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Los Angeles: At a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) news conference today, Chief William J. Bratton discussed his recent trip to Washington, D.C., in connection with asking the federal government for funds from the economic stimulus package for law enforcement. His goal is to fund continued hiring for law enforcement agencies throughout the country as they face potentially higher crime rates resulting from the economic downturn.
In part, Chief Bratton’s proposal stems from a recent study by the Rand Corporation that calculates the high cost of crime and emphasizes the importance of maintaining low crime levels nationally because better policing efficiency has substantial cost savings and is a vital investment in the future. Furthermore, Chief Bratton’s impressive track record as LAPD’s highest ranking officer has shown that more effective policing produces significant results. Since Bratton became the Department’s chief in 2002, Part I crime has declined 33 percent, which includes a 41 percent reduction in homicides.
Currently in the City of Los Angeles, LAPD officers are looking at various crimes that can rise during economic distress, including property crimes, shoplifting and domestic violence. There is also a focus on crimes and violence linked to drug cartels that could be spreading into the area from Mexico.
Besides saving money, additional benefits of making communities safer that Chief Bratton emphasizes include the creation of more jobs, educational opportunities and increased revenue from tourism.
Fire safety for officers was another topic Bratton discussed. During recent brush fires in local communities, it was observed that officers assigned to these incidents lacked appropriate safety equipment. As a result, new fire kits will be introduced as part of the regular safety equipment officers carry in their vehicles. The kits include disposable respirator masks, gloves, and safety goggles. They will initially be distributed to the Department’s West and Valley Bureau officers, with a goal of eventually providing them to all officers.
Also featured during today’s news conference were commendations to acknowledge the dedication, bravery and tenacity exhibited by LAPD officers who responded to an apartment fire on Feb. 4, 2009. The incident began around 8:30 p.m. when Officers Jesse Drenckhahn and Ronald Berdin smelled smoke in the air and saw flames coming from the rooftop of an apartment building at 33rd Street and Central Avenue. With a fire extinguisher, they entered the building and fought back flames in the hallway as trapped residents escaped from the rear stairwell.
Also at the scene were Sergeant Lawrence Martinez and Officers Bryan Goland, Arturo Urruita and Hector Ulloa who had gathered at the front entrance to the building. Having no time to wait for firefighters from the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD), the officers entered the building as trapped residents screamed for help from the second floor, which was totally engulfed in flames. Officers were able to guide several residents safely out of the building and also door-knocked several units to ensure they were clear. One apartment contained several residents who were unaware of the fire and had to be evacuated through thick smoke. Other residents still in the building had to be rescued through windows, so additional officers at the scene, Officers Ruben Banuelos, Charles Kumlander, Edward Maciel and Chris Giagiari obtained a ladder. Officer Banuelos climbed the ladder and the other three held it steady while all of the trapped residents successfully descended the ladder to safety. By then, the LAFD had arrived, and after the fire was extinguished, it was discovered that all residents had been safely evacuated from the complex.
In an interview two days after the incident, LAFD Firefighter Paul Hamilton who provided assistance at the scene, said the residents probably would have been seriously injured or died had it not been for the actions of the brave LAPD personnel. For going above and beyond the call of duty in the most challenging of circumstances, the officers will be considered as recipients of the Department’s Medal of Valor.