A GOOD LEADER RETURNS TO THE HARBOR REGION: WHY THIS MEANS GOOD FORTUNE FOR US
By Diana L. Chapman
I remember the exact day I met him, not knowing yet he was a rare breed among Los Angeles city officials. He had just settled into his new job as captain of LAPD’s Harbor Division.
At the time, I wondered if Pat Gannon would be like all his predecessors. As an advocate for San Pedro’s Peck Park Pool – where impoverished kids feared cops more than gang members – I routinely requested prior captains to allow officers to play water polo with the kids.
The request fell on deaf ears. And then Gannon arrived in 2000. I met him at a press conference, introduced myself, and with a big grin and a firm handshake he turned and said:
“You know what I’d really like to do? I’d like my officers to come and play water polo with the kids at the pool.”
He probably didn’t know just how golden those words were to me. And he did it. When he left for another division, many community leaders here were deeply disappointed. Even Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn tried to curtail his departure. So I was in my glory when it was announced in December that he was promoted and returning to this region as Deputy Chief and Commanding Officer of Operations South Bureau.
I can’t think of a better commander to be in charge of 1,500 officers and 800,000 residents. Once again our community finds itself under his radar – and this we should all be delighted and grateful for. Why? Because he cares.
No pun intended, I believe Pat, 54, is a straight shooter – and he’s not out to glorify himself or after his own self-interests. He’s out to serve his community and his officers the way he knows best. While he grew up in San Pedro, it doesn’t matter what region he’s heading. He stands for the same things: aiding the little guy, working with kids, cutting crime and gangs, supporting programs that work and helping out wherever possible.
When the Spanish speaking community asked him to provide translators, he did it in a heartbeat. When he was asked to attend a peace rally that honored the survivors of murdered victims, he showed up readily. And each time he was asked to have officers play basketball with kids at the Boys and Girls Club or Dana Middle School, he made it happen.
Action counts and having a high-ranking official respect every-day-people sends
vast ripples across any community.
While he served as commander of the 77th division,
he found himself impressed with one man in particular.
Edgar, who lived with his family in a dangerous pocket of South Los Angeles, spoke little
English and fled here during El Salvador’s civil war. Coming with two beliefs, Edgar and
his wife were determined to keep their family safe and make sure both children
attended college – despite the high crime in their neighborhood. Because they were
active in their son's lives, the boys did just that.
While Edgar attended English classes at night, both sons went to Manual Arts High
But Edgar did even more than that.
Scared of police officers at the time, it took a lot of gumption for him to meet with Pat,
who he asked for help to solve crimes in his neighborhood. Edgar wanted the
Spanish-speaking community involved and Pat supported him. In the end,
Edgar pulled together dozens of families – many Spanish speaking only – to organize
neighborhood watches. These families in the past would have fled from officers,
but now they worked closely with them.
“I have so much respect for the Hernandez family and they are the American dream,” Pat said. “I would help them any way that I can.”
He added that Edgar’s eldest received a scholarship and attended MIT, graduating last year, while the younger son attends Cal State Northridge.
This, to me, is what makes Pat an excellent leader. He plugged Edgar into the department where others might not have listened or taken time to meet with him.
It was the same with the water polo.
The day of Peck Park game several years ago, the cops and the kids found out a few things about each other and discovered they needed – on both sides – to reevaluate their attitudes.
During a fairly splashy and raucous, fun game -- where the police eventually lost to the teens -- a sense of change overcame both sides.
Kids came streaming out of the pool calling the officers “nice,” and “caring,” and to their surprise like “other people.” Officers, too, marveled at the youth’s polite behavior and realized that many of the kids they served in the poor neighborhoods were often good teenagers –not juvenile delinquents.
That’s exactly what Gannon wanted.
Born in San Pedro and attending the public high school there, Pat joined the force after a long line of his family members. His grandfather became an LAPD detective in 1927, his father served as an officer starting in 1947 and his son, Michael, 27, joined the force in 2005, chalking up more than eight decades of service from the Gannon family.
Prior to his most recent promotion, Pat was in charge of LAPD’s homicide division where he and his officers worked diligently to drop the homicide rate to the most recent all time low, from 365 a year to 304.
While many with LAPD believe youth should come to the police station to learn from officers, such as its young Explorers program, Pat’s always believed officers should go to the youth. I can’t think of anything closer to the truth.
Many kids I’ve volunteered to work with over the years remain terrified of officers, seeing them as the “bad guys” when they break down a door to arrest someone or they handcuff and take away a parent, a neighbor or a friend. It seems Pat understands this.
As a youngster, Pat enjoyed repeated episodes of Dragnet which should come as no surprise -- which also helped lead him to his future career as well as his family members embracing one of the most difficult and dangerous professions in existence.
Over the years, he’s lost many comrades, some shot while on duty, and stood by his officers when they’ve suffered personal tragedy.
Officials like this are a rare breed anywhere, but especially in the streets of Los Angeles.I am honored and thrilled that Pat has returned.