UpClose: Captain Ed Ramirez of the West Hollywood Sheriff Dept. Part 2

We will now go on to part two. Thank you again. Let’s talk about the three biggest issues facing you in West Hollywood — tell us where’s the pain in your job?

I will say that the biggest issues in the City of West Hollywood are dealing with our homeless, our transient population that has mental illness, that have substance abuse problems, and our mail thefts and probably our vehicle burglaries or burglaries in general.

There has been a rash of stabbings and we don’t always report those without an actual police report. What’s your take on the various incidents almost every weekend?

Well, I can say that although we have had some incidents, the shooting that did take place (this past week) I’m not at liberty to discuss the specifics of the case. But what I can discuss is sometimes people are followed into the City of West Hollywood and West Hollywood just happened to be the place that they’re staying. If they had been at a hotel in another city that’s where the crime would have occurred. Because they were pursuing the person and that’s one of the the caveats or that’s the downfall of being a popular city that unfortunately when you have nice things and nice places and people want to come to the City of West Hollywood. There is a lot of money here, folks have nice watches, they have nice jewelry. Some people flash money and sometimes it catches the attention of bad guys and oftentimes a robbery is a result. It doesn’t help that some of these folks will post things on Instagram or on their social media sites and it’s uploaded immediately so people know where they are at. In one instance, a shooting we had here in the City of West Hollywood, a very popular rapper flashed a lot of money, flashed a lot of jewelry, said where he was and 20 minutes later the bad guys were here in the City of West Hollywood attempting to rob or did rob him and a shooting occurred.

Have you had many cannabis complaints?

You know we have not had any cannabis complaints at all. Our biggest cannabis complaint is or was people illegally parking or blocking the sidewalk. Since every business has to have a security guard outside we get virtually zero calls at our cannabis businesses.

The Outzones restrict traffic movement along the sidewalk. Have the out zones affected the police movement through the city at night ?

For the most part it hasn’t affected us, or emergency vehicles’ movement. So far my deputies haven’t complained about that. I think we’re just to the mindset that we’ve all had to make adjustments during Covid and that’s just one of the adjustments and we just kind of work around it.

I’m not sure if you’re familiar, a few weeks back when there was a stabbing on Palm and Santa Monica at the same hour of a beating right in front of my shop and Micky’s, then another incident an hour later, where the police came and people were throwing cups and yelling at the cops, “get out of here” and that whole rejection of law enforcement, Do you face that a lot? The big bad police = defund the police — do you feel the community’s very open and welcome?

You know Larry, what I really feel that in my dialogue with the citizens of West Hollywood that they do appreciate the job that we’re doing. That they appreciate not only the job that we’re doing but appreciate the police in general. We are here for their protection and I believe that they honestly feel that the sheriff department is doing a very good job especially here in City of West Hollywood. I believe some of what you see and some of the negativity in regards to the hollering and screaming if you notice that’ll take place between the hours of 11 o’clock at night and four o’clock in the morning and typically it’s with folks who have had a little bit too much to drink and are inebriated and not at their best senses.

We previously discussed a program you created in the County before coming to West Hollywood. Please tell me about that again-

I was part of a group that created a couple of things. One of them was the education-based incarceration which brought in community-based organizations to help inmates once they were released from jail in order to reduce the rate of recidivism. In order to give them a better foundation, so we brought in folks who were doing life-skills, who were doing job placement, who were doing substance abuse treatment, family reunification, there was a lot of hand holding going on, a lot of case management going on, we ran a program called the “Just in reach” program that was subsequently picked up by the County. That one showed tremendous results and it’s still going on today. The old adage is that you might not save everybody but if you save one person you’ve done your job. We try to stop the revolving door of jails to prisons back on the street to jails to prisons we’re never gonna arrest our way out of the problem so something needed to be done and the sheriff at the time took a big step in creating the education-based incarceration bureau.

How many jail cells do we have here or holding cells?

Oh gosh, I think it’s 12.

Do you get over capacity?

Very seldom do we reach capacity – there are four beds in every cell. Since I’ve been here we have not reached capacity. There were instances years ago during Pride or Halloween that we were full and then we sort of took a very different approach to how we were going to handle that. Most had to do with the heavy consumption of alcohol but what we did is we partnered with the city and with Cedar Sinai and for our large events we give folks who had a little bit too much to drink or have lost their friends and don’t have anybody to care for them we give them an option. That option is we can take you down to the Cedar Sinai tent where you can be seen by a doctor or seen by a nurse and be medically treated, sleep it off if you will or you can come to West Hollywood and you can sleep it off here in jail. And 100 percent of the people pick Cedar Sinai! So that’s the special bond that we have here with our community, the goal is not to take revelers and people who want to celebrate put them in jail. We’ve created that option for our community.

So back to the “Just in reach” program because I remember when we spoke you had ideas to implement that through West Hollywood applying it to some sort of homeless outreach if there were resources is that correct?

Yes.

Have you been able to get those resources or get that idea across or test that or pitch that idea? Tell me where that’s at-

We have not yet to this point been able to recreate the exact model of the “Just in Reach” program however we have been able to create a hybrid system of sorts based on the community based organizations that the City of West Hollywood is contracted with. Additionally we brought in a program with one of the contracted community-based organizations – The Tarzana treatment center wherein if a person who has a substance abuse issue and they’re arrested for a drug related crime we here at the City of West Hollywood would be willing to forego any prosecution any jail time if they agree to go into drug treatment. We will release you to the drug treatment program no questions asked.

Wow!

Again going back to treating our community fairly we’re not trying to arrest everybody we want to provide the help that’s necessary to get people on the right track. Jail is not the answer. But that’s a by-product of the “Just in reach” program for the prison inmates dealing with the homeless. That’s how Lieutenant Moulder and I came up with the idea.

So you’ve been able to effectuate some of that.?

Yes.

How long have you been here as Captain?

I’ve been the captain for two and a half years and I’ve been here for almost five years.

So homelessness is the biggest problem. Is there something else that you need to be able to effectuate a better policy? How come Beverly Hills seems to be able to sweep their streets faster. What’s the difference?

I can tell you that there is not any city within Los Angeles County that is not affected by homelessness. Every single city is affected by homelessness. A lot of it has to do with the relaxing of laws. Much of it has to do with going back to the Reagan years where they did away with mental health clinics and mental health holding facilities and we’ve never recovered.

There were programs that forced people into drug treatment by holding the proverbial carrot over their heads. If you don’t go into drug treatment you’re going to go either to jail or the prison. We no longer have that anymore with the reduction or making it a misdemeanor. So our drug courts sit idly by. Our community-based organizations don’t have the clients that they used to have in substance abuse treatment so what you see now is what you see on the streets, what you see anywhere you drive any place in Los Angeles County – you will see tents. You will see homeless people gathering at in specific areas and that’s because there is no place else for them to go. Many of these people were in jail or were in prison or many people were in drug treatment and I don’t advocate for a minute prison or jails. Substance abuse has affected my family, my extended family so I don’t believe these people deserve prison or jail these people need treatment, these people need help, this is an illness and we got to get them the help but right now there’s no way to get them the help because many of them will just take the citation and not show up to court.

Do you see any evictions due to covid or poverty in West Hollywood increasing?

No. I truly believe that the City of West Hollywood has probably one of the best programs in the County of Los Angeles if not the State of California in regards to their Rent Stabilization. I always tell the story of a very famous artist, we responded to a call at an apartment a very famous entertainer and he had a very nice-sized apartment and he was paying approximately eight thousand dollars a month in rent eight to ten thousand dollars a month in rent and he was living next to an elderly Russian woman who was paying about eight hundred dollars a little smaller apartment but they were neighbors. I thought that — that is the beauty of West Hollywood, But as far as evictions go there’s a moratorium evictions during Covid, so no we’re not seeing that.

Tell us about opportunities to serve in the West Hollywood Sheriff department or volunteer.

We have a robust volunteer group here at the City of West Hollywood. Our leader as far as the volunteers is Richard Best who is a fixture here in the community. Richard has dedicated a lot of his time and efforts to being a volunteer here at the City of West Hollywood. He runs our social media, he runs the volunteer program, our volunteers do things like man the desk- they’ll do small errands around the station, they’re available to bring the mail back here they they do things so that free’s up professional staff and sworn staff so they don’t have to do it so they could attend law enforcement matters.

You told me a story about the deputies gathering the dollars a few years back. I would love to be able to tell that story again, about those homeless kids. You know- the heart of the sheriff’s station.

You know, most deputy sheriffs assigned to the City of West Hollywood are fathers and mothers and I think across the country you are not gonna find a police officer or a deputy sheriff that doesn’t have a soft spot in his heart for children. There were some kids who found their way because they were from Maryland and inevitably end up in the City of West Hollywood. They were reported missing, however they did not have the funding to get back so our deputy sheriffs took up a collection and as we were in our attempt to find somebody to pick them up or to meet him at the train station we collected enough money to buy them a train ticket back to to Maryland.

However during that time period we were able to find an aunt who lived within driving distance of the City of West Hollywood who was able to come pick them up but we did donate that money to the children so they could do something special with it.

What do you think about defund the police?

I believe that defund the police is a bit of a misnomer. I believe in police reform. I believe that like with anything else you can always do a better job. We can be better students, better workers, better husbands, better wives, better friends, better doctors, better dentists, better lawyers and better police officers. There’s a lot that we can fix, however defunding any law enforcement agency and taking police officers off the streets will never make a community safer ever that said I can tell you. What the defund the police movement wants to do is absolutely brilliant. What that entails is bringing in professionals NOT to do the work of police officers but to assist us in doing our jobs. I’ll take our MET team (mental evaluation team) that’s here at the City of West Hollywood who rolls out with our deputies to respond when there’s a person that’s having a mental crisis. They have been able to go out there and quell the situation. A deputy sheriff goes out with a clinician they go specifically and specially trained in mental health evaluation and mental health crisis. The deputy is not in a uniform, he’s there for emergency purposes and allows a clinician to do their work and the clinician inevitably talks the person down and quells the situation so there’s very little force if any. More importantly we are able to get the person the treatment that’s necessary. In law enforcement we call it the 5150 placement in a hospital. They been able to talk people off ledges, they may be able to talk people out of running around the middle of the street, and what that does it gives the deputies on the beat the ability to focus their efforts on other things while the mental health evaluation unit takes care of that person in crisis

So fast forward, here I envision something like a marriage and family therapist, the clergy, a specialist in domestic violence. When we came up with a MET team idea West Hollywood, I made an area for the clinician and the deputy to work. I will tell you right now if we could begin a program to bring in any of those specific people that I talked about I will make room for them because they are the professionals. They are the people that we need to assist us in doing our job. We have become the de facto folks who answer these calls because there’s nobody else left to do it. We’re not not specifically trained. We’re not the experts in certain things. There are plenty of experts out there so to have them come and assist us on these calls where we can just stand by and watch them handle it and in the event some emergency happen then we can interject ourselves. But aside from that, it allows us to stand back and let them handle it the best way they know possible from their perspective from their professional perspective. If law enforcement agencies around the nation did that we’d all be better served for it. I think that would be a definite reduction in force, a definite reduction in police violence, or what is portrayed as police violence. I think communities would will be happy with it. I certainly welcome it and I know most police chiefs would welcome it as well.

So let’s drive that point home. Is there a way that we can solve the problems in West Hollywood differently with these starter programs or working with our collaborative or cooperative agencies- if those fell under the Sheriff would be able to bring some of those tools here to help Public Safety?

I can tell you that we collaborate very well with the city. We have a very good relationship with all the city departments, we have a great relationship with our city council, we have a great relationship with our public safety director. Right now we understand that the city took a big hit with having the hotels and our town basically shut down for a good year and a half. We get that but at a certain point when we’re up and running I would love to sit down with the entities and discuss particulars of how we could do things differently based on my experience. Based on what I’ve seen based on what I’ve learned, based on the success of the MET program and conceivably bringing in other entities that can assist us. West Hollywood is a city of first’s, we’re the first to do a lot of things okay. I would like to be the first to implement something like this and think it would serve our community well.

I love that. We can’t end this without a question on scooters. Have had there been any citations? What do we do about monitoring pedestrian safety and crosswalks? How have the new programs we set up along Santa Monica boulevard really helped until that terrible accident last week. We had such a beautiful record on on that so how does these officers monitor all this?

We do have motor officers here. We do have a traffic team. I know when the height of the scooters. We woke up one day and they were just all dropped off here on Santa Monica Boulevard and it drove the community absolutely crazy. It drove us crazy. It was not monitored, we had kids, we had adults, we had people driving on sidewalks riding on in the parks, speeding down alleyways and it was quite dangerous. It subsided somewhat, and now it’s kind of reared its head a little bit but we have more safety features in place now. I think people understand the law a little better. I think in West Hollywood they understand that you’re not supposed to ride on the sidewalk that you’re supposed to be on a certain street. We do have an issue with helmets and folks not wearing helmets. Once in a great while we’ll see a parent who will allow somebody under the age of 18 to be on this without a helmet. There are a number of rules and regulations that people don’t understand and they believe that these are toys that you just jump on and ride for the sake of riding them. In fact, these are motor vehicles.

Have you had incidents that caused injury?

Luckily we have not. We’ve had close incidents where people were almost hit by by these things but more of our calls are geared towards residents who are angry in the manner of which people are driving. We don’t see them a lot in the City of West Hollywood, we see them more in the City of Los Angeles and in our our neighboring jurisdictions. We have not written a lot of citations but we are willing to write citations if we see something that’s that’s egregious.

Thank you so much. If there’s anything we left out in today’s interview we’ll pick it up with Moulder next week.

NOTE TO PUBLIC: POST YOUR QUESTIONS IN THE COMMENT SECTION AND WE WILL TRY TO COVER ALL BASES.

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Jeremy
Jeremy
15 days ago

What happened to the rainbow logos on the sides of the cars?

Voter
Voter
15 days ago

I’d like to know what is the hourly rate for a starting sheriff officer?

Manny
Manny
15 days ago

Reagan was eight Governors and 50 years ago. I agree with the Captain, it’s time to reinstate mental health clinics and metal health facilities. But there’s no chatter about doing that, there’s just a lot of blaming of an action taken in 1972 and zero action now. The reality about illegal scooter sidewalk riding enforcement is that there is NONE and there NEVER will be. The Sheriff’s Department does not have a directive from the council to do so. But if they did have a directive, it’s unlikely that the Sheriff will carry it out. Much like the mask mandate.… Read more »

Last edited 15 days ago by Manny
greeneyedguy
greeneyedguy
15 days ago
Reply to  Manny

I think there are other solutions. Protected bike lanes (a pipe dream in weho). If you go to Santa Monica (bike lanes GALORE), you will see people use this alternative instead of the sidewalk.

Responsibility
Responsibility
15 days ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

Priorities and a sense of personal responsibility to make the wise choice.

Stevie
Stevie
15 days ago
Reply to  Manny

First Covid vaccinations now forced Mental health facilities and Drug Rehabs against ones will. When does the chip get implanted under our skin?

Last edited 15 days ago by Stevie
Responsibility
Responsibility
15 days ago
Reply to  Manny

Unfortunately the Sheriff’s Dept. seems to have confused has confused Public Relations with good sense and enforcement. Not wanting to get real with scooters and scooter offenders indicates they prefer public relations first and safety as an afterthought. Its nice to be nice but its always nice to be wise first.

Stevie
Stevie
15 days ago
Reply to  Responsibility

Enforcement starts at city hall first. If they wanted enforcement it would happen. It’s like bikes on sidewalks, no enforcement because the city encountered riding there even with bike lanes.

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