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Woodland Hills : LAPD Officers Warm to Assigned Visit

On orders from their superior officers, a skeptical contingent of Los Angeles Police Department officers visited Pacific Lodge Youth Services on Thursday.

LAPD brass thought the 13- to 18-year-old delinquents at the Woodland Hills home would benefit from hearing about the officers’ teen-age years.

But the rank-and-file officers weren’t so sure.

In one cottage, Officer James LaForce, cleared his throat as about a dozen teen-age boys slouched around on couches and chairs, waiting to hear what he had to say.

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“This wasn’t really my idea to come here,” LaForce said. “But my sergeant likes it, so I guess I gotta like it too.”

Then he began to speak, tentatively at first, but later with gusto as he warmed to his task. His talk, and the talks by about a dozen other officers in the other cottages, were part of an effort by the LAPD’s West Valley Division and the lodge to reach out to troubled young people.

“Everybody here has made mistakes,” LaForce said. “What you have to understand is that you can get past those mistakes.”

Later, the officers and youths gathered in the parking lot and got better acquainted. The cops and the kids, who had seemed so tense about an hour earlier, were chatting in groups like old friends.

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“At first the guys were reluctant,” Sgt. Danny Mastro said. “They were afraid the kids would be cold.”

“Look at the smiles on these guys faces,” Mastro said, gesturing to a grinning police officer with a crew cut who was showing off his patrol car to several boys.

Many of the boys said later that they thought the police visit to the home was a good idea. They got to see police officers as humans, and some said they were inspired by the officers’ honesty, as they talked about their own problems.


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