For years, the summer issue of The Rotator has been dedicated to coverage of the Reserve Officer of the Year/Twice a Citizen gala. The pages have been filled with officer biographies, red carpet and cocktail reception photos, and the Chief of Police thanking the men and women of the Corps. There have been celebrities from the Golden Age of Hollywood, such as Milton Berle, Charlton Heston and Bob Hope, and MCs like Amy Aquino, Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel. Honorees have included Adam-12’s Kent McCord, the cast and crew of Major Crimes, Michael Connelly and Titus Welliver of Amazon’s Bosch, and last year, Nathan Fillion and Alexi Hawley from ABC’s The Rookie. In 2019, The Rookie cast hobnobbed with LAPD reserves and Star Wars characters, who were there in celebration of the “May the Fourth be with you” theme, befitting the date of the banquet. In 2017, the 70th anniversary of the Corps becoming a part of the Department, the gala honored a celebrity of our own: Bob Kellar, the longtime OIC of the Reserve Unit whose 10-year leadership built the Corps into the “gold standard” for reserve law enforcement programs throughout the United States.
No such festivities this year, at least for now. Instead, these pages document what LAPD reserve police officers have been doing during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Skirball Cultural Center remained dark on May 2, the date for which the gala had been scheduled, the Corps remained busy, going above and beyond in many ways when the Department and the city needed them most.
To be sure, health and family were the most important consideration. On March 25, Assistant Chief Robert N. Arcos wrote to reserve officers: “ … You can make the choice as to whether you continue to complete your reserve hours while the Safer at Home order is in effect. You must make the choice that is right for you and your family. I recognize that this is a personal choice — and please feel no pressure to maintain your hours if you are unable to do so for whatever reason. Just as we have put a hold on our qualification cycle for the moment, we are also suspending the rules on required hours for Reserves.” He finished with, “Your dedication and level of commitment to the City of Los Angeles is making a difference and it truly matters. Stay healthy and safe.”
On social media, the Los Angeles Police Reserve Foundation shared stories and pictures of LAPD reserve officers during the crisis. LAPRF said: “At this time, with ‘Safer at Home’ and other precautions in place, many of our LAPD reserve police officers are suiting up to work their ‘second career,’ throughout the Department, protecting and serving our communities.”
In this issue of The Rotator, we share a gallery of photos. These photos are not necessarily the final word; they are snapshots of the moments thus far.
Reserve Officer Khashayar “Kashy” Dowlatshahi worked 77th Area with Sergeant Jonny “G-Ride” Garcia, with whom he had partnered with at Rampart SPU. “He usually got a bunch of rollers, so that’s how he got his name.” That night, “Yes, we got a G-Ride. I will have to admit that this was the first loaded-up tree-trimming truck (GTA) for me.”
Reserve Officers Tim Widmann and Guy Patel worked Central Area. Included is a picture of the officers at the deserted Olvera Street. The historic district, a pedestrian mall marketplace in downtown Los Angeles, was founded in 1781. The officers also sent a picture of their old-school “tabletop Code 7” lunch. The stuff of which memories are made. Hollywood Area sent in their “tabletop” picture, too, as dining in became restricted.
Reserve Officer Omar Ricci reported: “Working Olympic 20XL2-W4. Ended up working a 14-hour shift. Early in the watch handled a few calls, conducted traffic stops and backed primary units on their calls. Also responded to a backup in Rampart. Got a death investigation that required the coroner to respond, and extended my watch from the normal 10 hours to 14 for the day. Started my day at 1100 hours on Saturday and went EOW around 0030 hours on Sunday. Long but satisfying day doing something I love.”
Long work hours were a common thread among the stories and pictures officers sent us. Matthew Judy and his full-time partner worked Mission Area Patrol twice a week for 12- to 14-hour days: “Backed a San Fernando P.D. unit who got in a foot pursuit and we found their suspect … in the rain.” After completing their morning shift, Reserve Officers Bill Ahmanson and Ken Choi volunteered to work the temperature desk at Olympic Area, testing everyone who entered the station.
Ahmanson and Choi were also featured in a local news story. KTLA’s Christina Pascucci highlighted the humanitarian food distribution effort by LAPD Olympic Auto Detectives and the two reserve officers to feed many vulnerable individuals living on our streets during the COVID-19 crisis. Meanwhile, LAPD Public Information Officer II and Reserve Officer Josh Rubenstein spotlighted USC trauma surgeon and LAPD reserve officer Dr. Kenji Inaba in an episode of the Our LAPD Story podcast. The episode’s introductory notes read: “In this episode, we sit down with Dr. Kenji Inaba and get some insight into what led him toward a career in medicine and also what drove him to simultaneously pursue an opportunity to protect and serve.”
The web magazine French Morning profiled Reserve Officer Bernard Khalili in an article about French expatriates serving their communities during COVID-19. The magazine reported (translated): “He is on duty almost every other day, mostly educating people. ‘We go to businesses that are not deemed essential such as electronic cigarettes stores; we also notify residents about park closures. It’s all about prevention and information, not necessarily enforcement.’” The article asked for donations, and Khalili received 100 masks, which he distributed to fellow officers. In fact, Khalili has several pictures in this gallery: in Hollywood Area with Reserve Officer Trevor Ingold outside the shuttered Broadway show Hamilton at the Pantages Theatre; at Will Rogers State Beach with Reserve Officer George Alwan; and in Hollywood again helping a lost child with Reserve Officer Melissa Enriquez.
The pictures on these pages show the passage of time, from March to when the The Rotator went to press in late May. Officers started wearing BDUs after the Department authorized wearing them during the crisis. The LAPRF Board voted to reimburse reserve officers who purchased the utility uniform during the pandemic. The Department originally received 30,000 personal protective equipment (PPE) kits, which included N95 masks. Reserve Officers Steve Fazio and Roger Andrews also acquired and delivered masks to their fellow officers. Andrews purchased and put together more than 90 goodie bags for all of the Mission Area cadets for Operation Uplift Cadets. He also had custom masks made and put them in each goodie bag, and he donated a lot of the masks to the Area station. As the weeks wore on, the pictures we received were of officers wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
Up at Elysian Park, Captain Peter Casey of the In-Service Training Division, who started his LAPD career as a reserve officer, set up the Rest and Recharge Center, partnering with many LAPD-related organizations and associations. The center included a barbershop. The LAPRF sponsored a barber (whose last name was, in fact, Barber), partnering with the Parker Foundation. Reserve Officers Craig Pferrerman and Bobby Sherman also sponsored barbers. Reserve Officer Steve Fazio, who owns a local chain of dry cleaners (which were determined to be an essential service, as the process kills bacteria and viruses), said: “We pivoted the business to assist our City at the emergency command operations center, as well as the Elysian Park Police Academy, where the Department has set up sleeping facilities for officers should they wish to recharge or sleep there as we get through this crisis.” Fazio has also been recently assisting the Tactics and Firearms Unit.
On March 23, when the drafting of this article started, The Los Angeles Times reported that “at least eight Los Angeles police officers have tested positive for the coronavirus; 160 law enforcement cases nationwide.” On that day, U.S. Navy hospital ship Mercy had left San Diego, arriving at the Port of Los Angeles four days later. On May 4, one year after the 2019 Twice a Citizen gala, CBS Los Angeles reported that 94 LAPD employees had so far tested positive for COVID-19. As of that Monday, 39 had recovered and returned to work, one remained hospitalized and the others were self-isolating at home and recovering.
ABC7 News reported on LAPD Commander Cory Palka (West Bureau), who tested positive for COVID-19 in March. “He’s since recovered and is trying to help others by donating plasma. Palka visited the Red Cross donation center in Woodland Hills recently to answer the call to serve in a different way.
“‘I became ill in mid-March in the first wave of Los Angeles police officers,’ he recalled. ‘Had all the symptoms — fatigue, fever, shortness of breath. Massive fatigue hit me hard.’ The 56-year-old is now a COVID-19 survivor whose plasma, like that of others who have recovered from the disease, is now in demand. It’s still considered an experimental treatment, but convalescent plasma — rich with antibodies that can fight the coronavirus — is taken from a recovered person and given to a sick patient to help them fight off the virus.” Meanwhile, on Twitter, West Bureau recognized a Hollywood Area sergeant for donating his plasma after recovering as well: “Very proud of our own Sergeant Chad Costello … Well done … Hopefully he will inspire other survivors to donate as well.”
As The Rotator went to press, “The Los Angeles Police Department reported (on May 21) that 114 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began … 73 LAPD employees have recovered and returned to work, and one remains hospitalized … All other individuals are self-isolating at home and recovering.”
Los Angeles has faced times like these before. In 1918, the Spanish flu had hit. In the article, “When L.A. Fought the Pandemic and Won,” Los Angeles Librarian Glen Creason wrote: “It was a time when Angelenos should have been preparing to head out into the streets waving victory flags and knocking back belts of whiskey before the commencement of the dreaded Volstead Act. The War to End All Wars was coming to a close and the doughboys were getting ready to return from Europe victorious. Unfortunately, the boys brought something else back on the wings of war: Influenza.”
When the history of 2020 is written, the imagery will be different, such as Academy Class 1-20R going through the rigorous Level I module training with masks and social distancing. Toward the end of their training, they hoisted up a storefront sign they gifted to “sit sim” tactical training village at Davis: “The Coffee Klatch.” A symbol perhaps of when we can all get together again and toast these times of heroes — the coffee, with or without the whiskey, but with a healthy dose of celebrating the LAPD Reserve Corps as twice a citizens.