The LAPD sent Deputy Chief Kenneth Garner on to glory in style Monday and Bishop Noel Jones preached him right through the pearly gates during one of the finest funerals I've attended in some time. And Garner, one of the city's exemplary human beings, deserved every bit of it. About half the capacity of Faith Dome's sanctuary was filled with people who came to praise him - friends, community residents, activists, politicians and other past and present officials, and what looked like every member of the city's police force and most of the law enforcement personnel in the region.
It was a grand funeral - full of military style pageantry and symbolism. It was replete with wrenching grief occasioned by the loss of a really good and valuable man struck down in his prime, intermeshed with pride in and gratitude for a job well done, sprinkled with humorous reflections of the life and loves of a man who will be profoundly missed by everyone who knew him - including me.
And to cap it all off, Bishop Jones preached the eulogy of the ages. Jones' eulogy was a masterpiece. It was bereavement assuaging. It was erudite and scholarly, spiritual and moving, cleansing and uplifting all at the same time. It was like a choo-choo train, chugging along slowly through the scholarly phase - so we could absorb the lecture; then it picked up steam as Jones applied the lecture to the nature and will of God and then, with engines fully stoked, it charged full bore into the climatic exclamation that if we believe in God, we must "let not our hearts be troubled" by Garner's death. By this time, everybody was standing and yelling and feeling a whole lot better. Jones' eulogy of Garner was better than the one Shakespeare wrote for Mark Antony to eulogize Julius Caesar. I will never forget it and I doubt if anyone else will either.
Now for the funeral sidebars: Former LAPD Chief Daryl Gates was there, looking like he always did, except older (but then, don't we all?). Councilman and former LAPD Chief Bernard Parks was there and he was sitting all alone, as nobody clamored around him or greeted him as fellow mourners did with other officials. He was isolated and sitting in front of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and his wife, Avis. I doubt if Parks even knew the Ridley-Thomases were behind him because he never looked around. I know, because I watched them. I'm always on the look-out for potential confrontations between adversaries. I love that stuff.
With so many LAPD officers at the funeral, I wondered aloud as to who was fighting crime in the city. While it was obvious that the Crenshaw Christian Center complex and its environs were the safest place to be yesterday morning, I had visions of criminals running amok all over the rest of the city. But no, as I was driving home to work after the funeral (newspaper deadlines don't care who dies), I was frightened by the sound of a booming amplified voice saying: "Stop right there!" I saw an LAPD car with flashing red lights behind me and began to panic as I was unaware of having done anything wrong. I was right. The cop wasn't talking to me. He was talking to the man driving the SUV beside me, who did as he was told, while I drove on. Then, as I stopped to get a Fatburger near my home in another part of the city, I saw an LAPD patrol car, sirens blaring, rushing to a crime scene. This second sighting miles apart assured me that, despite the number of officers at Garner's rites, we still had two or three available to keep the peace. This city's got plenty of cops - an increasing number fashioned in Garner's mold - and that's good to know.