We’ve had a cold snap in Los Angeles in the last week, and a little rain. Overnight lows plummeting into the 40s. Brrrrrr. On Saturday morning, I took Charlie, Bernardo and Tiger out to the dog run at our condo. It was chilly, gray and drizzling – the kind of day you grow to appreciate after years in Southern California. Sunshiny warmth, believe it or not, gets a little boring.
I was pre-caffeine so not too sharp. But I noticed something on the sidewalk outside the dog run fence. I brought the dogs inside and went back out for a closer look. It was a strange collection of items. Several large spools of twine or wire. An empty tote bag. A pair of black pumps. A folded up “no parking” sign. A shirt. A small cloth bag. And a thoroughly smashed iPhone.
If this was evidence, it didn’t suggest an open-and-shut case.
But it wasn’t the happiest little vignette. A smashed iPhone alone could ruin your day. (And it wasn’t just scratched or cracked – this phone had been destroyed.) What worried me was the possibility that a woman had been mugged here, or met with some violence. It’s a safe enough neighborhood, but our street dead ends at our building, two blocks up from Sunset Blvd. And stranger things have happened. In fact, they happen every day. So I did what I thought was the responsible thing. I called the non-emergency number for the West Hollywood Sheriff. After I explained why I was calling, the deputy told me “to bring it in”.
“You told me you found someone’s purse, so bring it in.”
“That’s not what I said at all. And isn’t this the part where the police want to come have a look?”
“No. Bring it in.”
So, I did what I thought was the responsible thing. I dialed 911.
Long story short: 911 transferred me back to the Sheriff. A woman deputy answered and I was momentarily relieved. Until she cross-examined me: Didn’t you call here a little while ago?! – and then transferred me to the deputy I had originally spoken to. He said he couldn’t believe I had called 911. Really? I asked him if he had a wife, a sister or a daughter. He berated me for “not following his instructions”. WHAT?!
So, I did what I thought was the responsible thing. I hung up. And sent an email to a news producer at KTLA. In the sad event that this story got uglier – there would be a record of my calls and the Sheriff’s terrible ennui with the whole affair.
Here’s why I find this even more galling. Two years ago, a neighbor had left her dog locked up in the house for what seemed like days. The dog was barking incessantly for hours on end. I called Animal Control, which referred me to the Sheriff. They dispatched a car with two deputies – immediately.
Last year, another neighbor decided to clearcut the trees in our greenbelt to improve her view. There was a mini-riot brewing. I called the Sheriff’s Department. They dispatched a car and two deputies – immediately. In fact, this happened on three separate occasions. The Sheriff showed up promptly, each time.
So, I’m just trying to understand why barking dogs and endangered trees get an immediate response from the West Hollywood Station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department – but a concerned resident’s report of a woman’s belongings found strewn on the sidewalk one morning, with a strong suggestion of possible violence (the smashed phone)… is summarily dismissed. I know there are many places in this country where women are considered second-class citizens. Being female seems to be this society’s pre-existing condition, in so many ways. But I didn’t expect to find this attitude in Los Angeles. Or especially in West Hollywood – which thinks of itself as oh so highly evolved in matters of civil and human rights. This is a shameful episode. If the worst thing that happened here that night is a lost pair of shoes and a broken phone – it is no thanks to the three people I spoke to in Los Angeles law enforcement agencies on Saturday morning. I don’t even remember who it was now, but someone suggested “maybe she just had a rough night”.
Maybe. Now I’m going to share this with pretty much every elected official in Southern California. I’ll let you know if anyone thinks this matter could have been handled more effectively. I think there are a few people who deserve to have a rough day over this.