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An Open Letter To An LAPD Officer

Sara Newman |
April 26, 2013 | 10:40 a.m. PDT

Guest Contributor

The LAPD has better uses for its time. (Heath Brandon, Creative Commons)
The LAPD has better uses for its time. (Heath Brandon, Creative Commons)
Dear Officer:

Thank you for the jaywalking ticket, for that silly little slip of paper that took you so long to write up that I missed two buses and was late for my final day of mentoring a group of high schoolers in Watts. Thank you for the 200 dollar fine that will cost me 20 hours of work for violating a law I didn’t even know existed. Thank you for being so brash with a group of teenage girls that you brought one of my friends to tears simply for crossing the street a few seconds after the blinking red hand appeared.

But, that’s just me my time, my money, my personal angst. Yes, I was upset, and still am a bit irked by the ticket, but it will pass. But you, Officer, have brought a much larger issue to my attention, and for that I thank you…kind of.

It is what you are NOT doing that bothers me more than what you are doing. You are sitting there on your motorcycle, comfortably overseeing the University of Southern California's (USC) peaceful campus while assaults, homicides and rapes that are actually reported occur throughout the rest of the city. You meet your quotas by giving out jaywalking tickets as freely as mayoral campaign flyers to USC students, blissfully ignoring the pervasive violence and crime that affect lower income areas.

We are safe here, relatively speaking. Between our fortress of looming metal gates and dozens of bored-looking Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers, we are safe from the outside. There is little you can do about the hundreds of unreported rapes that occur on campus due to an excess of alcohol and deficit of self worth; that is a problem that is largely beyond your control.

Perhaps you have convinced yourself that your leisurely patrol of the crosswalk is helping the community, but I don’t know a single studentdriver or pedestrianwho thinks that the proliferation of jaywalking tickets throughout downtown L.A. is keeping them any safer. If we can make it across the street before the next light turns green, does it really matter if we start while the walking man is on display or when a few seconds have elapsed?

Thank you, but no thank you, Officer. For a city that spends 1.2 billion dollars on your department each year, paying you personally to prevent violent crime, the crime rates are still far too high. By passively sitting there, you are doing nothing to decrease it. Despite your receiving an award for “professionalism, integrity, and willingness to go beyond the call of duty to assist the citizens in the community that [you] serve,” your apathy does not go unnoticed. 

We don’t need you here. Chesterfield Square needs you; Vermont Vista needs you. Each of these neighborhoods has a crime rate of over 100 crimes per 10,000 people in the past six months. Los Angeles needs you going into the most dangerous neighborhoods to stop violence and crime at its source. Yes, it’s scary to leave the security of our neighborhood, but in order to improve the safety of the city as a whole, we need more cops like you to be stationed in at-risk neighborhoods, not idly awaiting your next jaywalking victim. Pay attention to these consequential crimes, rather than clamping down on students who are trying to get everywhere they need to be on time.

When I arrived at work after our unpleasant encounter, my kids laughed when I told them why the other mentors and I were late. In Watts, a neighborhood that has witnessed 271 violent crimes in the past six months, the idea of having enough idle cops to award tickets for jaywalking was even more absurd to them than it is to me. Less than an hour into our session, the sound of a police siren racing down the street outside the school caught my attention. Shortly after, an ambulance followed down that same street just as rapidly. The kids with whom I was working are so accustomed to the sound of sirens that they barely blinked, but I was deeply affected by this unfortunate series of events. 

I may never know what it was that took place so close to the school, but perhaps if you were patrolling Watts rather than relaxing outside USC, that ambulance may not have been needed. Perhaps you could have stopped whatever violence warranted that ambulance. 

So, Officer, please remember why you decided to become a cop in the first place. I doubt that it was the allure of handing out jaywalking tickets that fueled your desire, but rather the desire to make the world a better, safer place. All I ask is that you keep this in mind when you show up to work. Be brave and use your time, your power, your influence to help improve neighborhoods that need you, rather than to provoke the irritation of college students who are simply trying to go about their day.


Reach Guest Contributor Sara Newman here; follow her here.



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