Kids were able to learn police tactics with an exercise dummy used for defensive tactical training for officers.
Families scarfed down chocolate-chip pancakes.
Groups got an up-close look inside the jail.
And throughout the morning, members of the Beverly Hills Police Department got to mingle with members of the community in a low-key atmosphere to learn more about each other and celebrate a mutual reality:
We’re in this together.
Hundreds of locals poured around and inside BHPD headquarters on Sunday, May 5, for the annual Beverly Hills Police Service Day & Pancake Breakfast, hosted by the Beverly Hills Police Officers Association and the BHPD.
The popular event is one of the agency’s staple days of community outreach.
“This is why Beverly Hills is the nicest place in America to live,” longtime resident Kathy Aaronson said as she ate at a table with her husband, Tom.
Both had just asked Lt. Robert Maycott, who runs the BHPD’s defensive tactics program, if he could arrange a session for seniors in Roxbury Community Center and Memorial Park.
The Aaronsons, who have lived in Beverly Hills some 40 years, say local gyms are geared toward younger residents, and they want to learn to defend themselves should they ever become the unfortunate victims of a street crime.
“We don’t want to learn how to gouge their eyes out,” Kathy Aaronson said of would-be thugs. “We want to knock them down and shuffle away.”
Maycott told the Aaronsons he would put some of his officers together to hold a training session for them and other seniors.
“You have to hold these kinds of events in order to an effective police department,” Maycott said.
Chief Sandra Spagnoli clutched a coffee as the tantalizing aroma of pancakes kept a steady stream of hungry visitors bellying up to the grill to collect their free breakfast.
Spagnoli said Beverly Hills residents – some 35,000, a population that swells to more than 200,000 in the day with workers and visitors – already firmly support the PD.
Events like Sunday’s only make the bond stronger.
“This is about saying, ‘Thank you’ to the community and allowing them to get to know the police department a little better, get to know the faces of the department,” Spagnoli said. “Look around at all our officers who are out here today on their own time.”
One of them was Motor Officer David Leber, who happily explained to visitors what all the gadgets and equipment on his BMW patrol motorcycle were.
“This is a great chance for us to open our doors to the community,” said Leber, who also is president of the Beverly Hills Police Officers Association. “The most important thing for us is to show them the faces that are behind the badges. The community, the police administration, and the City Council all work together to back the police department.”
Leber says he feels completely comfortable dining in local restaurants while on detail. He didn’t in the city in Orange County where he previously worked as a motor officer.
“It’s nice to see people actually wave at me,” Leber said.
Leber helped Emily Binman, 4, onto his motorcycle. Emily’s mother, Julia, then lifted up her other daughter, Elizabeth, 2, so she could sit behind her sister.
The girls were delighted.
Emily was asked if was ready to take the motorcycle for a spin.
“It’s going to be a little hard,” she said sheepishly. “We’re not grown-ups yet.”
As visitors to the Beverly Hills Police Service Day & Pancake Breakfast enjoyed K9 and SWAT demonstrations outside, others enjoyed 30-minute tours inside.
As he toured the PD headquarters with his father, Jason Maybaum, 11, peppered the main tour guide, Field Training Officer Jeff Newman, a former Marine, with questions.
“Is this the nicest jail in the state?”
“Has anyone ever escaped from this jail?”
BHPD has 20 more officers on staff than it had three years ago, but due to recent retirements, the department is still down 10 from its authorized 144 sworn positions. Even so, BHPD prides itself on responding to calls in under three minutes. For a city of 5.5-square-miles that often is choked with traffic, that’s impressive, Spagnoli and other officers said.
“We were down to as low as 2.2 seconds, 2.3 seconds at one point,” Spagnoli said. “Part of the reason is we have a community that is willing to pay for (police) resources.”
She recalled a recent lunch, during which another restaurant patron experienced a medical emergency.
“We went to check her condition and literally by the time I turned around, the fire department was there,” Spagnoli said. “The public safety services and response times is why residents move to Beverly Hills.”
Property crime is probably the most frequent issue BHPD officers deal with, Spagnoli said.
“We are constantly sending messages to the community regarding safety and what they can do to not become a victim,” she said. “Crime prevention is really key here.”
“We also are encouraging our community to call the police. Sometimes everyone thinks somebody else has called. But when you see something, say something – that’s what we communicate.”
“Community and Police Together” is the motto printed on all BHPD vehicles.
“Our residents all enjoy the feeling of safety and also knowing they live in an extremely safe community, statistically speaking,” Spagnoli said.
Spagnoli has been a police chief for 14 years total, with a little more than three years as Beverly Hills’ top cop. The May 5 event, she said, is one of her favorites.
“We invest in our relationships,” Spagnoli said. “That’s what this is all about. Police and community together.”