If you don't yet see the benefits of community-based policing in an under-policed city like L.A., consider two letters I came upon today in The Argonaut. Both pay tribute to LAPD Sgt. Kelly Shea, a respected problem-solver around Venice Beach for many years. She was the community relations officer for Pacific Division when she died of cancer December 27 at age 45.
The first letter, by Linda Lucks of Venice, says that Shea "set the standard for all police officers...She loved Venice Beach and she loved the LAPD, warts and all. We were family to her. In return, she was adored by us." Artist Rich Mann describes encountering Shea on the Venice Ocean Front Walk when she was a rookie cop and he was stopped for moving some city-installed wind screens out of his photo shot. Shea referred him to a city maintenance yard for permission, and by the time he got there she had already put in a good word for him. His images of the boardwalk on display now at the Venice LAPD substation and the Abbot Kinney library are dedicated to her. (Letters not online.)
Among the residents, merchants and criminals of Venice, Calif., officer Kelly Shea is as well known as the neighborhood gang leaders. The blond mane neatly tied back, slender figure and pink lipstick violate the stereotype of guardian of law and order; but Shea, 32, has managed to win the respect of street thugs who usually answer more readily to the slam of a cop's billy club. She speaks softly, raising her voice only as needed.
She had also been mentioned in several L.A. Times pieces about female cops (including a 1993 Column One by Sonia Nazario.) Still, her passing wasn't obit-worthy downtown (or they didn't hear that she died.) At the beach, though, it was news, as was her illness. Fellow officers and the community held a benefit barbecue last summer that drew more than 500 people. Advocates of community policing also made note of her death.