Sergeant Fanny Lapkin, it is a pleasure to have you here with WEHOville. Let’s start off with something about you. Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in Mexico; my parents brought us to the States. I am the youngest of five. We ended up growing up in East LA.
What were your influences growing up to become a sheriff or join the Sheriff’s Department?
Actually, thats a funny story. I went to school to become a pediatrician. During my college years I had to volunteer and they give you a list of places you can volunteer. The closest area was the East L.A. Sheriff’s Station. I actually volunteered at East L.A., and was supposed to do it for two semesters. I ended up doing it for seven years. I loved it so much, hence the seven years of volunteering, I decided to join the department. At the time they didn’t have deputy positions because we had a freeze on deputy sheriffs hiring so the only way that to get into the Sheriff’s Department was to become a custody assistant, which is basically a jailer. You work the jails or you work at a station level.
And what brought you to the West Hollywood Station?
I was very fortunate that after 11 years of being at Santa Clarita, I was promoted to Sergeant and fortunate enough to come to West Hollywood.
As a female working your way up the Sheriff’s Department, were there any obstacles or influences?
You know, I was very lucky because I had a few good role models. Female role models and female mentors that showed you that we’re equal to men in position. But we also have to remember our physical strength. I’m 5’4″, a petite female. I had to learn to use the gift of gab. I had to learn to talk to people so I did. And I have had very few altercations. That’s the only way that to put it. Somebody wise told me you know to make sure that you know what you can and cannot do, and use your words instead of your fist. Knock on wood, it’s worked so far.
Do you have a family and children?
No, I don’t. I’m single.
And where do you commute from?
I commute from the Valley, so I come up from the Valley. It’s about 20 miles, so it’s not a far drive.
How long have you been at the West Hollywood Station?
May was two years. Fairly new. West Hollywood was one of the stations on my wish list of stations that you want to go. I don’t know how the executives decide and how you end up where you end up, but you put it on your wish list and you say this is where I want to go, and West Hollywood was one of the stations I wanted to go and was very fortunate.
What were the other two stations?
Lancaster and Palmdale.
What does your job entail as a sergeant?
Here at the station I am the service area sergeant. I work directly with Lieutenant Moulder. We deal with community-oriented police team and basically we have the SIT team and the COPS team. We deal with a lot of community issues — anything that happens where we deal with transients. Unfortunately, as you know every city has a problem with the transient issue. We have the COPS team, and the EPT team (entertainment police), and we are all under the CIT team. The CIT team stands for “Crime Impact Team.”
So unfortunately, I oversee both the entertainment policing team and the cops team because due to budget constraints the city put that sergeant position on hold. I do both, oversee the volunteers as well, and any quality of life issue that happens. Like I said, working directly with Lieutenant Moulder, we go to public safety meetings and do anything we can to assist. I’m always ready. As you can see I have a stack of three phones right in front of me and we try to make ourselves available.
Are you the senior female in the West Hollywood Sheriff Station?
Besides the Operations Sergeant Hewitt.
I believe she’s been here over five years. I’m young for two years as a sergeant to be the senior female sergeant but there’s about five female sergeants in the station.
May I ask, how young are you?
How young do you think I am?
I’m blind, I cannot see texture very well.
I could say I’m in my late 40’s.
Oh well, you look fantastic says the blind man! We’re going to ask a few questions about your job overseeing the teams and the entertainment police. What are your biggest obstacles in your job?
Dealing with the homeless specifically, but we’re very fortunate the City of West Hollywood has a huge social services division that provide services and assistance. But the great obstacle is a lot of the homeless population do not want the services. Our team goes out on a weekly basis and our daily duties and they offer services. If we see somebody in need we offer services. We have great relationships with Tarzana Treatment Center and we have great relationships with the city services. But unfortunately the large number of homeless population that we deal with don’t want services
And what about operating the Entertainment Police Team with only four deputies, instead of six and a Sergeant? That’s cutting a third of the nighttime police team with most of the bars open and busy. How do you decide where those teams operate? Do they operate individually or do they operate in pairs?
They operate in pairs. It’s two per car. They usually stick together because on any given weekend, whether you’re on Santa Monica or Sunset, they know what’s happening. We also know what special events are happening. They always patrol that Robertson, always Santa Monica . Those are the main thoroughfares for people that come to West Hollywood. They work Wednesday through Saturday, so those are the busiest.
But that’s only two teams correct, for Santa Monica, Robertson, Sunset, Melrose, East Side and Mid-City? Do they do anything else if there’s other problems or are they laser focused on the entertainment police or do they get called off if there’s an emergency elsewhere?
We’ve had a couple of incidents where it required a little bit of help if there is a need for them to assist patrol then they assist patrol or vice versa. If there’s a need for patrol to assist them when there’s something going on. The EPT team stay in contact with the managers and business owners to find out if there’s any issues going on. They go check with the security heads asking if they have any issues. That’s the relationship that this team has so which I think is a great relationship to have because they call them and say, “Hey, we’re having an issue here they go over there and try to figure out what the problem is talk to them and handle it.”
I have a local business and I would have to check see if my staff knows of that because we have so many problems on the street and there is never an officer to be found. Do you know my shop BlockParty?
Oh yeah I don’t know it but its right next door to Micky’s on Santa Monica.
So the problems are on both sides of me and they all fall into the middle and … have we ever met? I don’t think we have but anyway nice to meet you. I’m not real sure that you are touching base with all the businesses equally.
You know that’s one of the things, unless you reached out to us and say we have a problem here then there’s a gamut of problems. Whether it be Robertson or Santa Monica and San Vicente. They can’t be in all places but they try to mitigate and a lot of the time the problem goes back to the business owners. It’s not up to us to manage the lines especially with co-ed restrictions. It’s up to the business to manage the lines. It’s up to the business to figure out a way whatever the COVID health orders that they need to enforce. So it’s not up to us to manage that but we’re there to assist when needed.
What’s the second issue that you know permeates your job?
I guess the staffing shortage. There’s a staffing shortage everywhere in the department. The day shift team assists patrol when there’s a staffing shortage of deputies. With COVID we we got hit like every other station and deputies called in sick. And then had to quarantine for two weeks. Others had to quarantine until they got their results and until they had zero symptoms. All of that pays plays into account. There’s staffing shortages besides the Entertainment Police team is affecting everybody.
So the job is a little bit like ‘Whammo’, chasing the problems all over the board?
Yes I think it is. I think department-wide, we’re all under a lot. There’s not a lot of people that want to join law enforcement. I don’t want to get into the politics of whether we have the money or whether we don’t, but it’s many other stations too. We all have a staffing shortage because of, you know, what’s happening today.
Do you have any thoughts about how the public can better work with the sheriff or communicate with the sheriff ?
I know that Lieutenant Moulder’s probably green in the face saying and “If you see something say something.” I mean we’re here to try to assist in everything. We do security checks of apartment buildings. We do walkthroughs and we we give them advice. Trim the trees, put lighting, make sure you have good locks, lock your car, make sure that especially because of the transient population. Always reach out if you have any issues with that especially our teams will be happy to go out there and assist. If you see something called the sheriff station. If you see an emergency call 9-1-1.
But when you call the sheriff’s station get no response, people get frustrated because there’s no answer. Is that the best way to communicate? Is there is it better way to communicate something that’s not urgent via email or that needs attention without going through the front desk?
If it’s not a crime happening right now then they can email myself or Lieutenant Moulder and we can send the team or myself to go talk to them and see how we can resolve the problem.
So we can bypass the front desk and email to you a question or a problem? What would that email be?
Flapkin@lasd.org. Something may not be imminent or right now but just needs to be reported. If it’s a crime they need to call the station because a deputy needs to go out there and take a report. We can’t give legal advice but we we can guide you in the right direction as far as what the law states.
Did you ever imagine growing up that you would wind up to be a sheriff’s officer deputy officer Sergeant and walking around with a gun on you all day?
No, I was gonna be a doctor. I ended up getting into law enforcement because again, through schooling and through volunteering at the East LA station I fell in love with the job. As cliche as people say but I got into law enforcement to help people.
Do you find your doctor education studies help when somebody’s passed out on the ground and trying to wonder resuscitate them? Or attend to injuries?
We wear many hats. So we wear the hats of life-saving and what do we need to do right now to get everybody safe. Whether it be medical we go assist medical. Whether it be violence we separate parties in a domestic issue. You know that is primary number one safety of all parties involved. We get into the psychologist’s hat when all people need is for somebody to listen to them and understand what the frustration. It’s not necessarily a crime, a lot of the times these are civil matters. You know we lost the Detective Amber Joy Leist was being a Good Samaritan, remember? We lost her when she got hit by a car because she was assisting an elderly couple crossing the street. She was off duty but that’s what I mean. As cliche as it is, “We get into this line of work to help people.”
So the Entertainment police only work four days — Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. There’s no EPT team on Sunday. Isn’t it more important to have that team on Sunday than on Wednesday’s?
That all depends because the teams do other things. They deal with the bars, clubs, restaurants and hotels so there’s other things that happen not necessarily on the weekend that that needs their attention too so it that’s what we discovered was the best was the best schedule for them. They’re mostly not on foot. We do have a little bit of supplemental money from the city that hires the foot beats as well can so we do the east end and the west and those are separate from the entertainment policing.
Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
No thank you very much!