We knew the end was coming, but it was too fast when it did.
One day he was on vacation.
The next day, Thursday, December 8th, he received an official promotion at Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Parker Center in downtown Los Angeles.
And finally, he began cleaning out his desk at the LAPD Pacific Community Police Station to ride into the sunset, away from the beach, to be a sergeant at the Southwest Division of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Venice has been a special place to LAPD Officer Gerry Smedley. He grew up here, attending Broadway Elementary and Mark Twain Middle Schools.
He spent 21 of his almost 23 years on the job with the LAPD at Pacific Area Community Police Station, 12 years as the senior lead officer for the Oakwood area of Venice.
The 1960s of Gerry’s youth was a more innocent time in Venice.
“Oakwood (Recreation Center) had a real good sports program for the kids,” he remembers.
“You had families going to the park. They’d line up from Broadway all the way down to California Avenue to see their kids playing Little League baseball.
“You don’t see it now, primarily because of kids getting involved in drugs, then gangs. It ruined that atmosphere. Parents stopped letting their kids come to the park.
“Now, some of the folks who are still in the community are trying to get the drugs away from the park so the kids can come back and have productive programs.
“The programs are there, they just don’t have enough participation.”
Crime is down in Oakwood.
“We’ve targeted what needs to be done, which is primarily narcotics and gangs,” says Gerry. “Fifteen years ago we had narcotics and we still have it.
“But, is it the same as it was ten, 15 years ago?
“I would have to tell you, no it isn’t. It’s totally changed because there have been more arrests.”
Involvement of the community has helped cut down on drugs and gangs.
“Instead of just closing your eyes, you’re calling it in,” says Gerry.
An “incident” is created every time a person calls (877) ASK-LAPD.
A “multiple calls” report is issued every month to identify problems needing action.
Gerry wants to see more people get involved with community-based policing.
“The good people tend to shut down because things aren’t affecting them directly, but, in an indirect way it does because you are still in the community,” he says. “You get up, you see the problems.
“You come home from work, you see the problems. Yet, some people don’t speak out because the problem is not on their property.”
It’s the quality-of-life issues where the community can really be of help to our police officers.
“Like the chief put it, ’75/25′ — 75 percent on the community, 25 percent on the police department,” says Gerry. “We’ll take care of your crime while you guys take care of the other. It’s the quality of life issues that are happening right now — big time.
“So once we get that under control, the crime rate will probably change.
“Who says the police have to come out for graffiti or trash in the alley? A lot of stuff I’ve been doing for years I call in instead of taking time to address criminal activities.
“For me it’s kind of touched home to get all these things cleaned up because when I was a kid, you didn’t see all this filth or crud around.
“Sure we had problems but they weren’t like this. What a police officer had to do wasn’t overwhelming like it is today. So now, it’s like, ‘Okay, public, you can get involved.’
“We don’t have a big police department. Police deal with crime. Public deals with-quality-of life issues.”
It’s easy. Have a burnt-out street light or graffiti on your garage or shopping carts in the street? Just call 311, the Los Angeles citywide directory of services, and you will be connected to the right department to resolve the issue.
The future looks bright for Oakwood.
“People have moved out and a great number of people have moved into the community and are trying to turn it around,” says Gerry. “It’s going to take a few more years, but I can foresee that happening in the next five years or so. It’s going to make a complete flip-flop.
“It’s going to be a lot harder for people to come into Oakwood to buy drugs because you won’t have as many people there dealing.
“That’s how I see it. If we keep hitting them harder and harder, nobody will come.”
There have been many good experiences along with a few bad ones for Gerry.
“It’s been a hell of a party,” he says. “Twenty-one years of working in Venice and coming back to the community where I grew up as a kid. It’s where I got my start in life. Venice is a special place for me. It always will be.”
Will Gerry come back to Venice to work? According to police department procedure, he has to have another assignment for up to two years.
“We’ll see what happens,” he says. “If I do come back, I’ll just consider it more gravy on the potatoes.”
Because of Gerry’s quick departure, the community did not have an opportunity to give him a proper send-off and to thank him for his years of serving and protecting.
He truly meant a great deal to the community and we have a few people to tell you so.
Here’s what some local residents have to say about Gerry Smedley:
Bill, Virginia, and Brandon Channels — From community cleanups to the most serious police work, you could count on Gerry’s help. He cares about your feelings and concerns. He is always there with words of encouragement when you feel like giving up. He is more than a police officer. He is a good person with a kind heart. His priorities were the needs of this community. He never compromised them.
Marvis L. Davis Sr., pastor and teacher at New Bethel Baptist Church — Our young see officer Smedley as someone they can look up to. Officer Smedley was concerned not only with criminal activities but community activities. He introduced to our community the DARE program, the Explorers, the Police Clergy Counsel, and he attended every town hall meeting. He will be truly missed.
Rina Rhodes, Venice resident since 1936 — Gerry Smedley treats you with respect even though you’ve done something wrong. He doesn’t try to overpower you with his authority. He’s been very helpful to the parents and grandparents of children who are on the opposite side of where we want them to be. He shows a lot of love and sympathy about their problem children.