A Day in the Life of a Skid Row Beat Cop
By Annika Young
The 700 Club
CBN.com -Before every shift, Officer Deon Joseph goes through the same routine. He knows that once he leaves the precinct, anything could happen. Today, he was barely out of the door when he found someone who needed help.
Officer Joseph: “Hey sir, you all right? You need an ambulance?”
Man: “Naw. My feets swelled up.”
Officer Joseph: “Can I have the ambulance come look at you? Because look at you. You’re sweating. You’re dehydrated. Let me get you some water. You want some water?”
Officer Joseph is a beat cop on L.A.’s infamous Skid Row – a 50 block area with the largest homeless population in the U.S. In his 17 years here he’s seen it all.
“There are four kinds of people on Skid Row. There are good people who are just trying to survive and trying to get their lives together. That’s real. There are good people who do bad things because their addiction drives them to do it. I know people who when they are sober, they are wonderful to talk to. But when they are binging, they’ll steal, they’ll rob, they’ll beat somebody over the head to get what they need and that’s unfortunate. Then you have bad people who have redemptive qualities. I’ve seen a gang member stop a rape. All I want to do is create an environment where he’ll be motivated to continue to do more good work and change a life. And let’s be real. The fourth category, there are people who are just down here and they don’t care about these people getting sober, they don’t care about them getting clean. They need them to make money off them and exploit them.”
He sees a lot of well-meaning people bringing groceries and serving meals. But having enough food is not the problem.
“In this 50-block radius we call Skid Row not one person goes hungry. Matter of fact the five major missions and many of the hotels in the area serve 9,000 meals a day and they offset their hours, so if you miss breakfast at the L.A. Mission you can go to the awesome Union Rescue Mission. You miss the Union Rescue you can go to the Midnight Mission and they serve 9,000 meals. You don’t even see 9,000 people in these streets.”
As he walks the sidewalks lined with trash, makeshift tents, and cardboard shelters he sees a more serious problem.
“Officer Joseph working Skid Row for 17 years knows when somebody sits on the sidewalk, they’re open to crime, or they’re doing so to commit crime, or are preparatory to destroying themselves with their drug of choice. And that’s what needs to stop. These people are allowed to acquire so much property on the sidewalk and if they claim it we can’t do anything about it and that’s the perfect environment for the gangsters to use the people on the sidewalks and say, ‘Here, hold my dope. Hold my gun. Hold my weapons.’ People need to get real about what’s happening here.”
The folks here know him, not only as a police officer, but as someone who cares. He helps where he can.
“So I started establishing these relationships with these people where they became like my family where many of them, some of them call me Deon. They don’t call me Officer Joseph. The way that I police with these people, the way I treat them, it pleases my Father in heaven – because I’m fair to them. I don’t care if you’re black, white. I don’t care if you’re Muslim, Jew, gay, straight. I don’t care who you are. If you need justice, I am going to be fair to you and I’m going to work hard for you. I’m gonna work hard for you and they know that.”
Deon learned that compassion from his parents. They took in 41 foster kids over the years, and taught him to treat everyone with love and respect.
“And I watched my mother and father in a non-patronizing way show love to these people from a place they didn't expect it. Cause what was happening in their homes? They were being abused, they were being beaten, they were being sexually assaulted, they were homeless. So they weren't used to that unconditional love that my parents gave them, and they turned their lives around while they're with them.”
It’s ironic that as a rookie coming out of the police academy, he would have taken any assignment – except this one.
“I went home, got on my knees and said, ‘Lord, please don't send me to that godforsaken place.’ That was one of the few times He didn't answer my prayers. And he has His reason, obviously.”
Even though he could be a cop anywhere in L.A., he chooses to stay on Skid Row, no matter how hard it might be.
“I do get overwhelmed sometimes. But that’s when I take the time and realize why I’m here. For every five people that I see dying out here on the sidewalk, using drugs destroying themselves, there’s always going to be that one that comes back to me and says, ‘Thank you for being here. Thank you for doing what you do.’”
Ultimately he knows it’s through prayer and his faith in Jesus Christ that gets him through the day, and defines how he represents God, the LAPD and the community he protects and serves.
“Some people want me to pray for them in the streets. I got in trouble for it a couple of times. But I always feel like if I'm treating the least of those as if they're royalty, it’s as Christ would. I want to show these people love from a place they didn't expect it and that, to me, is how I honor Christ. And to me, it's saving people. It's saving people's lives.”
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