MY TURN - Couldn’t help but wonder about it as I perused down the list of our 20 potential candidates who believe they have the “right stuff” to replace former Los Angeles Council Member Janice Hahn.
What I wondered: Will the Los Angeles Police Department’s higher-ups support former Harbor Area Community Police Officer Joe Buscaino, a 36-year-old father of two?
It’s not possible to do so openly, said LAPD Deputy Chief Pat Gannon, explaining that Chief Charlie Beck made a promise before he became the department’s top cop that his upper commanders – including himself – would not endorse any political candidate.
They will remain silent about one of their own running for Council District 15 and have clearly detailed what Buscaino can and cannot do while he’s campaigning and still wearing the working shoes of a police officer.
This, however, does not include curtailing any endorsement that might come from the Los Angeles Police Commander’s Association—the LAPD’s upper management union.
Buscaino -- whose roots in the Harbor Area seem deeper than an ocean trench with 500 plus Italian family members living in Wilmington, Harbor City and San Pedro - believes he’s got all the cops in the bag -- top on down.
“The other candidates don’t wear the badge,” said Buscaino. “I do expect my brothers and sisters to support me. I’ve worked patrol car, foot beats, special investigations. If anyone knows the importance of the police officers’ job it’s me.
“I believe I will be getting support top down.”
Not so fast.
This Wednesday Buscaino has to pluck up an endorsement from his own union, the Los Angeles Protective League, while vying for its stamp of approval among his other competitors.
But that wasn’t so easy for one of his rivals, Pat McOsker, president of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City Local 112, who immediately received sharp criticism for running when he was representing the city’s firefighters. Rancor and recall threats hummed furiously and some called it a conflict of interest.
Once McOsker took a leave-of-absence, however, the whole issue settled and the union did endorse him after much hullabaloo.
While Buscaino may be counting his chickens before the eggs hatch, a patrol officer, who asked not to be identified, believes Buscaino will skate through his union’s endorsement.
“I’ll support him as much as I can even though I don’t live in the city,” said the officer. “But I think they’ll be in favor of Joe. He’s one of their own and they’d favor that. The understanding will be that he’s on the P.D. and that he’ll understand us.”
While top commanders aren’t publicly endorsing Buscaino – at least so far – the officer received some major accolades from the upper command in the past three months, including adopting the officer’s program to recruit teenagers to help fight crime across the 21 regions of the LAPD and elevating him to oversee the city’s cadet instructors.
Still, Buscaino has had to follow some strict rules set up by commanders, said Gannon, his boss.
First, he was removed from working anywhere in the area of District 15, which stretches across the Harbor Area, pulling in San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor Gateway, Harbor City and Watts.
“When he announced he was running for City Council, I immediately transferred Joe from Harbor Station to my office at Operations-South Bureau,” Gannon said. “He has been assigned administrative duties to eliminate any possibility of a conflict. He will also work our cadet program.
“He cannot campaign while on duty and must keep work and political ambition separate. As the campaign moves forward and the time needed to concentrate on this effort increases, Joe will need to take a leave of absence from the police department until the election is over.”
Although Gannon was Buscaino’s mentor and directed him into a police career when he spotted his talent working with youth at Bogdonovich Park in San Pedro, Gannon said he cannot endorse his mentee due to Beck’s wishes.
But there’s little reason to think the high command is not supportive. Their recent actions the last few months seem to put the check in the ballot box for Buscaino.
Prior to his announcement, the top command endorsed Buscaino’s work to bring teens into the fold to help determine ways to fight crime. Six years ago, Buscaino formed the first Teen Community Police Advisory Board. Crime statistics showed that teen crime dropped by nearly 50 percent in some areas.
The chief then ordered such teen boards to be in place at all 21 regions of the LAPD by the end of August. Shortly after that, Buscaino was named to supervise the popular cadet program, overseeing all its instructors.
And while Gannon and Buscaino remain close, the deputy chief said: “I’d love to endorse Joe, but I must stay neutral.”
Buscaino, who added that many officers are volunteering for him already, said he will take a leave-of-absence from the police department Sept. 11.
(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@example.com or her website: theunderdogforkids.blogspot.com) –cw
Tags: Joe Buscaino, LAPD, Chief Beck, Pat Gannon, CD15, Council District 15, Janice Hahn, San Pedro, Wilmington
Vol 9 Issue 72
Pub: Sept 9, 2011