Sun, Jul

I’m Voting for the Cop. Here’s Why

CD 15 ELECTION - A woman told me a Joe Buscaino story the other day.

Her son, who’s mentally ill, was arrested for stealing $1, an amount so small it wasn’t even worth putting him in handcuffs. But he was arrested anyway.

Distraught, the mother asked several officers to help her with her son’s plight. They ignored her, she said, and couldn’t be bothered.

As soon as she caught up to Los Angeles Senior Lead Police Officer Joe Buscaino, however, she found a different kind of cop. He was sympathetic and helped her hook up with detectives. Most of all, he heard her out.

“I’m voting for him,” she added. I ditto that.

Ever since Buscaino, a 36-year-old father of two, announced he was running for former Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn’s seat, stories like this have bounced all around the Harbor area. And it only strengthens my resolve to endorse  Buscaino, whom I’ve studied over the years as a good and honest cop, a collaborator and a youth advocate. (Yes, even with the fishy hit pieces that have gone out in the past few days.)

He’s the kind of candidate I believe whose heart won’t forget the little guy. Once I asked  him about a 14-year-old boy fatally gunned down on his porch on 6th Street in San Pedro four years ago. The killing took place in broad daylight.

Buscaino became still, a tear coming to his eye. The question hit a sore spot. He was the officer who rode in the ambulance with the dying boy to the hospital, a ride he called “the longest in my life.” What made matters worse: the teen had been a student in his wife’s class at Dana Middle School in San Pedro.  A heartbroken Buscaino said: That boy “didn’t have support above ground or when he was in the ground.”

“Those stories are real and I experienced them,” the officer said. “This is what led me to this campaign.”

Ever since, he’s been a huge advocate for our youth. Like many of the 11 candidates, Buscaino says public safety is his number one issue. Fixing broken sidewalks, trimming trees, making sure there are after school programs for students are all part of the public safety canvas, he said.

He was irritated to find, when campaigning in Watts and Wilmington, that some areas didn’t even have paved streets, which he called unacceptable – and a priority on his public safety mission.

I believe with Buscaino’s efforts – where others are puffing themselves up with power and control – he will remain focused on our communities and what residents need. Instead of throwing money around to help kids stay out of gangs, he will be a leader and become part of the solution.

A tough officer when necessary,  Buscaino kept his heart and I suspect that we will see this same type of performance if he wins the council post.

Personally, I like having a guy with heart sitting on the Los Angeles council-- where it seems hearts are few and far between.

I see a man who will defend the little guy and what I mean by that is this -- his constituents. Unlike others, he won’t forget who he serves even when big money is flagged in his face.  I see a councilman with integrity.

Other reasons his supporters are voting for him in the Nov. 8 election, which is likely to wind up in a February run-off, are:

● He’s lived in San Pedro all his life and comes from an Italian immigrant family. It’s not so much that he’s lived here, but that he has no plans to leave the home he loves. His father was a fisherman and his mother worked in the canneries, so he can understand the residents and their issues surrounding the Port of Los Angeles. “Our roots are here and we are embedded here,” the officer said, who added he won’t be trying to run off to congress. “I love this community and I will never leave this place.”

● He’s served the entire Harbor Area and worked in Watts and has a much better grasp of all those communities than many of the other candidates. As he continually says: “I’ve been on the streets,” he explained. “’I’ve been in the back alleys. I’ve been into people’s homes. I’ve been in the storefronts.”

● He’s showed his duty to public service – putting his life on the line as an officer for 15 years -- showing leadership amongst his comrades by bringing teens on board to help police fight crime – something never done before in the LAPD. He designed the Teen Community Police Advisory Board for teenagers to advise officers why and how youth crimes are happening in their community.

His vision met with such success – some teen crimes dropping  by half in the Harbor Area  – that it was extended across the Los Angeles Police Department. Now, 21 such teen boards exist in the LAPD.  “I will continue my love and compassion  for the youth of this community,” he added.

It’s also interesting to note the way Buscaino became a police officer. At the age of 21, after graduating from California State University, Dominguez Hills, the candidate became a youth leader at Bogdanovich Park in San Pedro.

LAPD Deputy Chief Pat Gannon, a lieutenant at the time, noticed his work with teenagers and the park administration and suspected he would make an excellent officer. He went by his instincts and recruited the young man.

“He had a great spirit about him,” said Gannon, who was a park advisory board member at the time.

“His enthusiasm was contagious and he made every program at the park that he was involved in better. He was a great representative of the park and I just knew that he would do the same as a Los Angeles police officer.

“He did not disappoint me.”

Buscaino has not disappointed me either. He vows to work with the port in a conciliatory fashion to get things done and help secure the many necessities of life in Los Angeles, currently failing us, such as getting pot holes and sidewalks fixed. He also understands the world of fighting crime and will work toward protecting the residents of Council District 15.

Using his collaborative skills, he plans to bring the council district together to work for the overall betterment of the region, looking at as a whole rather than in scattered pieces.

Still, Buscaino is up against some pretty tall odds – trying to win against two heavy hitters – former Los Angeles City Councilman Rudy Svorinich Jr. who served CD-15  and Assembly Warren Furutani.

But this is the other reason I’m voting for the cop:

I think he can do it.

● Reminder: The Council District 15 election is next Tuesday, Nov 8.

(Diana Chapman is a CityWatch contributor and has been a writer/journalist for nearly thirty years. She has written for magazines, newspapers and the best-seller series, Chicken Soup for the Soul. You can reach her at:       [email protected] or her website: theunderdogforkids.blogspot.com) –cw

Tags: Council District 15, CD 15, Janice Hahn, Joe Buscaino, cop, LAPD, police officer, San Pedro, Watts, Wilmington

Vol 9 Issue 88
Pub: Nov 4, 2011