How sad that my first experience as a Los Angeles tourist was an ugly one! I recently accompanied my husband on his business trip to your city as a welcomed respite from parenthood and hospital responsibilities as a clinical social worker in Florida. Our stay was in the lovely Biltmore Hotel overlooking a park which obviously serves as a shelter for some homeless and transient individuals.
Sunday morning my husband and I ventured out for a brisk walk. In a period of two minutes we were repeatedly approached for money and help. We became more and more apprehensive and we, recent victims of a dangerous armed robbery, wanted to flee the area. Impulse drove us to quickly seek safety and we crossed a deserted street against the red light. Immediately, two police officers apprehended us, separated us, questioned us, and elected to issue tickets.
Our explanations, questions and frustrations were insensitively ignored as we were treated disproportionately to the offense, and finally threatened with a "trip to jail." The rest of my weekend was spent in tearful humiliation and, later, anger. My whole career as a social worker is focused on opening avenues for communication and better relationships. And yet, I could not even obtain a moment of understanding from two police officers. It is unfortunate that my memories of Los Angeles will always be that of the authoritarian, rigid and heavy-handed LAPD.
GABRIELLA K. KINSOLVING