In the late 1970’s crime was sweeping the subways of New York City. One civilian wanted to make a difference. In early 1979, Curtis Sliwa created an organization to combat the violence and crime in the New York Subway System. The ‘Guardian Angels’ were civilians citizens, who put on Red Berets and patrolled the subways to protect the residents and tourists in New York City. The organization later spread to over 130 cities.
From Wikipedia: ‘The original and main Guardian Angels activity is “safety patrol” in which members walk the streets or ride transit. The organization accepts volunteers who do not have a recent or serious criminal record and are not members of a gang or racial-hate group. Safety Patrol members are prohibited from carrying weapons and are physically searched by each other before patrolling. They are trained in first aid and CPR, law, conflict resolution, communication, and basic martial arts. Members are paired up and follow the directions of a Patrol Leader. If their own or other citizens’ lives or health are endangered, they are allowed to do whatever is lawful and necessary.’
By now you have learned that our streets in WeHo are patrolled by the ‘Block by Block’, security ambassadors, The ambassadors are nothing more than safety guards who hold up stop signs to cross the street, or are deployed in various communities to perform a task like picking up trash from the sidewalks. They have no special training. Some have criminal records. We have no control over the hiring processes of Block by Block ambassadors who are then placed on our streets.
In an email to WEHOville this past Thursday, Public Safety Director Danny Rivas wrote “We will be following up with Block by Block concerning their hiring checks and practices to insure that it follows those listed within the RFP”, the City Council voted to de-fund the trained Sheriff deputies and ‘ask questions later’.
Block by Block, based in Kentucky, a subsidiary of SMS Holdings based in Nashville, Tennessee, is the recipient of the ‘decrease ‘ in the Public Safety budget. Lindsey Horvath, John D’Amico, and Sepi Shyne voted to divert 3million dollars from the Los Angeles County Sheriff to ‘Block by Block’.
It seems unusual to me that we need to hire untrained safety guards to ride bikes from a company based in Mitch McConnell and Marsha Blackburn’s home state. Many of the West Hollywood bar’s and restaurants- from Rocco’s to the Abbey hire their security guards from a local company. Employees log on to an online portal and select the time slots and places they choose to work. Why do we need to hire untrained security guards from a Tennessee based company who have little interest in West Hollywood.
Perhaps you have heard of the ‘military-industrial complex’, The military–industrial complex refers to the relationship between the government, the military, and the businesses that make things for the military. When we go to war, or restrict gun laws, we feed the military industrial complex. Follow the money.
What we are witnessing in the defund-the-sheriff movement is the rise of the ‘social-industrial complex’. Where the relationship between the government and the social service organizations and the businesses that have a vested interest in the de-fund movement. In the case of West Hollywood those dollars are flowing to companies based in the rubiest of red states.
We have witnessed outside forces speaking at the City Council, Ambrose Brooks- who was asked by Mayor Lauren Meister directly… ‘if we can find money to increase the social services component without cutting the Sheriff budget would that be acceptable? The answer was no. Karen Bartak, from Bedford Falls Insurance Services Commissiom putting fear into the Council and its residents by stating ‘West Hollywood may not be insurable’. Tremendous forces pushing the increase in monies away from the Sheriff. But like for-profit prisons, you can follow the money to for-profit social organizations that would benefit from the de-fund movement.
There was nothing clear in any of my research that Block by Block, or SMS Holdings supports abortion rights. To do so in Kentucky or Tennessee would probably invite violence. There is little evidence that Block by Block, or its parent companies support any of the West Hollywood social values. We do not know if their workers in their home states are getting paid ‘living wages’ as required by other businesses that want to do business with the City of West Hollywood. It does not appear to me that anybody knows the social values, or the political affiliations of this ‘subcontractor’.
A photo on the Block by Block website shows ‘our family’, not a single person of color. I doubt that this company supports gay rights, transgender rights, abortion rights, or any of West Hollywood’s core family values. Below is a photo of the ‘Block by Block family’, There is little ‘diversity’.
The West Hollywood Community Policing (WHCP) — working with the Los Angeles County Sheriff, the Public Safety Commission, our Human Services providers, and local residents — could replace Block by Block.
By creating a local WHCP, we would bring new opportunities for real community policing. The West Hollywood Community Police is a local job creator. While we strive to fund the WeHo Works and Trans Can Work programs, spending close to $1 million a year, we can instead create jobs and offer those jobs to those who share our social values. The West Hollywood Community Police does not replace the West Hollywood Sheriff — they work together. It’s a win-win and it’s social justice winner.
By working with our boards — the Women’s Advisory Board, the Lesbian and Gay Advisory Advisory Board, the Senior Advisory Board, the Disability Advisory Board, and the Transgender Advisory Board — all would be represented, and the Social Justice Task force would be in charge of the initiation to the Community Policing Team. We can re-imagine Public Safety, one that is built on community, and for community.
Re-imagining policing is not hiring a company based in Mitch McConnell’s home state, with a parent company in Lindsey Graham’s home state. Re-imagining policing is not taking $3 million out of trained Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to employ persons from outside the community, some with criminal records, to police our streets.
It’s strange to me how the City Council voted to increase wages for hazard workers at grocery stores, and then voted to increase hazard pay for hospital workers, then they voted to increase the pay for hotel workers and all other workers.
So why is the City Council cutting the cops budget who dealt with riots and fires and put their lives on the line? And why do we need to hire untrained safety guards from a company based in Tennessee or Kentucky? Don’t you think West Hollywood should have a say in who patrols our streets? We can re-imagine Public Safety by creating a Community Policing Team that works with the Sheriff.
In the next few days, I am going to lay out my ideas for moving forward to create a safer, community-oriented, civilian policing team, and I invite residents and candidates to share your ideas. Public Safety should bring us ‘together’, and not divide us. It’s time we come together on a ‘common ground’ approach.