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Brock's Actions: A Welcome Sign of Citizen Involvement or a Potentially Dangerous Example?
By Jorge Casuso
July 18, 2023 -- Councilmember Phil Brock's run-in with a homeless man on the Promenade Sunday –- which made local headlines –- has raised concerns over his involvement in the man's arrest and the message it could send.
Residents frustrated with a seeming lack of action by the City to curb anti-social behavior may see Brock's actions as a welcome sign of citizen involvement, but others see it as setting a potentially dangerous example.
Former Mayor Sue Himmelrich called Brock's actions "outrageous," noting that the City's advice on addressing anti-social behavior is to "keep a safe distance" and not to "physically engage the subject.”
"We ask people to do X and Phil does Y," said Himmelrich, who served two terms on the Council. "What kind of message does that send?"
Brock, she said, should not have asked the homeless man he saw tearing signs from the front of an empty building to throw them in the trash ("Councilmember Brock Attacked on the Promenade," July 17, 2023).
"He provoked him," Himmelrich said. "All the things he did are what the City and police ask you not to do.
"He's flaunting the (City's homeless) policy, defying that policy," Himmelrich said.
Council member Oscar de la Torre, who ran with Brock in 2020 on the Change slate that promised to crack down on crime, said he understands his colleagues actions.
"I've done that," de la Torre said. "I've talked to people to say, 'Hey it's not cool to yell.'" But he adds that in many cases "it's not advisable.
"I appreciate Phil seeing something that's wrong and speaking out about it, but you're talking to people who are not in control, even of themselves," de la Torre said.
"There is a risk. Something could happen to you, and it can escalate to something worse."
In Brock's case, the man began yelling at him and trying to snatch the hat he was wearing, succeeding on the third try.
"I said I wanted my hat, and he pushed me two or three times."
The two tussled and the man –- described as in his 20s and weighing around 250 pounds -- stumbled and went down, Brock said.
The cell phone video of the event taken by Brock's companion, Kathy Boole, stops when the man tries to snatch the hat a second time and resumes with police arresting him as Brock holds him down.
"After 20 seconds or so (of filming), she stopped it to talk to police," the Councilmember said of the video aired Monday night on Fox 11 Los Angeles.
Brock said he never expected the man to react the way he did to his request. "He appeared erratic but not dangerous," he said.
"In retrospect, should I have asked the guy to pick up his trash? No. I wouldn't do it again."
"I'm not encouraging people to get into fights, by any means," Brock said. "I wasn't trying to be a hero. It became this big deal. I would never have expected that."
Brock said the man -- who was taken to SMPD jail and booked for simple battery and grand theft person -- is being held for 72 hours pending a mental health evaluation.
De la Torre believes there is a lesson to be learned from the incident.
"I think a lot of people are losing patience" with anti-social behavior, he said. "And if the City's position is residents shouldn't get engaged, then the City needs to do more to keep our residents safe."
Following is the City's advice on "Addressing Anti-Social Behaviors
While it is best to let professionals handle emergency situations, there may be times when you find yourself in a situation (for example, at your place of business) that will require you to take action to manage people’s behavior until first responders or other professionals can arrive. Here are some common dos and don’ts to help keep yourself and those around you safe:
Do keep a safe distance.
Do remain calm and speak directly and gently, repeating yourself as necessary.
Do feel free to direct the individual to helpful resources.
Do politely ask people to leave if they are disrupting your business.
Do call 9-1-1 in the case of an emergency.
Do feel free to go to a safe place if you feel in danger.
Don't ignore people.
Don't yell, display aggressive behavior, or try to intimidate the person.
Don't be disrespectful or condescending towards the individual.
Don't give the individual money – instead direct them to helpful resources.
Don't physically engage, such as grabbing the individual to escort them out.
For more information click here
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