Business Leaders and Councilmember Duran Voice Support for the Sheriff’s Station’s Response to Protests

Leaders in West Hollywood’s business community and City Councilmember John Duran last night voiced strong support for the way the local Sheriff’s Station has handled demonstrations against police brutality.

However, some residents continued to object to the five days of curfews, the calling in of the National Guard, and stationing of heavily armed officers near the June 7 protest on Santa Monica Boulevard at San Vicente. And other City Council members said it might be worthwhile to look at how law enforcement does its work, including when gun-carrying deputies should be called to respond to incidents.

Capt. Edward Ramirez, who heads the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, said that 16 West Hollywood businesses have been looted since the protests on May 30 in the Pan Pacific Park area. On that day, criminals took advantage of law enforcement’s focus on the protests to loot many businesses in the Fairfax District and on Melrose Avenue. One of the more prominent lootings in West Hollywood was of the MedMen cannabis store on Santa Monica Boulevard, whose windows had been busted and much of its merchandise stolen. Ramirez said local Sheriff’s deputies have arrested seven looting suspects and a total of 160 people overall for crimes including vandalism and violating city curfews.

Capt. Edward C. Ramirez III (Photo by Jaime A. Lopez)

The protests were sparked by the death in Minneapolis on May 25 of George Floyd, a man who was arrested for allegedly trying to make a purchase with a fake $20 bill. Floyd had been thrown to the ground and handcuffed, and then he died after a police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.

Floyd’s death was followed by numerous protests in Minneapolis and across the nation. Ramirez said that after a police station was set on fire in Minneapolis on May 28 “we received numerous intelligence reports from credible sources than an edict had been sent out to burn down a police station in retribution for the death of Mr. Floyd.” While Ramirez didn’t say that edict involved the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, he did say that there had been threats to “empty the Gateway,” the shopping plaza at the southwest corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and La Brea Avenue. Those threats were what prompted him to bring National Guard troops into West Hollywood.

“This was done for additional station protection, and to protect the Gateway,” Ramirez said, adding that two five-gallon cans of gasoline had been found near it.

Ramirez said that using the National Guard freed up 20 to 25 deputies to patrol West Hollywood. At one point, he said, there were over 50 police cars in the city and over the week there had been more than 400 deputies. Ramirez noted that West Hollywood had not experienced any building fires, no police vehicles were burned or vandalized and no protestors were injured, although a deputy did suffer a minor injury. There also was no looting of local businesses after the National Guard was summoned.

Ramirez said there has been a protest of some sort in West Hollywood every day for 16 days. The most prominent of them were the June 3 protest march, which attracted several thousand people and was peaceful, the June 7 protest, also peaceful, and the June 14 All Black Lives Matter solidarity march, which drew more than 20,000 people to West Hollywood.

Ramirez addressed complaints about using heavily armed officers and industrial waste bins to block traffic in nine locations. “As I have mentioned countless times to members of the public, special interest groups and peaceful protestors, this was not meant for you, and it certainly was not meant as an intimidation tactic for our law-abiding citizenry,” he said. “This preparation and staging was for those whose goal was to create lawlessness, wreak havoc, harm innocent protestors or citizens , hurt police officers and perhaps burn down a police station.”

A deputy armed with a rifle scoping out the demonstrators Saturday at San Vicente Boulevard at Santa Monica on June 7 (Photo by Jon Viscott)

Among those voicing support for Ramirez and the Sheriff’s station response were Genevieve Morrill, CEO of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, and Nick Remedio, general manager of the La Peer hotel and chair of the chamber’s board of directors. Both Remedio and Morrill cited calls from City Manager Paul Arevalo and Capt. Ramirez to business leaders to keep them informed about measures to keep them safe. Norbert Relecker, manager of the Mondrian hotel, sent an email to the Council praising the Sheriff’s Station’s work.

However, other members of the public objected to the curfews and heavy police presence. For example, one resident, James Gillum, said the 4 p.m. curfew declared by the city manager on June 1 “was not designed to protect citizens of West Hollywood, it was designed to sabotage our right to protest and punitively vilify us from the perspectives of those who chose to stay home.

“At one point while demonstrating in Hollywood, I received a text message that I was half an hour away from curfew in West Hollywood. I couldn’t make it back in time if I’d wanted to. While I was not arrested when walking back, I was harassed by police along the way, and I am sickened to know how many more peaceful protesters were arrested for overstaying these unconstitutional curfews intentionally or otherwise.”

Another commenter, Ed Devine, questioned why the cost of West Hollywood’s contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for public safety services has increased steadily over the years while what the city spends on social services has remained relatively flat.

In response to complaints about the curfews, Councilmember Duran said that four days of curfews “were a reasonable limit on civil liberties.”

“We’d rather exercise on the side of caution and make sure that our people and or property is protected than to be so liberal and so unprepared that we are cleaning up the ruins the next day, saying ‘if only we had done X, Y and Z’,” Duran said.

Marchers on Santa Monica Boulevard near the Sheriff’s Station on Sunday, June 14

Duran praised Ramirez, Sheriff’s Lt. William Moulder and other deputies for their response to protests over the last few weeks and said he was opposed to what he called “extreme and drastic solutions” that some people have proposed to curb violence against Black people by police officers.

Those proposals have included “defunding” the police, a term used by those who advocate allocating some law enforcement funding to social service and mental health agencies. Duran also disputed claims of racism in West Hollywood. “I don’t see a lot of racism in the city,” he said, adding that sometimes people’s bias is stimulated by their perception of one’s class, not their race.

City Councilmember John Heilman also praised the Sheriff’s Station’s handling of the protests and the curfew. However, he suggested the city follow the lead of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in looking at how the money it allocates for law enforcement is used and whether some of those services could be supplied through other agencies. An example he noted would be moving the mental health evaluation service provided by the Sheriff’s Department into the Department of Public Health.

Councilmember Lauren Meister questioned whether deputies moved to the West Hollywood station are tested in any way to see if their core values align with those of the city, which is known for its support for LGBTQ rights. Capt. Ramirez said the West Hollywood Station doesn’t choose what deputies are assigned there, but does provide sensitivity training and has worked to transfer to other stations three deputies who didn’t seem to be a good fit.

Meister also suggested the city consider working with the Center for Policing Equity, a data-driven organization that works with law enforcement agencies and local communities to develop more equitable law enforcement practices.

Mayor Lindsey Horvath said she would like to see the city embrace the Los Angeles County Alternatives to Incarceration Work Group. It was created in February 2019 after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion that called for leaders from the justice system and health departments as well as community experts to develop a plan to scale alternatives to incarceration and diversion so care and services are provided first and jail is a last resort.

Horvath also noted that she has heard from people, like those from the trans community, who haven’t had a good experience in West Hollywood.

“While many of us can say that we’ve had a great working relationship with the Sheriffs Department, I also know that – not being a Black person – I don’t understand what the experience is of being a Black person in response to experiencing law enforcement in our community or any community,” Horvath said. ” And I think that we have to recognize that none of us are Black people having this conversation and keep open minds and open hearts to listen to what those experiences are and to see if there are things we can do better.”

Councilmember John D’Amico, who questioned the use of officers with firearms in situations like giving out a parking ticket, noted that the city’s contract with the LASD is renegotiated each year. D’Amico suggested the city’s Public Safety Commission be asked to review it and consider what can be done to deal with perceptions of racism by police offers and offering services that don’t require carrying guns. The Council agreed ask City Hall staff to return with a formal request for that at its next meeting.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said that Mayor Lindsey Horvath called for the city to embrace the county’s Public Safety Realignment Plan. In fact, Horvath asked that the city get involved with the Los Angeles County Alternatives to Incarceration Work Group. The story has been updated to correct the error,

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Vincent Campisi
Vincent Campisi
25 days ago

I thank the sheriffs department for being there for all of us, the residence and the protesters. We could not do without you. Much respect and support.

JF1
JF1
27 days ago

I’ve literally have friends that have told me stories about facing “racism” and I’ve had to literally say to them…it’s not because your black that x, y and z happened to you..it’s because you were acting like a jerk. You get back what you put out. That’s not to say that acts of racism don’t happen. They do…every single day. But sometimes people fail to take personal responsibility for their own actions and are too quick to blame it on racism. Sometimes race has nothing to do with it. You’re just a jerk and jerks come in all colors, sexual… Read more »

JF1
JF1
27 days ago

A HUGE thank you to the Sheriff’s Department. They kept EVERYONE safe. They know best how to keep us safe. Bravo to them. You couldn’t pay me to do their job. They risk their lives every day they go to work to protect and serve a thankless public. Are there some bad apples..yes. But most law enforcement are good, upstanding people that help people every single day…they certainly aren’t doing it for the money. Treat them with respect, and they’ll treat you with respect. The have my utmost respect. Again…THANK YOU!

Danielle Harris
Danielle Harris
28 days ago

Yes, let’s have unarmed officers “secure” our community and keep us safe! There has to be a balance and not knee-jerk reactions to public safety.
 
And what a great idea – send thoughts to the public safety commission to decide by committee how best to keep our town safe! Seriously? These appointees only do the bidding of the one who appointed them. This council needs to get a clue! We elect you to do your jobs on our behalf.
 
“Mayor” Lindsey Horvath panders!

Michael Grace
Michael Grace
27 days ago

We can’t have unarmed police. We don’t live in England. During the last week there wrre armed dangerous felony actions Either knives or guns in central West Hollywood and bordering LA at Crescent Heights and Sunset. So do you think these criminals, carrying guns or knives, are going to respect the unarmed police? Stop listening to a bunch of mostly unemployable activists And think about the city we live in. Keeping it safe. Or we could get end up with a little mini Seattle around where they did that Street drawing. Imagine Lindsey Horvath trying to get us out of… Read more »

WeHoMikey
WeHoMikey
27 days ago

Danielle, ‘City Council’ is a committee, in case you didn’t notice.

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
28 days ago

Beverly Hills had the right approach. WH only makes it’s residents suffer.

John Ryan
John Ryan
28 days ago

The business leaders supported the decisions? OF COURSE THEY DID. What do they care about freedom of speech and peaceful protests? The images of barricaded streets and heavily armed police and military is NOT the image WeHo should be projecting. It is NOT what this city is about, or rather SHOULD be about.

Manny
Manny
28 days ago
Reply to  John Ryan

No peaceful protest or protestor was denied entry into West Hollywood nor were we denied our first amendment right to congregate.
 
The protests in West Hollywood were in fact some of the most effective and focused. The Weho Sheriffs were there to help avoid any distraction that would interfere from the message of social justice…….It worked.

JF1
JF1
27 days ago
Reply to  Manny

Exactly.

Josh Kurpies
Josh Kurpies
26 days ago
Reply to  Manny

Manny, I have received a handful of reports that contradict the statement “No peaceful protest or protestor was denied entry into West Hollywood nor were we denied our first amendment right to congregate”. In a addition to hearing citizen reports, Captain Lurie of LAPD Hollywood Division twice expressed publicly his frustration with the way in which LASD were blockading entrance of large peaceful protests entering into the City of West Hollywood. Captain Lorie did say that after a conversation with Captain Ramirez, the issue was resolved.

Michael Grace
Michael Grace
28 days ago
Reply to  John Ryan

Many residents supported the Sheriff, including me. I didn’t want looters to spill over from the demonstrations into residential streets like Havenhurst south of Sunset. Where a block away in LA looting was being threatened. Mayor Garcetti, a corrupt political hack, dilly-dallied debating if he should call the National Guard while criminals plundered the Fairfax, Beverly, Melrose and La Brea area.   The demographics in West Hollywood have changed; look around you. I spoke to National Guard members. They are mainly in grad school and looked more like dress extras. And I doubt Freedom of Speech goes for everyone in… Read more »

Last edited 28 days ago by Michael Grace
Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
28 days ago
Reply to  Michael Grace

well put

Pedro Baptista
Pedro Baptista
28 days ago

A huge thank you to the Sherriff. And the expected negative comments from the mayor. Time for leadership that wants to protect us and see WeHo prosper again quickly.

Last edited 28 days ago by Pedro Baptista
Danielle Harris
Danielle Harris
28 days ago
Reply to  Pedro Baptista

Appreciate your comments, Pedro!

JF1
JF1
27 days ago
Reply to  Pedro Baptista

Yes Pedro!

Ed
Ed
28 days ago

The fact is Weho is increasingly spending more money on policing but not increasing its expenditure on other types of public safety measures (that don’t rely on an officer with a gun showing up). There are ways to resolve issues like homelessness, mental health crises, etc that are not served by introducing a gun into the situation.   I commend council members D’Amico & Meister along with Mayor Horvath for recognizing that we are in a new era of public safety and we should all start listening to the very valid concerns and find new ways to keep us safe… Read more »

Susan
Susan
27 days ago
Reply to  Ed

Ed, well put. Thank you. At the last city Council meeting that was held in person in March, Councilman Duran floated the idea of a PR campaign on the Sunset strip to honor West Hollywood’s past Involving Mickey Cohen and other infamous gangsters.   It is time to look to the future not the past. Councilman Duran seems to be hopelessly out of touch with today’s world.   Unfortunately, Councilman Duran It’s very good at putting together huge war chests for his political campaigns. A situation made makes it difficult to unseat him   Councilman Duran. You have done so… Read more »

Art
Art
27 days ago
Reply to  Ed

Agreed! And add Heilman to the “sit down and listen” crowd.

Will Shakes
Will Shakes
28 days ago

There is no other explanation for West Hollywood to have been spared mass looting, fires and vandalism except for the tactics and strategy of our local sheriff’s outpost. That includes curfews, barricades and the national guard. That doesn’t include use of force with protesters, there was none in WeHo thankfully and by all accounts intentionally. The barricades were an eyesore but brilliant. It kept protesters safe from vehicles looking to inflict deliberate bodily harm like Charlottesville. The barricades also kept the organized vandals and looters in late model cars without license plates from zig zagging thru the city, smashing storefronts… Read more »

JF1
JF1
27 days ago
Reply to  Will Shakes

Absolutely agree, Will Shakes! Governments number one job is to protect its people. Our Sheriffs kept our neighborhoods and businesses safe while at the safe time ensuring the protestors right to exercise their free speech. Anybody that finds fault in how things played out would find fault in anything that was done (or wasn’t done). They’re always the static noise. Reason and thoughtful, careful planning was executed and WeHo stayed safe. Bravo to our Sheriff’s Department. I wish the Mayor (and most of our council) would stop pandering and support the excellent job our law enforcement did!

Art
Art
27 days ago
Reply to  Will Shakes

What happened at the Grove happened because the cops harassed the protesters instead of going after the looters! Watch the footage.

WeHoMikey
WeHoMikey
27 days ago
Reply to  Art

Art – the LAPD blocked the street with a patrol car. Rather than taking the hint, the marchers set the car on fire. No ‘harassing’ taking place.

Manny
Manny
28 days ago

The Weho Sheriff headed by Captain Ramirez did a great job protecting the city, its police station and facilitating the peaceful first amendment right to protest. All the tactics used, including the curfew were supported by every resident I know and respect.
 
The County Sheriff has proven they are better than having our own police force, and the city budget should continue providing the Sheriff with all the resources they need to maintain the excellence they’ve shown under very difficult circumstances.
 
 
 
 

Michael LaBarbera
Michael LaBarbera
28 days ago

I consider myself to be a liberal. As a gay senior I have first hand experience with bigotry and violence. I felt that the curfews and response of the Sheriff’s Department were exactly what needed to be done to ensure the safety and security of the businesses and residents of West Hollywood. The Sheriffs deserve a HUGE THANK YOU!

JF1
JF1
27 days ago

Bravo! Thank you to our Sheriffs Dept!

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