Los Angeles (LA) County, California, is located on the West Coast of the United States. With over 10 million residents and covering roughly 4,084 square miles, it is both the most populous and largest county in the nation. According to the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, there are well over 90,000 homeless individuals currently living in LA County, yet the median household income is $65,000 per year. The high price of homes is partly to blame for the homeslessness crisis, as the average cost is upward of $590,000. The city of Los Angeles is located within LA County, in Southern California. It is the second largest city in the United States, spanning more than 469 square miles. In downtown Los Angeles, you’ll find the “Skid Row” neighborhood; 50 square blocks of impassable sidewalks, covered by tents and other makeshift shelters, is “home” to the largest concentration of homeless people in the United States. With high crime rates fueled by residents with drug and alcohol addiction, as well as disease and mental illness, Skid Row is no stranger to police activity. LAPD is the third largest police department in the nation, with 9,988 sworn officers and 2,869 civilian members. Until recently, officers were enforcing anti-camping laws, which allowed them to issue tickets and order the streets and sanitation department to dispose of property on Skid Row. As part of a settlement agreement, the LAPD has agreed to stop this practice. However, in fear of having their belongings disposed of, residents having begun branching out into other areas of the city.
Downtown Los Angeles residents and business owners packed the most recent LAPD Community Police advisory board meeting. They are visibly upset over an increase in crime as well as what they consider “trash” spilling out from Skid Row into the neighboring Loft District. One very angry business owner, “Anne,” stated she has removed one too many hypodermic needles and empty beer cans from her storefront. She has also seen rats running from the tents blocking the sidewalks, deterring customers from stopping at her store. There is one homeless man in particular with whom she has grown frustrated, and she demands that the police take action.
Officer Hoakiko is a member of the LAPD and the Army National Guard. You are dispatched as a result of a 911 call related to a vagrant who is “aggressive” and panhandling in front of Anne’s store. She describes a white male, 50–55 years of age, who is extremely dirty and wearing a green and brown baseball hat. He is sitting at the bus stop begging for money. When Officer Hoakiko arrives, he observes the subject sleeping at the bus stop, as well as a brown paper bag with an open container of alcohol. All of the subject’s belongings also appear to be under the bench. Anne comes out of her store and demands he be removed.
Officer Hoakiko approaches the vagrant, who is now awake since Anne was yelling. The man admits that the open container of alcohol is his, but also states, “Where else am I supposed to drink it? I’m homeless.” While Officer Hoakiko could arrest the man for public intoxication, possessing an open container of alcohol, or even panhandling, he also knows that this will only be a temporary solution. So, Officer Hoakiko begins talking to the vagrant and learns that he is actually a Vietnam veteran. They begin to talk about military life, and how he had a hard time adjusting once he returned from overseas. Officer Hoakiko explains that he was recruited and hired more quickly on the police department due to “veterans preference.” He then talks the vagrant into going with him to the VA hospital for in-patient alcohol and psychiatric treatment. He promises to inventory the property that he can’t take to the hospital so that it will be available when he is discharged