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1,500 Party as Foothill Division Mends Fences : Law enforcement: The police offer tours, Mexican music and hot dogs. Community relations were damaged by the beating of Rodney G. King in March.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

About 1,500 people gathered at the Foothill Division police station Saturday not to protest but to party.

As part of an outreach effort to mend community relations damaged by the March beating of Rodney G. King by Foothill officers, the division opened its doors for tours, brought in a live Mexican music band, served up hot dogs and showed off police technology ranging from horses to helicopters.

“I like seeing the jail,” said Shirley Rodas, 10, of Sylmar. “But I’m glad it was just a visit. I don’t ever want to be stuck in there.”

Gilbert Ortiz, 36, an engineer from Arleta, said the event “is good for residents and police. It helps the department relax a bit and it helps people trust the police.”

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Los Angeles Police Capt. Paul Jefferson, the commander of the Pacoima-based Foothill Division, said that because the division patrols many of the San Fernando Valley’s highest crime areas, the open house allowed residents to get to know police in an amiable, relaxed atmosphere, rather than a crisis situation.

“There are a lot of good people who feel trapped by crime around them,” Jefferson said.

The open house, an annual event, also showcased Police Department community programs, such as DARE, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program and the police karate club.

“There’s a lot of things that people don’t know that we do,” Jefferson said.

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Many young people and their parents gathered around a “gang awareness” video shown by members of Jeopardy, an anti-gang program that targets potential gang members and teaches them that gangs are not “cool.”

“This is real good for my kids. I want them to see how it is out there,” said Martha Zendejas of Pacoima, after seeing the video.

“I want to get my kids involved in this program. I’m worried about gangs where we live,” said Zendejas, 29, who has three children in Canterbury Avenue Elementary School. “I’ve seen gang graffiti at their school.”

Melody Willis, 10, of Sylmar, after touring the facility admitted she has a more personal motive for attending the event.

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“I like seeing what my daddy does for a living.”


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