Posted on 01 October 2015 by La Habra Journal
By Leon Romero
La Habra Journal
La Habra Heights’ mayor and councilmembers welcomed Los Angeles County Sheriff, Jim McDonnell Monday night at the La Habra Heights’ Civic Center. The sheriff’s visit marked the first time the area’s top law enforcement officer visited the rural community. The event kicked off with a performance by Rancho Starbuck’s drumline team under the guidance of music director, Jeremy Fletcher. Los Angeles County’s Fourth district Supervisor, Don Knabe introduced McDonnell. “There is no one more qualified to be Sheriff of Los Angeles County than Jim McDonnell. He believes in community policing, and he’s very accessible and transparent,” Knabe said. McDonnell began his speech by thanking the city for having him, and then shared with the audience his early life story of his parents coming to the United States from Ireland a year before he was born and how he grew up in Boston. He spent 29 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, five years as Police Chief for the Long Beach Police Department and was elected the 32nd LA County Sheriff on November 4, 2014.
He stressed how it has been a rough year to be in policing due to all the negative attention regarding police brutality throughout the US, and how he’s thankful that no severe police issues have occurred within Los Angeles County.
McDonnell addressed that this didn’t happen by accident, but because of all the hard work the LA County community and police agencies have put forth. An issue that McDonnell addressed several times throughout his speech was how understaffed the LA County police agencies are. He compares police departments by their police officers to population ratio, and explained how NYPD has four to four-and-a-half policemen per every 1,000 citizens, while LAPD has two policemen per every 1,000 citizens. “There’s about 900,000 cops in America in a population of about 330 million,” McDonnell said. “That means one third of one percent of our population are in policing. That tells you there’s far too few of us to be able to do the job alone. We need the community.” McDonnell proceeded with addressing LA County’s efforts towards implementing body camera’s on officers in order to bring accountability to their actions. A six-month pilot program was conducted from September 2014 to March 2015 where they worked with four different camera platforms to see which one would work most effectively for the police departments.
McDonnell explained that by having body cameras with audio they may actually be able to provide much clearer context for a situation, which in the end would save everyone money and restore the reputation of the deputies and the department if the allegations aren’t accurate.
Once McDonnell was finished addressing police body cameras he opened the floor to the audience for any questions they had. One resident asked McDonnell if he was appalled by the amount of illegal narcotics circulating through LA County and how he felt about the legalization of medical marijuana, to which he answered by bringing up Proposition 47 and its impact on crime. According to McDonnell, there was a 10 year decline in crime in California until Proposition 47 was enacted in November 2014, which lead to a 25 percent rise in crimes in Los Angeles. He believes that changes to Proposition 47 are needed in order to create a positive change in the county and decrease the circulation and use of illegal narcotics. La Habra Heights resident Glenn Sheppard said he was honored that McDonnell would take the time to attend this event, but was concerned about the Proposition 47 update. McDonnell shared more information and answered questions from the packed multipurpose room. When he was finished, he stayed behind for a bit to take photos and meet the residents one on one. Councilman Kyle Miller was pleased with the high attendance.
“Events like these are informative and gives people a chance to meet their fellow residents which strengthens the community.”