Long time gentle cop was a friend of Black community
The highest-ranking African American of Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger hailed his lost colleague as "a giant who will be very difficult to replace."
Kenneth O. Garner, deputy chief of the LAPD collapsed and died on the morning of March 1 at his home.
Reliable sources told the Sentinel that Garner was experiencing chest pains the day before and succumbed of an apparent a heart attack. Garner was 53. Final rites for Garner will be held on Monday March 9 at Crenshaw Christian Center Faith Dome located at 7901 S. Vermont Ave. beginning at 10 a.m. Public viewing will be held March 8 at the same location from 5 p.m. to 8p.m.
"It's like an engine throwing a piston. Sometimes the engine is repairable, but it is never quite the same," Paysinger said of Garner.
LAPD Chief William J. Bratton was overcome with emotion when he heard of the news of Garner's death, so much that he struggled with going to the home of his treasured deputy chief.
"Deputy Chief Garner began his career with the department three decades ago and served the community with both distinction and honor. All of us mourn his passing but take comfort in the knowledge that he lived life well and helped countless others along the way," said Chief Bratton.
A native of Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Garner had been a police officer with the LAPD for 31 years, a resident of Los Angeles and an active member of the community. That he rose through the ranks rapidly was a testament of his steadfastness of purpose and character. In 1998, he was promoted to captain and in 2005, appointed commander. As deputy chief, Garner was in charge of the Operations-South Bureau which included 77th Street (Jesse Brewer) station, Southwest, Southeast and Harbor; the significance of this position is that it included the neighborhood where Garner grew up and where he was hailed as returning home to serve his community.
Garner was well known and respected in the community. He worked tirelessly to improve the relationship between the community and LAPD. Not only was he involved as an officer and a resident, he also had an adult daughter, Lauren, in whom he had immense pride. He was a past member of the Oscar Joel Bryant Foundation (LAPD's African American Police officers Association), a current member of the Association of Black Enforcement Executives (ABLE) and still found time to volunteer as a coach for youth basketball, baseball and football.
The community is still reeling in shock over the loss and has expressed its feelings with words of compassion, sorrow and joy all at the same time of having known Deputy Chief Kenneth O Garner.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: "Today the City of Los Angeles joins the family and friends of Deputy Chief Kenny Gardner in mourning the loss of a great friend and champion of our community. For more than thirty years, Chief Gardner's passion and compassion set him apart as a true leader for our police department. His commitment to LA's families, his dedication to our neighborhoods, and his lifetime devotion to serving the greater good demonstrate the extraordinary character of an extraordinary man. For Chief Gardner, 'to protect and to serve' was more than just a motto. It was a way of life and his passing is a great loss to the city, the LAPD and the countless individuals he touched through his years of community service."
Councilman Bernard C. Parks, former Chief of LAPD, who knew Garner and worked with him shared his sentiments this way: "I think it was very an unfortunate set of circumstances because he was such a young man, very talented and so much more to give to the city of L.A., and to lose him at this time is a loss to the department and the city."
Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. the executive publisher of the Sentinel expressed his sorrow at the passing of Garner: "He left a big void in our community and it will take a long time, if ever, to fill the void that has been left by his passing – not only through his professionalism and his experience in the department but his friendship with the community. It's second to nothing that we've seen in law enforcement."
Dr. Firpo Carr: "I first met Chief Garner when I was hired on to LAPD about 15 years ago as he was making his way through the ranks. We were only a year apart age-wise. Back in November 2008 I introduced him at a conference for Black police officers sponsored by LAPD's OJB Foundation. Kenny kidded me about articles appearing my Sentinel column that tend to have a Biblical slant. In fact, during his brief speech he turned to me as I stood behind him and said: "I'll quote James Brown. 'I don't want nobody, to give me nothin'. Open up the door. I'll get it myself.'" The audience roared with laughter. Afterward we embraced heartily. He was well received by everyone, and will be sorely missed."
Khalid Shah founder of Stop-the-Violence-Increase-the-Peace Foundation: "It's ironic that the only venues that I had an opportunity to see Chief Garner were places where he was reconciling differences between law enforcement, communities and neighbors. His legacy, as told by seniors, youth, and intervention workers alike is a testimony to his goodness and humanity. I am honored to have been with him last week as he helped us honor Jim Brown, Danny Bakewell and John Mack. Today, we honor him. May God Bless the Garner family."
Lt. Fred Booker (LAPD): "He had the strength of character to stand up against all odds. He believed what he believed, and he believed the right thing. He did not care what anybody thought about it; he went for the right thing. That's the kind of guy he was. He would go against everyone in the department when he was right."
Commander Cal Jackson (LAPD), a close friend and one who Garner brought into the department: "I've known Garner for over 35 years, he is a personal friend; we grew up in the department together and he convinced that this was a tremendous opportunity…he was a recruit in the academy. He and I worked in black-and-white unit in the Wilshire area. We were both ambitious and agreed that we'd run bureaus. He became the chief in charge of South Bureau and I became one of his assistants. He cared a lot about the people in the South Bureau. He had a vision of prisoner re-entry… his way of helping prisoners not to re-offend and we are going to continue that work."
Malcolm Ali, community photographer: "He was a good friend of the Black community and a member of 100 Black Men; may he rest in peace."