The Highway Patrol Officers help the police and make sure that the streets are safe and the community is protected. The Los Angeles Sentinel got a chance to interview Sergeant Lee E. Martin, Jr. to ask him a few questions about the California Highway Patrol, (CHP) and what they are doing to keep the community safe. Martin and the Highway Patrol have joined with Councilman Herb Wesson to assist patrolling Crenshaw, Leimert Park and several other non-highway areas. “This actually started with our Secretary of Business Transportation Bonner. Who came with us and got together with the Los Angeles Police Department who needed some extra help in gang suppression around the Crenshaw, Dorsey, and Audubon School’s. It’s called a Safe Passage unit to work in that area. This happened back in 2008,when we came down here. This is our second year of being in the Crenshaw semi block area, that we have been working in.”
The Sentinel wanted to know what they specifically do and how they are involved in Gang Suppression and Safety issues as it relates to the Crenshaw area? “Actually we work together with the Los Angeles Police Department and the Secret City Unit. They added 10 officers and one sergeant that are specifically assigned to that unit. We join with them (the Los Angeles Police Department) our Southwest Division. I just looked at one of the crime stats that they just sent out right now. The part 1 crimes, which deals with the homicides, rapes, robberies, assaults, burglaries, and everything else is down 42% from where it was which is a great entry. One percent would be good, but 42% during this time period is great.” “This ended on October 30. So this is compared from 2008, when we first got into the unit, ’til now. The overall crime picture is down 14.9%.”
Martin was asked, “Are you that Sergeant?” referring to his statement when he said that they had 10 officers and one sergeant. “I am the one sergeant that is in there,” said, Martin. ” Actually our officers were hand selected by myself back in 2008. They interviewed through the whole system down there. So I had a large selection of all the members of the Highway Patrol that wanted this position. But now we got the wide league of the best officers that we have to offer, that can deal with community, education for the schools, and we do mentoring programs. We are highly involved with Audubon Middle School, the Los Angeles Police Department, our Southwest Division and the Boot Camp.
Martin was asked, what is the safest city units program? “What the program has is 10 officers from highway patrol and 10 officers from LAPD and we work on safe passage for the students of Crenshaw, Dorsey and Audubon High School. It is in the 70-block area, which is basically, from Crenshaw to Western and Slauson to right by Martin Luther King in that area right there. Between that area there are a lot of gangs that we come in contact with on a daily basis up there, and we make sure the kids get there safely. One of the positive things that we have coming out of that is we talk to the principal of Crenshaw High school, Mrs. Allen. She told me that graduations are way up, tardiness and truancy is way down, and school violence is way down. So there is a positive impact that is showing not only in the area and the city block, but also in the schools.”
We asked Martin if it’s the same thing as the Bridges Program and if he was familiar with it? “I’ve heard of that. But I am not sure of the concept of the Bridges program. But ours is basically to ensure safety for the kids to and from school.” “Back in 2008, they had a major problem with the kids getting what they called, ‘pocket check’. Where they were always being robbed on the way to school, lots of fights, lots of assaults, lots of you name it, it was going on, when we first got to the Crenshaw area.” “Kids couldn’t go to school. So if they were worried about coming to school, they couldn’t think, they couldn’t learn, they couldn’t anything. The teachers were scared of the whole thing. So its like we got to the point that the students now being there for two years see us out there on a daily basis. They know that we are out there and about their safety. The gangster’s that are around that area or the supposed gang members of that area know that we are there. And when we come in contact with them, it’s business.”
When asked if Herb Wesson was the driving force behind this? He stated, “He is part of the driving force. We work very closely with Councilman Wesson. But actually the Los Angeles Urban League, Charles Boyd and Trevor, also from the Urban League, have also been working very closely with us.” “We have a partnership with all of the members of the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Urban League, the schools, the school police, Herb Wesson’s office, and everything like that, we are working with.”
The Sentinel also asked Martin, what is the difference between the highway patrolman that rides in the car versus the one that ride the motorcycle? “Actually there is nothing,” stated the Sergeant. “Only reason we use the motorcycle is for being able to get through traffic, just like coming in right now on Crenshaw. Right now on Crenshaw Blvd. traffic is stopped. The motorcycle can get to the scenes a lot quicker. They’re mobile, they can move around, they can do everything that they want to get to the scene before we can get there. Because, usually, the first responders as we like to call, the first person on the scene, can usually dictate to everybody else where to go. What to do?, What we need?, What action needs to be done? Before, we can even get to the scene. We have to wait for patrol units… they’re all the same as far as officers go in the training. Because we have to wait for that patrol car to get through the traffic and work their way in there, then it takes too much time. Time is the most important thing”, stated Martin.
The Los Angeles Sentinel also wondered if most people get their concept or their definition of what law enforcement does, federal, state, local, LAPD, Highway patrol men from television and movies most of the time. And we wanted to know how that impacts what they actually do or how do they try to straighten out that perception where its wrong. For example Chips, do you think that Chips gave a good perception of the Highway Patrol? “It was the most outstanding program for the California Highway Patrol, in my opinion. ‘The highway patrol is nationally and widely known. We’re known everywhere. I can remember riding a motorcycle a long time ago in the field, and we had some tourists from Japan who had just flown into Los Angeles. Believe it or not, the driver of the car wanted to commit a violation just to be pulled over so they could take a picture with a member of the California Highway Patrol. And I thought that it was the funniest things when the interpreters explained this, that he really didn’t want to break the law, but he wanted us to stop. And I said, “Why didn’t you just go to a regular office and we would have been more than happy to take pictures. But that is part of the deal of where people know the Highway Patrol. We are known everywhere! You may see the California Highway Patrol, the Los Angeles Police Department or El Segundo PD or something like that. But everyone knows members of the California Highway Patrol.” “Our organization is…my opinion, the best organization in the world.”
When asked about being a California Highway Patrol Officer obviously there are cops and you guys work together. How do you guys determine which district or when a case turns to highway patrol or when it goes no LAPD?” Martin stated, “Actually we work together with LAPD. Our duty is…we do all law enforcement. We can do homicides, rapes, robberies, we can do all those types of crimes but we send it to the unit who can do the best job on the scale. Usually, when it’s like a burglary we call the Los Angeles Police Department out there and they take over, where we are. And if there are traffic issues they bring it to us. It goes hand in hand, we work together on trying to find the best way to get the best job for the community which is the best thing.”
The Los Angeles Sentinel also asked a hypothetical question such as, “What if a homicide was committed on the freeway? Would your department take it on or pass it to someone else?” “What we would do is we would start the investigation. We would definitely call the local police agency that’s there and usually they will end up taking the whole investigation. Because, they are more experienced in that.” “But it doesn’t say that we will not take it if they don’t.” stated Martin.
The Los Angeles Sentinel asked what is Highway Patrols main focus? Martin said, “Our main focus is safety! So, in that race, that was the old way where we only dealt with traffic. But now, we deal with more aspects of non-traffic. Traffic maybe the way to get to stop someone. Say for not having a front license plate or mud-flat violation or something minor, which is a traffic violation. But then somtimes when we get in there, we find that someone is a gang member, who is on probation or parole or etc. We have found many guns in the last two years, many guns in cars. We have stopped many felons out there. We have had escapees that we have found and arrested. We have done a lot of things that are outside of the traffic. But traffic is our foundation.”
When asked about when it comes to them writing tickets and the whole nine about them not coming to court for the ticket that they wrote to the person who was breaking the law, Martin said, “It’s actually a law. It’s breaking the law basically, if you’re subpoenaed to court and to not go.” “Their are plenty of reasons why an officer can’t go, such as traffic, stopped an accident, there is a million reasons why an officer can’t appear in court for that particular ticket. But by law we are sanctioned to go to court.” “Usually most officers or officers that I work with are forming…its one of those things that we write citations not to make revenue, not because we are going to win the microwave at the end of the month. We give a ticket because we are trying to show the person that was driving that they are making an error that could possibly cause an accident.”
“I tell all the new people that come on the highway patrol that you see this accident that we are at right now? This could have been prevented if maybe someone would have stopped earlier to check all of their tires, or got them for tinted windows where they couldn’t see. Their vision was obstructed or they were going to fast and you stop them and give them that one ticket. Then they say to themselves, ‘Well I’m going to start slowing down, I don’t want to pay no more tickets’. “Well that right there may have saved someone’s life or may have prevented a major accident.” said, Martin. In the thirty years of being on the highway patrol Sergeant Lee E. Martin has been to numerous accidents. And fatal accidents were kids, “always innocent, well not always”, but mainly where innocent people are hurt. It makes you look back and think, “if I could have just stopped this guy a little bit earlier.”
The Highway Patrol does many things to help people be safe on the road, such as setting up the DUI checkpoint. This checkpoint is set up so people in the community can be aware that you shouldn’t drink and drive. “If you want to drink do it at home” said Martin. “We tell everybody if you drink have a designated driver. We tell everyone that all the time,” said Martin. “It’s not that we want to catch every drunk driver it’s that we want everyone to be aware of what is going on.” * (Part 2 of the One on One with High Way Patrol will be issued in next week)