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A Different View of the Huntington Beach Police

September 21, 1986

There must be two Huntington Beach Police Departments. One I do not have firsthand knowledge of, I only read about it during the Labor Day weekend riots. According to published reports of the holiday incident, the department personnel lacked restraint, good judgment and on-site decision-making manpower. The second department, the one I observed on Monday, Sept. 8, proved quite the opposite.

Instead of being outnumbered by taunting thousands, they had the drop on an isolated figure who appeared ready to jump from the Beach Boulevard overpass of the 405 Freeway onto the morning rush-hour traffic below.

I was well placed to watch the drama unfold as I was in the second car the police stopped as traffic on Beach was blocked by strategically placed squad cars in either direction.

The officers encircled the precariously perched man on the freeway ledge and maintained communication with him. Within minutes he moved himself safely away from the ledge and into apparent custody.

What I expected was the customary handcuffing and other dehumanizing department procedures enforced. Instead, the officers approached the man and embraced him in a sensitive, supportive way. I could not hear what they whispered in his ear but what they communicated to me was that by caring for this anguished individual they deserve our trust and respect. And that we are all probably in better hands than we thought.

ROB BRYANT

Huntington Beach

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