Monday, May 4, 2009

The Case for Downtown Beat Cops - And Rosenberg's Rules of Order Explained.

In the April 29 edition of the Pasadena Star News, our current favorite reporter Alfred Lee wrote about a foot tour he took of the quaint downtown precincts of Sierra Madre. A kind of walking of the beat, to use the old police parlance. And one that featured our very own Chief of Police, Marilyn D. Diaz. Here's how Alfred put it:

"Diaz invited along the media to a 'Walk the Beat' event Wednesday that not only reached out to local community members but also appeared intended to strengthen her public image, which was shaken last year after Diaz was hit with a no-confidence vote by her officers and an invasion of privacy lawsuit by the Sierra Madre Police Officers' Association."

Now I was raised on the east coast, across the river from New York City to be exact. And among my earliest memories as a child was going into the city with my dad to just, as he put it, poke around. My old man was a big time poker arounder. And one of the things that I always noticed was the sight of Policemen walking the streets. My dad would call them "beat cops," and tell me about why that was a good thing. It kept the neighborhood safe while letting everyone there know who the local cops were. These Police were truly a part of their community.

So when I read the story about Chief Diaz I felt, well, disappointed. Here was our Chief of Police walking the downtown streets like a beat cop, but only because she felt the need to show her face due to an unfortunate legal situation. And that rather than a good way to conduct Police business, her walking a beat was a kind of media stunt, a novelty meant to counter some bad publicity. The story continues:

"The event was organized in part by RMS Public Relations, which has been working with the city since January, according to publicist Jason Kirshner."

So I began wondering why we don't have beat cops downtown except as public relations events. Certainly the perception must be positive, otherwise why would RMS-PR have recommended it? The Police Station is right there, and we're only talking about eight or so blocks. An entire walking tour through the neighborhood could be down in 45 minutes if there were no stops for coffee. 

So I started a list of problems and solutions. Here are the three that I've finished:

1) There is an unmistakable tension in Sierra Madre between citizens and the Police. And I've heard about it from people I'd least expect to hear such things. Like from some of the dads that help coach my kids' Little League team. From tales of unfair tickets to whatever it is that happened at the Four Seasons Tea Room, it has come up. This is a real issue. So let me ask you, when is the last time you talked to a cop? When is the last time a member of the SMPD attempted to strike up a conversation with you? Like never, right? Our cops ride around in low slung cars and glower out the windows. They could be space aliens for all we know. But what if a few were turned into beat cops for a several hours a day and were to walk around downtown? Wouldn't this break things down a bit? And lead to some truly radical behavior, like real conversations and getting to know each others' names?

2) There are some things that just cannot be seen from Police cars. As an example, how are the new downtown smoking restrictions going to be enforced? As anyone who has been downtown lately knows, the 90 day voluntary period is a joke. The smokers are still there, and seemingly quite comfortable. The restrictions will soon have some legal bite to them, but Police driving by in patrol cruisers are still not going to be able to observe smokers sitting at the tables in front of, let's say, Bean Town. For one thing, they can't see through the cars parked in front of our legendary coffee joint. But also, and I've observed this personally, when a cop car is sighted on Baldwin Avenue, smokers just lower their cigarettes. The cop car drives by and then the regular routine resumes. But if Police on foot were to occasionally walk by, I guarantee you would never see smoker within 25 feet of any of the restricted areas. And also, everyone would know exactly where the legal smoking areas are because there would actually be someone there to let them know.

3) We have had a rash of robberies in the last year or so. It has been written and talked about a lot. But what if Police were physically on the streets, and could be seen walking a beat? I've never believed for a minute that thieves just roar into town, grab stuff, and then race back out again. Rather they cruise the place, check things out, look for the good stuff, and only when they feel comfortable do they strike. And chances are pretty good one of the places they spend some time is downtown. Now if you were a thief and you observed a couple of cops walking down the street where you were sitting, wouldn't you feel a little nervous? Of course you would. You'd think this was some kind of cop crazy town and take your affairs to some other place pronto.

Now it's nice that Chief Diaz is out meeting folks on the street once in a while. But maybe it's time to make this a little more meaningful. It's time to bring back something that has been the backbone of law enforcement throughout most of human history. The beat cop.

----------------- -- -  -    -     -         -

People have been asking about Rosenberg's Rules of Order, and exactly what it is that John Buchanan was up to at last Tuesday's meeting when our new Mayor was selected. And why was it John didn't want to go by Robert's Rules of Order, something that is the accepted practice at our City Council meetings. Well, it apparently goes this way. Under Robert's Rules of Order, there would be a vote, and that would be it. MaryAnn MacGillivray would get 3 votes out of the 5 available, and become Mayor. But if Rosenberg's Rules of Order had been accepted for use this one time, there would have been two votes. The first where Joe Mosca would officially go down in flames for the second time in so many years, and then a follow-up for appearances. In the second instance John Buchanan would probably have cast his vote for the person who had already won, MaryAnn MacGillivray. After all, the issue was now moot.

And why would Buchanan have wanted this? So that he could have said that he was really a voice for amity and unity on the council. The true ombudsman placed between the warring factions. Malarkey? Sure. But typical John Buchanan posturing? Without a doubt. It was an attempt to gain political points by seizing an imaginary moral high ground. I for one am glad he wasn't able to sneak this one by. We'd have had to hear about how fair and equitable he is for the rest of 2009.


  1. This is very interesting news.
    I think it's a great idea if the police had this new policy of patroling by walking our streets.

    Of course, John Buchanan was again pulling his "I'm the fair voice of reason" bit.
    BS Buchanan. That's the same old BS local bully, Glenn Lambdin used to spout.

    I suppose you had to justify yourself, after Carol Parker and Shirley Moore knocked the hell out of the lame "joe needs to be the mayor" farce.
    After all, you did canvass door to door during the last election, telling folks with MacGillivray signs in their yards, "I see you are for MaryAnn, we are on the same page" or something to that effect, while kicking your fellow councilmember Enid Joffe to the curb, so you could get extra votes?
    Yep, that's our old "green" one, John Buchanan.
    Always paddling your own canoe.

  2. Anybody have any idea of why we don't have downtown foot patrols now? Be curious to find out what the reasons are.

  3. Greetings all,
    Nice piece Sir Eric. I would like to see all our police on Segways, our town is so small they don't need but one squad car for transport of suspects. We could sell all the outher squad cars, cut the Police force in half at least, and put them all on Segways, maybe even an equestrian cop or two for our festivials.

  4. Good question, Curly
    time to start a new "TRADITION"?
    Might be worth considering.

  5. Voice of Reason:

    I think a foot-patrol is just that..on foot. A few of our fine "men in blue" could use some exercise...let's face it, Sierra Madre is three square miles and downtown is a easy walk...time to put them to the streets...I've seen a few on bikes during the Wisteria Festival ... now if we could do it all the time.

  6. If our men in blue were on foot how could they call for backp of two more patrol cars for for a routine traffic stop? Lately every traffic stop I have seen involves 3 police cars. It is absurd. You would think they had just stopped one on America's most wanted. I read that is a tactic the POA attornys suggest.

  7. The point is a good one. There is no effort here to bridge the divide between our police and the taxpayers. We live in two worlds and unless you do something wrong you'll never get the opportunity to talk to our police. By putting at least a couple of cops on the street you'll help bridge the gap. It's worth a shot. What could possibly be the problem with at least giving it a try?

  8. How Many SM Cops does it take to write a ticket?May 4, 2009 at 10:02 AM

    The new cops like the gun touting dispatcher and the steroid looking dudes have crappy condesending attitudes, but it's laughable to most because they are only cops in Sierra Madre.

    Bernadette Fife, the dispatcher with a gun drives around during the week writing tickets and more tickets. The city hires rejects from other cities and cops who can't get hired by legit police departments.

    When 10 year old kids are being held at gunpoint by our cops, it's time to question the hiring and mental profiles of who were are issuing guns to in the department.

    Our Chief Wiggum needed a PR firm to suggest that she walk the city? It'd be laughable if it weren't true.

    Sierra Madre really needs Council leadership that will question the public safety value of having hand me down cops versus contracting out with the County Sheriff or Arcadia/Pasadena.

    There was a obviously biased study a few years back that was conducted by the city, but an outside "consultant" should study the financial and public safety implications of canceling our PD department.

    The last thing the city needs is our SM cops actually on the street walking and patroling. It'll be nothing but more ticky tacky tickets and glares from cops acting like teenagers.

    The only decent guy in the department is Ruben and Lance used to be personable, but it appears he had enough of the Chief.

  9. Pretty obvious something needs to change. Not sure photo ops are what is going to do it.

  10. Anybody seen a new Looney Views News lately? Nothing downtown this morning.

  11. Lisa Bartolai BrandleyMay 4, 2009 at 11:51 AM

    Um, How Many SM Cops does it take to write a ticket? at 10:02am...Lance made a HUGE boo boo on his off time and that's why he is no longer with the department...had nothing to do with him having "enough of the chief". Just that line itself discredited anything else you wrote above (well except the part about Ruben...he's great). Let's get all the facts straight before going on a rant.


    PS. I'm very protective of Sierra Madre's PD along with all others because i certainly would not want their job no matter where it was.

  12. Lisa, I'd love to do the SM PD job, sit around, write tickets, investigate minor crimes and when something big happens, pass off all responsiblity to Pasadena or the County.

  13. Lisa B.B.?
    Do you think it would be a good idea for the police to have foot patrols of the streets?

  14. Diaz sure is a far cry from Wayne Bailey.

    Wayne Bailey was a real police officer that started and ended his career in Sierra Madre; from a real, beat cop to Chief of Police. He knew the City, it's residents and how to apply the law fairly.

    Diaz on the other hand, had a nervous breakdown early in her career and was relegated to a Public Relations post for the remainder of her tenure in Pasadena. No real police experience whatsoever, and now it turns out she wasn't very good at Public Relations either; needing to hire a PR firm to help her "appear" as a "Chief of Police."

    Just another joke played on the residents and taxpayers of Sierra Madre by a cynical, Dirt Council. And, now the Police Officer's Association is telling OUR police how to conduct business, instead of the Chief, City Manager and City Council. TRULY INSULTING AND HUMILIATING.

    Getting rid of the Police Department because of a few rotten apples is like throwing baby out with the bath water. I think we should exhaust other options before bringing in the Sherif's Department.

  15. The SMPD should share a bullet, and keep it behind glass. That way they wont shoot unarmed people sleeping in cars, anymore.

  16. does anyone know whatever happenened to the suspect that was shot at the police station? the censorship or inablity for the local papers to investigate doesn't speak well for our PD

    1:13 is right, Bailey was respected and his officers knew that he was in charge, not the inmates running the department now

  17. Lisa Bartolai BrandleyMay 4, 2009 at 3:09 PM

    Old Kentucky at 1:13pm...sure, any sort of public relations is good but it's obvious they will not please everyone.

    I had this conversation with my Seniors today saying that i believe our PD is in a bit of a rock and a hard place. All these guys are POST certified hoping to get hired somewhere before their school is up. I do not believe our police folk went into school "hoping" to get hired by a sleepy little town like Sierra Madre but was given an offer and took the job because they want to protect and serve, ANYWHERE. Maybe had they done some research (for the way out of town hires) and realized their every single move is watched and criticized then maybe they would have thought twice about SM.

    Anonymous at have their job all wrong and it is people like you that make coming to work suck and brings their moral down...

    Anonymous at far as a couple of weeks ago that was still under investigation.

    Speaking of "investigations", yes other cities like Pasadena and the County do SM's because as far as i understood the city does NOT have the resources...or the $$$$ for that matter (see maybe if they had more money to offer, ex hubby would have choosen SM instead of moving 10 hours away to fulfill his dream and be away from our daughter but he has a new family too and needed to do what worked best for them).

    Ah and to finish off, Bailey!!!! He was awesome but i thought they wanted someone that had nothing to do with the PD so that's why they hired outside or maybe then Abernathy would have been the next SM resident and Chief.


    PS. I think i may start using my profile name as "Lisa"...we all know who i am, right? ;)

  18. You know, we're not getting a lot of action on the main question here. Would having cops walk the downtown beat be beneficial to Sierra Madre?

  19. I wonder why Sierra Madre cops illicit such negative, hostile comment and volunteer firemen are treated as royalty? Does familiarity make the difference? Then by all means have then walk the downtown beat; cover the Canyon on foot; pancake breakfasts; drop in on the Chamber, the Kiwanis, the parks on Saturdays and Sundays. It can't hurt. Now I understand Lisa Volpe can't win regardless of what she does; it's the nature of her job as a code enforcement officer, but the hatefule accusations against Chief Diaz and her officers are puzzling.

  20. I think the walk patrol would be a great idea.
    I was a volunteer who got signatures for the police, only to be disappointed by their union's actions and suit against our city.
    I want a local police force. Support for local law enforcement is so very important for many reasons. It's important for Sierra Madre.

  21. Eric I posted earlier today suggesting that everyone complaining about the police should stop screaming, be proactive and stop by the station to introduce themselves. (don't know why that post isn't here) My point was this: There are two sides to every story and if there are so many people out there disappointed with SMPD then foot patrols won't change a thing. Do we think that these guys will just walk around chatting with people? Not likely for fear of people like those posting here railing them for one thing or another. The department is far too understaffed to take these guys out of the residential neighborhoods where the majority of robberies are occurring. Anyone who has worked with the SMPD on issues other than a traffic ticket knows that there are some good people over there who are really very nice folks. If some of you would host a Neighborhood Watch meeting or invite the PD to make a presentation at your kids school you might end up with a different opinion and not feel that foot patrols are necessary in order to "Get To Know Your Cops". Maybe the residents need to reach out to "bridge the divide between our police and the taxpayers" And for the record there have been several efforts by the PD over the years to have foot patrols. It hasn't made much of a difference. And currently I believe they do have foot patrols during the holiday season.

  22. Sir Eric, your question answered, one word...


  23. Everyones a critic of a cop until you need one.

  24. Amen, 6:41.

  25. 5:16...Perhaps you haven't seen Sr Eric's post on the methods used by the Police Officer's Association to extort more money out of the City; or maybe you did and are doing your best Public Relations job to mitigate the damage to your special interests.

    This is a top down issue. The plain truth, as I see it, is that the problems start at the City Council. For 10 years the City Council did everything possible to politicize and destroy the credibility of both the Police and Fire Departments, including but not limited to the incompetent leaders put in place (such as Lowe, Hydorf and Diaz) in the hopes that eventually residents would demand they be replaced by outside agencies.

    So here we are! Mission Accomplished

    The Building Industry backed Dirts are one step closer to turning Sierra Madre into a County enclave, where decisions will be made by development friendly politicians like Mike Antonovich. In case anyone is unaware, a City MUST maintain a certain level of service in order to remain a CITY.

    The City Council is too lazy and/or too scared to clean house and bring in competent public safety professionals, along with ethical legal counsel and administrative staff.

    So, we can tinker around the edges and debate the merits of "walking the beat," while avoiding the big picture and the ultimate question.

    Do the majority of Sierra Madre residents want to maintain local control?

    If so, then what are the majority of Sierra Madre residents prepared to do about it? Walk the beat? Put their money where their mouth is? What?

    As far as Sir Eric's question; Yes...I would like to see law enforcement walking around town, but, NOT JUST IN DOWNTOWN.


    Great Sergeant, Great Man and good example of the type of officer we should be attracting to Sierra Madre.

  27. anon 5:16 I'm not sure what "Robberies" you could be talking about. A robbery (felony)is a crime in that One person takes property from another through force or fear (Not stealing a bird-bath off a lawn at night - misdemenor)That would be Petty Theft p.c code 484 or 488 unless the perp had a prior conviction then it would be generally p.c. 666 petty theft with prior (felony) but still a very petty crime. Still I dont like stuff stolen off my porch, and it's happened to me personally. If these are the crimes (vandalism, petty teft) you are reffering, they have a extreamly low success rate
    in closing these cases. So, to suggest the citizens "bridge the gap" because it would be to difficult for the department, I understand

  28. Hey 3:59.....learn how to spell or at least keep a dictionary close by.

    Dirts should aspire to be better spellers.

    Facts are facts, no matter how inconvenient they are for your agenda.

    Diaz is incompetent. That is not hateful and it is not personal. It's business. Maybe in your ideal, socialist paradise, every incompetent person would be employed and over-paid. In reality, however, one needs to produce results commensurate with their responsibilities.

    I'm tired of seeing Diaz in plain clothes, out shopping, in the middle of the day, and out of town. If she wants to collect a check, then let her collect a retirement check.

  29. anon 3:59 Lisa Volpe arrested a business owner, cleaning dog crap off his sidewalk. He went to jail and spent thousands to get out. That is not how to do any kind of "code enforcement" That is police state fascism, and power trip in the first degree.

  30. Sierra Madre business ownerMay 4, 2009 at 8:19 PM

    By all means, cops walking the beat would be good for all concerned. This is after all a pleasant town to walk around in. Cops would receive all those nice nods & greetings, & might be happier to be here.

    The business owner had previously used rationed water in a way that was against code, had been warned, and when he was caught again hosing down the whole sidewalk (not a small portion), he turned the house on an officer. That's not about fascism. The situation obviously spiraled out of control, no doubt both parties being guilty, but I'm pretty sure the judge will place the blame on the person who got physically threatening - the business owner.

    7:14, I've heard that for a few years now, the big plan of Bart et al. is to bankrupt the city, give it up to county control. Then Bart et al. can just build whatever, wherever - is that how it goes?

  31. 1--Sierra Madre has always had a daytime robbery problem. It's sad and pathetic, but whatever exact method or methods are used, it continues. Sorry folks, it's not Mayberry. Lock your doors.
    2--The police and the rest of the city would do well to get rid of the PR firm. How about just getting to know people. I've always found the Chief to be reasonable to deal with and I suspect a great deal or her problems arise from coming from another department and being the opposite gender to many of the guys who thought they should be chief.
    3--Buchanan would have loved Rosenberg's rules because then he would have No Consequences at all for his conduct. I don't think this jerk should be let off so easily. He wants his cake and eat it too. Forgetaboutit!

  32. Aha! The detractors are pro-Abernathy! They're still holding onto a dream! Diaz stole the chief's bonnet from him and he and his retinue will dog her steps into eternity. Just like blaming the defacement of the Veterans' Memorial on teenagers...

  33. AGAIN!!! I dont think anybody has evr been Robbed in Sierra Madre EVER!!! Yes some things have been STOLEN. VERY different From Someone Robbing property from You Using Force or Fear, those are the requirements if you are going to speak about Robberies, Which AGAIN, no person has ever been ROBBED here, unless those crime have gone unreported

  34. Wasn't there a daylight robbery a few years back at a SM Blvd restaurant with a running gun battle in the parking lot? Seems to me it was at Corfu or in that area and Det. Cordischi was the officer.

  35. Yes Anonymous at 9:37am, you are correct but that was more than a few years ago if i remember right...Cordischi has been gone for quite awhile...for some reason i think there may have been more to that story (like the robbers knew the owners...something like that but don't go using my words now!!! HA! HA! HA!).


  36. "unmistakable tension between . . . citizens and the police" - there's an understatement.

    the poor members of the smpd went to the academy to be crime fighters. now, they have nothing to do but mindlessly troll our 4 square miles for hours each day, hoping something will happen.

    broken dreamers one and all, they are left to crack down on skateboard dudes, bicycle guys and others engaged in harmless activities. who's next? the asian gent in the golf hat who illegally zig zags down baldwin for hours each day? nah. go get that guy who runs the tea room.

    still, they perform some good services. for example, the overnight parking violation they left on my mother in law's arizona plated ford on THANKSGIVING weekend. or calling the arcadia department when someone dumps a body at one carter.

    as a matter of compassion we need to release the entire department so that they can pursue their crime fighting dream elsewhere.

  37. 1:46 right on, but did they actually go to a police academy?

    and they did apply here for a reason, either they couldn't be hired anywhere else, can't hack hard nose police work or wanted the job of writing parking and minor traffic tickets all day

    i got an overnight parking ticket when i was parked in front of my own house, when they ran the plates they knew they were writing a 20 year resident, but i guess we hired what we deserved

  38. Yeah well just 2 weeks ago they wrote one of my customers a ticket who was on his way to LB's on his bike because he flew through the stop sign. Oh wait, that's right, bikes and skateboarders and cars and so on are all supposed to stop at a stop sign so what my customer did was ILLEGAL. Customer was not mad because he knew the traffic laws and just decided to do what he did.

    As for are not allowed to park OVERNIGHT on the residential streets of Sierra Madre without a permit, correct? The law says nothing about if you've lived there for 5, 10, 20, 50 or WHATEVER years. IT IS WHAT IT IS.

    Finally, will you guys get off the cops nuts (or vagina)about this whole Tea Room incident, please? Even Sierra Madre business owner stated last night at 8:19pm that the guy had been talked to, and i think cited numerous times before, for the same violation and after putting the shovel in Lisa's face he also took his hose and sprayed her from her feet up to her belt, ruining her radio and whatever elso they wear. She also had to go home (or the station) and change her clothes. Is that right to do that to anyone in authority whether it's in Sierra Madre, Washington DC, Decatur Illinois or South Central LA? Let's show a bit of respect to one another.

    You people seriously amaze me with what you think is ok and not.


  39. Lisa - the article is about perceptions. This is how the police in this town are perceived. The reason they are preceived this way is because they have little real contact with the people living here. They are isolated. They are not isolated because of the things people say about them, they are isolated because that is the current philosophy of the police department. They need to come out in the open more, meet people, walk down an actual street and be seen for what they are, folks doing a job. But they seem to be unwilling to do this, and what you are seeing here is the result. A fundamental change needs to be made. Pointing fingers and scolding people posting on a discussion board isn't quite going to cut it.

  40. Anon 3:39 Do you think that Arcadia PD has lots of "real" contact. Come on! Or Pasadena? Sierra Madre PD is not much different in the way they operate than other private police departments. They are however different from the sheriffs dept. Geez, did any of you grow up in the area? When out on Friday and Saturday nights all the kids knew to stay out of Temple City or Altadena because the last thing you wanted was to deal with the sheriff. I'm not a great fan of the SMPD, but then I'm not a big fan of law enforcement in general. That's just a personal thing. I try to avoid encounters with cops. Which I guess is why it confuses me that you all want a freindle relationship. I do know that #1 I don't want their job #2 When we've needed them over the years we've been glad they were there #3 I sure don't want to turn over our law enforcement to the Sheriffs Dept.
    Anon 1:46 Lisa is right. There is no overnight parking. So if you get a ticket pay it. Doesn't matter how long you've lived here. Guaranteed that if Bart Doyle or Glenn Lambdin didn't get parking tickets because they've lived here for 20 years you guys would be all over that and dissing the cops for not writing tickets. If you have a need to be on the street, its a simple matter of talking to the PD and letting them know. I think you have to go down there now and get a permit or something.

  41. Glenn Lambdin aka town bully/thug used to stand in the middle of Sturtevant and Woodland and order rookie cops to give tickets to his neighbors turning left to go up Woodland.
    This was when he was first elected to the city council and was pissed off because the movie company filming Drowning Mona at Mary's Market didn't give him a payoff. They paid other residents for the use of filming their homes and Lambdin thought he was entitled to a payoff as well.
    Angry, because they paid Kris Miller Fisher and other Woodland residents, he ordered the rookie cop to give tickets to mothers bringing their children home from school.
    This is a fact and there are people who were victims of Lambdin's bullying who will testify if necessary.

  42. 6:36.

    the issue is improving community relations. while i am confident none of the folks on the smpd has a mensa card (have you seen the chief's interviews?) common sense would be to hold off on giving tickets on THANKSGIVING. you know, that holiday when you travel over the river and through the woods to see grandma or, in this case, vice versa.

    or, you could to what smpd did. give a ticket to my mother in law (the mother of a phoenix detective), thereby making me happy (maybe she'll come here less often, yippee!), but making miss alli quite angry.

    by the way, i am a right winger. i love law enforcement folks, especially my cool brother in law who spends his time busting druggies. i regret that the smpd is intent on alienating citizens like me, who would really like to respect and support them.