Offering a Close-Up Look at Police Work

The city’s Public Safety Commission has expressed approval of Police Chief John Incontro’s plan to launch a “community police academy” aimed at increasing residents’ awareness of what a day working at the San Marino Police Department is like.
The program, which emulates those of other nearby departments, is set to include lectures, interactive lessons and practical exercises that will allow participants a glance at what goes into being a cop in San Marino.
“I think it’s especially important in this community, because we have a public safety tax, to make sure people know what we do and how we do it,” Incontro told the commission at its meeting on Monday. “It provides the community with a better understanding of what a police department does. Agencies throughout the country have been doing this. It’s part of the transparency of wanting people to understand what we do.”
The academy would include lessons on police use of force, contemporary issues in law enforcement and the criminal justice system and the various tactics used in investigations, among others. Participants also will spend time with the SMPD dispatcher to understand how that operation works and join a patrol officer in at least one ride-along.
Not only would the program help residents learn the ins and outs of law enforcement, but Incontro said he hoped also to harness the volunteer spirit common among residents in the community to help with certain department functions, particularly ones that strain resources and staff.
“It would be an opportunity to learn about the organization and policing in general, and we could certainly use volunteers for special events like parades and the Fourth of July,” he said, noting that police departments in South Pasadena and Sierra Madre make excellent use of such volunteers.
Resident Raymond Quan spoke in favor of the program, explaining how he and his wife, Miriam, had benefitted from the Pasadena Police Department’s program.
“When you see the police in action, you really see they are doing something instead of wondering ‘Why aren’t they doing something?’” Quan said. “Everything you hear out in the field is way more interesting than the didactic version.”
Commissioners were supportive.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Commissioner Eugene Ramirez. “It should have been done a long time ago.”
Incontro also told commissioners about the city’s plan to address the issues of roaming coyotes and nesting peafowl in San Marino.
For peafowl, there is a $38,000 line item in the SMPD budget to fund the trapping and relocation of up to 140 of the majestic but noisy (and sometimes destructive) birds to Ventura.
“They are appreciated in some places,” Incontro quipped. “They do very well with being relocated. They don’t have a tendency to come back, especially from that distance.”
Coyotes, on the other hand, are best left to themselves. The canines tend to stay away from humans and can be frightened off with a loud noise. They’re crafty enough to find their way back if relocated, and capturing and killing them tends to bear unintended consequences.
“There’s an alpha pair within a group of coyotes,” Incontro explained. “If you happen to kill them, multiple pairs will step up and breed. Then you’ll have multiple breeding pairs, where you normally have just one breeding pair.”
The Pasadena Humane Society will have a seminar at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 25, at Crowell Public Library to explain the do’s and don’ts regarding coyotes. Basic tips, Incontro said, are not to feed them or leave water for them and not let pets roam around outside unsupervised, especially outside a secure fenced-in area.
“We have people who leave food and water out, and that just attracts them. It makes it easy for them,” he said. “They generally do leave humans alone. That’s what we have to stress.”

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