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Mar 2009
LAPD Deputy Chief Kenneth Garner

For Immediate Release

Contact: Eric Rose (805) 624-0572


Los Angeles, March 1, 2009 - On behalf of all of the members of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, President Paul M. Weber responds to the sad news that Deputy Chief Kenneth O. Garner, Commanding Officer, South Bureau, passed away suddenly this morning at his home.

"Los Angeles has suffered a great loss with the death of Deputy Chief Garner. Chief Garner's profound allegiance to the LAPD and the community warrants the appreciation and gratitude of all Angelinos. He was respected for his deep commitment to the rule of law and his profound devotion to duty. Chief Garner was devoted to protecting our community and Los Angeles is a better place for his service. The men and women of the LAPD join the community in offering our deepest sympathies and prayers to the Garner family as they endure this painful loss."

•  Funeral Arrangement

Home to Glory

Betty Pleasant, Contributing EditorWave News

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.

Deputy Chief Remembered for Strong Ties to South L.A.

Ari B. Bloomekatz
Los Angeles Times

3,000 gather in South L.A. to remember Deputy Police Chief Kenneth O. Garner. The mix of police, gang-intervention workers and residents at his funeral and service shows he built strong relationships in the community, mourners say.

Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Police Department members carry the casket of Deputy Chief Kenneth O. Garner into the Crenshaw Christian Center in Los Angeles.

Deputy Chief Kenneth O. Garner wore a Los Angeles Police Department uniform for more than three decades, but to 20 residents who came to his funeral on a bus from Watts on Monday, he was also one of their own.

"It's so important that we keep his legacy alive because actually we see him as community, not as law enforcement," said the Rev. James Jones, founder of the organization Gangsters for Christ. "He's going to be sorely missed."

Garner, 53, died unexpectedly at his Pasadena home March 1. He was the department's second-highest-ranking black officer. Residents and police alike said he had come to represent the new face of a department that, under Chief William J. Bratton, has tried to shake its notorious reputation in minority communities.

Among the roughly 3,000 people who went to the Crenshaw Christian Center for a celebration of his life were Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and state Sen. Rod Wright (D-Inglewood).

The mix of uniformed police officers, gang-intervention workers and L.A. residents at the service was a testament to Garner's ability to build strong relationships with local communities while staying tough on crime, several mourners said.

"Kenny was blessed with three families," said Bratton, referring to Garner's relatives, police and the people he served. "Kenny Garner used his gifts and talents to enlighten and enrich the lives of his community."

The group of people who came on the private bus, wearing black ribbons in recognition of Garner's death, were community members associated with the Watts Gang Task Force.

"That's what he was about, bringing the community together," said Lucille Hooper, a task force member who lives in the Nickerson Gardens housing development in Watts. "He was there just about every Monday." John Mack, a civil rights advocate who serves on the Police Department's civilian oversight board, said Garner's career spanned "two LAPDs."

The first, Mack said, was fraught with racism and was at mutual odds with the city's African American communities. The second LAPD, he said, is one that works in partnership with the community. Garner played a vital role in that transformation throughout his career, Mack said.

Garner joined the LAPD in 1977 and most recently was the commander of operations for the department's South Bureau. He also recently began a program to help young men reenter society after being released from prison.

Garner was born in Hot Springs, Ark., on Nov. 28, 1955, and grew up in South Los Angeles. He was buried at Rose Hills Cemetery in Whittier and is survived by his parents and daughter.

LAPD Deputy Chief Kenneth Garner Mourned, Praised


Kenneth Garner, a deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department who earned praise for his work toward better understanding between the department and community, passed away at his home March 1. He was 53.

Garner served in the LAPD for more than 30 years, rising from patrol officer in the 77th, Southwest and Central divisions to lieutenant in the Wilshire division. Following a promotion to captain in 1998, Garner held a series of top posts in the Foothill division. In 2005, he was appointed to oversee LAPD's personnel matters, including the hiring of officers. Garner was then named deputy chief in 2007 and last year was assigned to oversee all operations in LAPD's South Bureau.

The South Bureau appointment marked a homecoming for Garner, who was born in Hot Springs, Ark., but grew up in South L.A. Skipp Townsend, an executive board member of gang intervention community group Southern California Cease Fire Committee, said he came to know Garner four years ago. He praised Garner's approach to foster understanding between the police and the community by simply being involved.

"He was a great listener and wasn't judgmental," Townsend said. "He wouldn't just take one side. He was a community person and was sensitive to the community members - not just law enforcement. A lot of the field officers and patrol officers would just want to arrest people. He actually had them stop."

In a statement, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also mourned the LAPD veteran. "Deputy Chief Kenny Garner was a committed public servant who dedicated his career to protecting the city of Los Angeles," Schwarzenegger said. "He worked to ensure the safety of his community and L.A. is a better place because of his service. Maria and I join all Californians in sending our deepest condolences to Kenny's family, friends and fellow officers as they mourn this significant loss."

Townsend recalled Garner's Feb. 20 speech at a fundraiser when the deputy chief "spoke to everyone about his love for the community" and about living near Normandie Avenue and 78th Street. In his talk, Garner described his efforts to improve the relationship between the department and the community. One of those involved a program helping ex-convicts re-enter society that LAPD Chief William Bratton views as Garner's legacy.

In an e-mail, LAPD Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger said: "It was my pleasure to have known and worked closely with Deputy Chief Garner for over 30 years. What made him so very different from others in the police profession was that he not only lived and worked in the community, but he also loved the community. His vision about making it a better place was not something he merely did or said. It was who he was - the very essence of his DNA. The evidence of his caring is powerful and exists in the avalanche of affection by the legions whose lives he has touched during his life."

What's interesting is that legions of people - young and old and from all walks in life - called him their friend, Paysinger added. "And he was truly a friend to them all," he said.

The deputy chief was a guest several times at the weekly Cease Fire meetings. The group meets at Bethel AME Church, the same place its members are organizing a memorial for Garner. The event will be on March 11 at 6 p.m.

Governor Schwarzenegger Statement on Death of LAPD Deputy Chief Kenny Garner

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today issued the following statement regarding the death of Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Deputy Chief Kenny Garner:

"Deputy Chief Kenny Garner was a committed public servant who dedicated his career to protecting the city of Los Angeles. He worked to ensure the safety of his community and L.A. is a better place because of his service. Maria and I join all Californians in sending our deepest condolences to Kenny's family, friends and fellow officers as they mourn this significant loss." Deputy Chief Garner passed away on Sunday, March 1. He served the LAPD for over 30 years.

Deputy Chief's death a loss for community

By Sandy Banks

He didn't die a hero in a hail of bullets, but he will leave a hero's legacy. And though I never even met Deputy Chief Kenneth Garner, he came to represent for me the new face of the LAPD. For years, I've heard from high-ranking black officers that the Los Angeles Police Department was changing under Chief Bill Bratton -- that a commitment to supporting, rather than just policing, struggling neighborhoods was real, and rippling through lives and communities.

Last week, I saw the evidence in a conversation with Garner. I'd written a column last month about Eddie Dotson, a homeless man who had set up an elaborate, home-like encampment under a freeway overpass near USC. Last winter, a similar shelter of his had been busted up by the LAPD. So I called around before the column ran to see whether publicizing Dotson's "home" would get him kicked out again.

The officers I spoke with were sympathetic, but promised only to "try to do no harm." The day after the column ran, Garner -- the area commander -- called me at home with a straightforward pledge: His officers would not disrupt the homeless man's encampment, would not punish him for his homelessness. But he went an extra step.

Garner asked me lots of questions about Dotson -- his history, his mental state, his demeanor, his ability to care for himself and contribute to others. He recognized why an independent sort like Dotson would chafe at the confines of a homeless shelter. He offered a possible solution: USC might have a vacant building nearby that needed tending. That would get Dotson off the street, satisfy his need for order and self-sufficiency and help the university. Garner promised to talk with USC officials and get back to me this week.

On Sunday, Garner died unexpectedly. His pledge was a small thing, but resonated loudly with me. He went above and beyond a policeman's call, thought not just about safety and legalities but about the needs of one struggling man -- his desires and his dignity. He was balancing the needs of his community with a homeless man's humanity. I hung up the phone feeling grateful and relieved. And now I am left to imagine what impact a man like Garner must have made everyday on the people he met policing the streets. What a loss for us. And for the LAPD.

Kenneth Otto Garner dies at 53; LAPD deputy chief improved minority relations, helped diversify police department

By Joel Rubin

Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Kenneth Otto Garner, who played central roles in helping to diversify the LAPD, improve the agency's ties to minority communities and stem crime in South L.A., died unexpectedly early Sunday morning. He was 53 and had spent nearly 32 years in an LAPD uniform.

Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times
LAPD Deputy Chief Kenneth Garner recently started an unusual program to help young men reenter society after being released from prison. The first group of convicts in the program is expected to be released soon.

Garner reportedly collapsed in his Los Angeles home. The cause of death had not been determined, although preliminary findings indicate natural causes, according to the county coroner's office.

People close to Garner said they believed he died of heart failure.

Garner joined the LAPD in 1977 and rose through the ranks to become its second-highest-ranking black officer.

At first he worked patrol and special plainclothes assignments throughout the neighborhoods of South L.A.

He went on to hold an array of command positions, including overseeing law enforcement in the Foothill area of the San Fernando Valley, in L.A.'s Westside and on the city's fleet of public buses.

In many ways, Garner came to represent the new face of a police department that, under Chief William J. Bratton, has pushed hard to reform itself and shake free of a deeply ingrained reputation among minority communities as a racist, corrupt and at times brutal institution.

"He grew up at a time when the department he loved so much wasn't loved in these neighborhoods," Bratton told The Times on Sunday. "He committed his professional life to changing that."

Law enforcement officials in the LAPD and other agencies, as well as politicians and community leaders, were shaken and deeply saddened by the news of Garner's death. Their response underscored what many called his rare success in earning the respect and trust both of the officers he commanded and of Angelenos across racial lines.

Garner "tirelessly worked to make the LAPD a kinder, gentler, reform-oriented and top crime-fighting organization," said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, head of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable. "He was a true friend . . . to the community."

Paul M. Weber, head of the union that represents the department's rank-and-file officers, echoed Hutchinson, saying Garner "never bought into the idea that if he supported his cops, then . . . he couldn't support the community. He struck that balance with incredible skill. He will be missed."

Since taking over command of the department's South Bureau a year ago, Garner kept long hours, often returning to his desk after neighborhood meetings at local churches or community centers and staying late into the night to pore over spreadsheets of crime data, said Cmdr. Andrew Smith, Garner's assistant commanding officer at South Bureau.

Smith said Garner demanded quick responses from his command staff when hot spots flared and, not one to rant or scream when problems arose, led with a calm, firm style.

"He was the guy people respected because they knew how well he had done the work when he was in their shoes," Smith said.

City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who worked closely with Garner on anti-gang initiatives, said he didn't hesitate to give community members his cellphone number. "Here was a deputy chief who was acting like a senior lead officer," she said, referring to community liaison officers of a much lower rank.

Bratton highlighted Garner's work as head of the department's recruitment efforts in 2005 as the LAPD was ramping up a high-stakes campaign to increase its ranks.

He pushed through changes to rigid hiring policies that, for example, automatically disqualified candidates with financial blemishes on their record.

The reforms, Bratton said, helped increase diversity in the department.

In recent months, Garner launched an unusual program in cooperation with local community groups aimed at helping young men reenter society after being released from prison.

The first group of convicts in the program is expected to be released soon, Bratton said, adding that he believed that the program would have grown into Garner's proudest achievement.

"Instead, it will be his legacy," Bratton said.

Garner was born in Hot Springs, Ark., on Nov. 28, 1955, and grew up in South Los Angeles. He earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Cal State Dominguez Hills in 1981.

He is survived by his parents and daughter.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

LAPD Deputy Chief Ken Garner Dies

Los Angeles police Deputy Chief Kenneth O. Garner, commander of the LAPD's South Bureau and one of the department's highest ranking black officers, died unexpectedly Sunday at his home.It was unclear why Garner, 53, died. Longtime friend Carl McGill, president of the Black Chamber of Commerce of Los Angeles County Inc., said he thought it might have been a heart attack.

An autopsy is pending. Sgt. Ronnie Cato, president of the Oscar Joel Bryant Foundation, a grassroots organization consisting of black police officers, said Garner had called in sick about three days prior to his death.

The first sign that something might be wrong was when Garner fainted Feb. 15 at the funeral of Officer Randy Simmons, the first LAPD SWAT officer to die in the line of duty. Simmons, 51, a Rancho Palos Verdes resident, died Feb. 7, 2008, when he stormed a Winnetka home where a young man had killed his father and two of his brothers. Cato, who said he was flooded with calls from fellow officers today, said no one though much of the fainting at the time, and that "not eating and standing up so long -- all day" could have led to the episode.

"I called him and told him to take care of himself," Cato said. "He basically told me that he hadn't eaten all day and I didn't think too much of it. Now I'm thinking that (his fainting) might have something to do with it (his death). It makes me starting thinking." Police Chief Bill Bratton praised Garner, who had more than three decades with the LAPD, where he "served the community with both distinction and honor," he said.

"All of us mourn his passing but take comfort in the knowledge that he lived his life and helped countless others along the way," Bratton said. Cato said he was "in shock."

"I had to freeze for awhile," he said. "I'm talking about a man who was loved, a commanding officer who was loved by his officers. We called him Kenny G. He was one of the most down-to-earth commanding officers. His concept, his ideology was people first. He was able to balance people and their needs -- putting people first and still fighting crime. People are in shock. We've lost one of our best."

Garner started with the Los Angeles Police Department in 1977. In March 2008, he was promoted to commander of the South Bureau, which encompasses the 77th Street, Southwest, South and Harbor stations, as well as the South Traffic Division. He became a deputy chief in July 2007, a month after celebrating 30 years on the force.

"Los Angeles has suffered a great loss with the death of Deputy Chief Garner," said Paul Weber of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing rank-and-file officers. "Chief Garner's profound allegiance to the LAPD and the community warrants the appreciation and gratitude of all Angelenos. The man and women of the LAPD join the community in offering our deepest sympathies and prayers to the Garner family as they endure this painful loss."

Garner was born in Hot Springs, Ark. He is survived by his daughter, Lauren; his mother and father. Funeral arraignments are pending.



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