More Than Enforcers, EPD Officers Are Guardians, Says Chief Watson as His Newest Unit Serves Food to Those in Need

EPD officer cooking for the homeless

Officer Wayne Rabang [All photos tweeted by Eureka Police Chief Steve Watson]

One Eureka Police officer’s reputation as a top-notch barbecuer and a large donation of meat to the St. Vincent de Paul kitchen led to a new method of fighting crime by CSET, EPD’s newest unit.

Today, about 500 plates of food were served (about double normal) at the daily free meal offered in Old Town. The large amount might have had to do with Officer Wayne Rabang’s reputation as a chef or with the large police presence that provided a sense of safety so that many in need felt comfortable showing up.

Sgt. Leonard La France, the leader of CSET, the Community Safety Enhancement Team in charge of improving the quality of life for everyone in the Old Town, Waterfront, and park areas of Eureka, said that sometimes there are “wolves who prey on the people who need services” and today with so many officers at the daily free meal, the “wolves” wouldn’t act out.

EPD Cooking for the homeless at the St. Vincent De Paul.

Officer Goodale to the left, Chief Watson in the middle flanked by two volunteers and Sgt La France to the right were at St. Vincent de Paul’s cooking and serving food for those in need. [Photos tweeted by Eureka Police Chief Steve Watson]

La France, who is working on getting his Bachelor of Arts degree and has been studying homelessness, said that this was part of his unit’s efforts to find long-term solutions to the problem. “On July 1 we started,” he said. “We recognized right away some issues…At the free meal, there were wolves that intimidated the elderly and kids–those needing services provided there.”

Chief Steve Watson said that La France came up with the idea of combining  Officer Wayne Rabang’s prowess at the grill with a direct way of helping those in need. He explained that his officers want to balance the warrior side of officers that are there to demand people follow the law with “outreach and compassion”–making sure there is a balance.

EPD officer serving a meal today.

EPD officer serving a meal today. [Photos tweeted by Eureka Police Chief Steve Watson]

He added that today’s feast provided opportunities for both the officers and for the homeless and those in need of services to “connect at a human level.” Law enforcement needs to interact in ways that are not always about enforcing the letter of the law, he said. “So it not always when we are trying to fix a problem that we see them,” he explained.

He added, “Some officers helped serve meals. Other members barbequed. They both cooked and served in the kitchen…We got great feedback from those there. I really liked to see the bridge building.”

Chief Watson pointed out, “We can’t arrest or enforce our way out of every problem…It takes a community to police one. This is one of those ways you build those type of partnerships…[This kind of outreach] can reduce use of force and complaints.”

This is about the officers, too, he emphasized. “We’re not just a badge or a uniform,” he explained. “We’re human beings, too…This negativity that comes with the job sometimes–it can be easy to lose sight that there is still a human being [that is causing the problem]…We tend to build a hard shell. Otherwise, you just drown in emotions–anger, sadness, despair.”

He pointed out that suicide is a major cause of officer deaths. “We need to keep our humanity,” he said. He noted that connections made today can help officers see those they deal with as human beings and can help officers feel positive about their work. “We’re trained how to enforce the law,” he explained, “but we value our relationship with the community.”

He added, “We are much more than just enforcers. We’re also guardians. The great majority of what we do is be the protectors of our communities…From the smiles I saw and the thanks I heard, I know [the meal today] had a meaningful impact for everyone involved– including the officers.”

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25 comments

  • Tired of liberals

    Good job just keep doing it, once a week maybe two a week.

    Now I’m waiting to see how long it takes for someone to try and shit on this story. Who’s going to be the first non tax paying grower to say something.

  • I pay taxes and am not a scumbag grower. In fact, I reported a grow house on my block to POP and nothing was done. Zilch. Police need to enforce laws like illegal grows, gmob’s careening down sidewalks, drivers running stop signs all over town and THEN let’s enjoy barbecue.

    • guy no one wants to barbeque with you. You are a taxpayer but also a snitch pot hater. You belong in Oklahoma… Sorry, but someone has to break it to you that being “anti-business” about the only business around is not cool or even acceptable.

      • It was surprising to find out that livestock and livestock products are responsible for over twice the projected value pot sales in Humboldt Co. Even logging in these restricted times is more.

        • How can you project what black market pot sales are in humboldt.???Even nowa days with prices, it exceeds a billon dollars alone in humboldt co. Ask Rex Bhone

          • Those who claim that eliminating pot growers will collapse the local economy do such estimating. Ask them.

            • Jaywalking is about as harmful… but the economic impact and inequality that will result from 64 is here to stay! Whoooooopie!

  • I’ll take the second comment. Great job! Thank you, EPD.
    Outstanding.

  • A devout Liberal thanks the EPD with all her heart. Many, many thanks!!!

    • You are so easily appeased; part of the reason stanch conservatives rule Eureka and the city is such a crewel place. Let them eat barbecue.

  • Curiouser and curioser

    I am absolutely blown away that Officer Lafrance made the connection between a sense of community and suicide reduction. Excellent work EPD. I am very impressed and grateful for all of you!!

  • Supervisors the problem

    Putting on a circus show for measure o!!!!!! It’s a good thing to feed the hungry though. Thank you for showing kindness!!!!! That’s true public service!!!!

  • It is nice to see that there will actually be a cop with a college degree. I’ve always felt that police academy or a simple AA degree is not enough to get people to know how to think beyond the limits of how they are trained and be able to understand connections to the bigger picture. A bachelor’s degree opens up the mind and helps a person incorporate humanistic actions into their roll in society. Good job…keep on keeping On!

  • Anyone bother to tour solitary confinement lately? Sick filthy place with with cops who do nothing other than abuse people not even convicted of a crime. Barbecue PR is weak.

  • “We recognized right away some issues…At the free meal, there were wolves that intimidated the elderly and kids–those needing services provided there.”

    hmm. So a larger police presence is needed to keep the criminal homeless from preying on, intimidating, and crowding out the down-on-their-luck homeless and poor. interesting.

  • what type of meat were they serving?

  • So mr. “Go back to the reservation where you belong” super racist cop with the meaningless tactical gear that no other cop wears but he sleeps in was there? Still has a job huh? Even with ALL the local citizens that came out with their own complaints and stories of his behavior when that video surfaced? Keep the bbq, hire a cop that doesnt steal from the recently deceased and cares less about themselves than those they represent and then we can have a discussion.

  • What a great story! Thanks for the good news Kym!

  • Eureka’s police chief is doing a good job, good to have a chief familiar with the area.

  • the homeless are hungry every day

  • It takes police presence to feed the needy because of the wolves? God help us because we can’t help ourselves.

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