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LAPD Apologizes for Recent Deployment in Oakwood

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By Paul Chavez
Venice Dispatch

A high-ranking Los Angeles Police Department officer apologized for a recent deployment to Oakwood Park during a community memorial service.

Capt. Brian Johnson, commanding officer of the LAPD’s Pacific Division, addressed the matter Tuesday during the Venice Neighborhood Council meeting at Westminster Avenue Elementary School.

Board member Tommy Walker broached the subject and relayed that a repass, or community memorial service, was held recently at the park following the funeral for a community member.

Walker, who is from the historically African-American neighborhood, said there was a heavy police presence at the park and he was informed that police were expecting 400 gang members at the repass.

Mourners who arrived from the funeral found several police cars posted around the park and about a dozen officers were cracking down on smoking, Walker said.

Police meanwhile ignored parkgoers with unattended dogs off-leash, Walker said.

“In this instance, we didn’t do it right. We were overbearing and overly deployed, in my opinion,” said Johnson, who wasn’t at the event.

Johnson said he received a call from Pastor Horace Allen of the First Baptist Church of Venice and immediately started to fix the situation.

“My job is to acknowledge that we botched it. We didn’t get it right and I apologize for that,” Johnson said.

Several community members took advantage of an immediate public comment period offered by VNC Council President Mike Newhouse and said the recent incident was not isolated.

“Anytime you have our African-Americans gathered at Oakwood, where we were born and raised, police officers are surrounding – whether it’s a baby shower, a baby’s birthday party or whatever it is going on,” said longtime Venice resident Karen Forte.

Other speakers said that police check the drinking cups of blacks playing dominoes or cards at the picnic tables, but don’t look into the cups of kickball players or those playing the alcohol-oriented softball-derivation known as slushball.

Gary Featherstone, whose grandfather has his name on the marquee at the Glen Featherstone Field baseball diamond in Oakwood Park, said he felt blacks were being singled out.

“Never before have we had the police come into this park like they do now. … The general consensus is that they don’t want to have blacks in the park,” Featherstone said.

“You have to understand this, we are not going nowhere,” he added.

There were an estimated 28,341 residents in the 90291 zip code covering the majority of Venice with 77 percent white and 5 percent black, according to 2010 US Census data.

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