralized, you can have access and can log on and you watch the video as opposed to trying to locate the video, trying to locate the file, trying to get the cd-rom, putting the cd-rom into the the player you know.
Is that deployed here in West Hollywood as part of West Hollywood’s budget or the overall sheriff department of Los Angeles budget?
It’s a Sheriff Department action yes, but we’re fully deployed here in West Hollywood.
Is the entire LA County fully deployed?
The entire L.A. county is not fully deployed but we expect to be very soon.
Sensitivity training. What do the West Hollywood officers go through any different sensitivity training than other Los Angeles County sheriff’s officers?
Yes we do have sensitivity training here at the City of West Hollywood. We try to do it yearly as trainees come in, we have a member of our LGBTQ board teach the class. It is really a phenomenal class. I’ve taken it myself and it entails who our community is, who lives in our community, what to expect, how to address folks in our community. More importantly one of the biggest things I want to say Larry is that our deputy sheriffs choose to come here and they come here from all over. I always say I have deputy sheriffs here who pass three sheriff stations because they want to work in the City of West Hollywood. When you come here you know your community you know what you’re getting yourself into. My deputy sheriffs want to be here. They’re not assigned. They put in to come to the City of West Hollywood.