Saying police officers should live in the communities they serve, mayoral candidate Rep. Xavier Becerra called Sunday for offering housing and utility assistance to officers who live in Los Angeles.
"Part of the solution is more community policing--the community knowing police and police knowing the community," Becerra (D-Los Angeles) said at a campaign appearance at Ritchie Valens Park in Pacoima. "We want the next generation of police on the Eastside to be from the Eastside. We want police from the Westside to be from the Westside. We don't want somebody punching the clock in Pacoima at 8 in the morning, punching out at 6 and going home to Rancho Cucamonga."
The incentives are part of a crime prevention platform Becerra has adopted to sharpen his message before the April 10 Los Angeles mayor's race. He also called for mandating that people under restraining orders register with local law enforcement agencies, similar to the procedure for sex offenders, as a means of curbing domestic violence.
Becerra also proposed a scholarship program for Los Angeles high school students who intend to return as police officers to their old neighborhoods.
UCLA sophomore John Loau told about 100 people at the rally that he originally wanted to join the Los Angeles Police Department after getting his bachelor's degree. But he said the LAPD did not offer a scholarship, and he couldn't afford school without one. Instead, he accepted an ROTC scholarship and will serve in the Marine Corps after graduation.
"I had been in youth volunteer organizations with LAPD, and then learned they didn't have a way to help me after high school," said Loau, 21, of Boyle Heights.
Said Becerra, "We would have preferred to be proud to have John as an LAPD officer today, not in the future."
After a brief address interspersed with Spanish phrases, Becerra walked the streets with about 100 supporters from Pacoima, a heavily Latino area of the northeast Valley.
A March 4 Los Angeles Times poll showed City Atty. James K. Hahn leading the race, with five other candidates--Becerra, commercial real estate broker Steve Soboroff, Assemblyman Antonio Villaraigosa (D-Los Angeles), Councilman Joel Wachs and state Controller Kathleen Connell--in a close race for second place.
Becerra said grass-roots rallies such as Sunday's help him against better-funded rivals.
"People can raise money and have a lot of television commercials, but that doesn't beat the passion of supporters on the ground," Becerra said while walking in the home district of City Councilman Alex Padilla, who has endorsed Hahn. "You can have endorsements and good commercials, but you can't ask a commercial a question. These people want somebody they can go to for answers to their questions."