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L.A. policing gets a French twist

A training program brings 32 of the nation's officers to the city. One task: security at the Golden Globe Awards.

January 09, 2007|Bob Pool | Times Staff Writer

Sacre bleu! Even by Los Angeles standards -- where dignitaries' motorcades barely attract attention -- Monday's police escort down Pacific Coast Highway was a traffic-stopper.

Lights flashing and motors roaring, 15 Los Angeles-area motorcycle officers were escorting 32 French motorcycle cops to lunch.

The French officers are in the area for a 10-day training program with police, sheriff's deputies and the California Highway Patrol that will include security work at next week's Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills.

"This project has a very symbolic dimension," said Philippe Larrieu, France's consul general in Los Angeles. "We're all in the fight against international crime and terrorism."

Larrieu's office helped organize the visit, which is being underwritten by the French government and private contributions. The officers are being housed in sheriff's facilities at the Peter Pitchess Honor Rancho in Castaic.

The officers, members of France's National Police, patrol roadways, protect dignitaries and provide motorcade escorts in Paris and other urban areas.

The French police, who experienced street rioting last year in several cities, said they hope to learn new crowd-control techniques from their American counterparts.

They planned to begin that training today with Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies. On Wednesday they will take part in Los Angeles Police Department riding and firearms training in Granada Hills, followed by transit security training Thursday by sheriff's officials along the Red Line subway and riot control training Friday by the Highway Patrol at the Irwindale Speedway.

The French might not roll to any high-speed chase or SigAlerts, but their big night will come Monday in a very Hollywood way: The officers will be teamed up with Beverly Hills police officers assigned to the Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton.

Nicolas de Leffe, police attache with the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., said the French officers -- who will be unarmed during their visit -- will "ride side-by-side" with Beverly Hills officers on duty for the Golden Globes.

French Officer Christophe Lonchamp hopes to see more than just stars: "We want to see how California police work. Here, there are many more people. There are gangs here. The work is very difficult, I think."

In Agoura Hills, motorcycle officers from the Sheriff's Department, the Highway Patrol and the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills police departments mingled with their French colleagues, comparing notes about equipment before forming the motorcade to Malibu.

"Is this electronic shift?" Los Angeles Officer Mitchell Nowlen asked Paris motorcycle officer Arnaud Krause as he climbed aboard Krause's Yamaha motorcycle.

LAPD Sgt. Steven Foster told Krause that Los Angeles police have ridden Italian Moto Guzzis, Japanese Kawasakis and German BMWs and are now switching to American-made Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

"These are very nice motorcycles. Do you like them? I ride a BMW and it's very similar. It's radically different from the Harley-Davidson," LAPD Officer Roger Stewart told motorcycle officer Sylvain Arnould, also assigned to the Paris Police Prefecture.

The French were surprised to see that many Los Angeles-area law enforcement officers work alone. In France, officers work in pairs, they said.

Beverly Hills Police Sgt. Brad Cornelius, who speaks French, acknowledged there was "a little eye-rolling" when officers first learned that they would be shadowed by foreigners during the busy Golden Globes Awards. But he and others seemed impressed by the professionalism of the French.

Clad in crisp blue dress uniforms and knee-high black boots, the French officers traveled over Kanan Dume Road and several other Santa Monica Mountain roadways before taking Pacific Coast Highway to Paradise Cove, where lunch was served.

Retired police officers Roy Kautz and Jerry Reisinger followed the motorcade on their own personal motorcycles. Reisinger, a former CHP motorcycle officer, laughed when several French officers pulled out cigarettes and lighted up after they parked their machines in a long row outside the Paradise Cove restaurant.

"Probably not one motor cop in 100 smokes here," Reisinger said.

Malibu visitor Roger McGrath, a retired history professor and motorcyclist from Thousand Oaks, was awed when the huge procession of police bikes arrived.

"It was like thunder when they rolled up," he said.

"They've never experienced the volume or the speed of traffic that you have in L.A. There's nothing like our freeway system in France," McGrath said. "This is a baptism of fire for any motorcycle cop."

Inside the restaurant, local officers and their visitors shared tables and dined on an all-American lunch: hamburgers and French fries.

They wolfed down the burgers. But the French only nibbled at the fries.

Quel dommage.

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