With some help from their civilian friends, the officers in the LAPD’s Pacific Division are reaching out to the community.
The Pacific Beacon, a four-page community newsletter published by volunteers and officers stationed at the Pacific station’s headquarters at Centinela Avenue and Culver Boulevard, will hit the streets next week.
Unlike most police-generated newsletters, which tend to be single-sheet rundowns of station statistics, the first issue of the Beacon catches the eye with graphics, bright colors, photos and reader-friendly articles about the community and the officers who serve it.
Capt. Richard LeGarra, who oversees the 275-officer Pacific Division station, came up with the idea of the newsletter as a way of improving communication between police and residents. The 26-square-mile service area includes Venice, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms, Westchester, Playa del Rey and Los Angeles International Airport.
“Each of these areas is unique, with different characteristics, different ethnic makeup and problems,” said LeGarra, who reviewed the newsletter material before it went to print. “We want to reach out to everyone. I realized that we’ve never really done a good job of keeping the public informed. We tend to focus on going from radio call to radio call.”
The 30 or so community volunteers who regularly help out at the station applauded LeGarra’s proposal, but few of them had any notion of how to put a newsletter together, let alone pay for it.
One who did, however, was Nabil Antoine, 37, a youth counselor and founder of a nonprofit publication and video production company. Antoine had become a community volunteer for the Pacific station last spring, seeking a change of pace from his brutal work schedule.
“I thought it would be a nice break for me,” he said. “I figured I would be answering phones, filing papers--light things that wouldn’t tax my brain. And I thought this was one way to show the police that not all citizens out there think they’re all bad.”
Antoine now admits he got much more work than he bargained for. But what has made it all worth it, he said, is seeing the completion of a project that he and other volunteers think will go a long way toward improving police-community relations.
“We’re still experiencing negative fallout from the riots last year, and that’s a concern,” he said. “Only by everybody working together can L.A. succeed in . . . rebuilding. And not just buildings, but trust among residents and the people who serve them.”
While rounding up articles from the fledgling newsletter staff of 15 and penning a few himself, Antoine sought and won corporate and local business support. ABGM, a Culver City typesetter, agreed to do $1,600 worth of work for $450, and Xerox Corp. underwrote another $3,000 in printing costs for 20,000 newsletters. The Pacific Boosters Assn., a community-based crime prevention group, contributed $300.
“After all Los Angeles has been through, we were more than willing to do something to get the police and the community together,” said Larry Powers, manager of production control for Xerox in El Segundo. “It’s a philanthropic venture for us, but we’re looking for it to really make an impact.”
There is no set publication schedule yet for the newsletter, just a general hope that the financial means can be found to put it together about every two months.
On the cover of the first issue is one volunteer’s perspective on what exactly the LAPD is, and the role it plays in community safety. Inside is a calendar of entertainment and other events, tips on disciplining children, a Pacific Division area map that puts the faces of senior lead officers with the neighborhoods they patrol. On the back page, an officer and a citizen are commended for exceptional jobs done in the community.
The newsletter came off the presses this week and will be distributed starting Sept. 10. It will be available at about 30 local businesses and will be handed out by volunteers at community events. Officers will stock their cars with 100 to 200 copies and pass them out, particularly to crime victims and others whose experience with the police is generally less than pleasant.
“Most of the time, people only think about the police when they get a ticket or a warrant,” LeGarra said. “This is our chance to tell them that we also do things like deliver babies, help people out. That’s all part of our job.”