A police lieutenant Saturday said the Santa Monica Police Department’s “Meet Your Neighbors” program began from two incidents of neighbors calling authorities to report two black people had supposedly broke into residences that turned out to be their own, one day after actor Ving Rhames told a radio audience that he was once held at gunpoint by police in Santa Monica in such an incident.
The incident occurred at 1:52 a.m. on July 29, 2016 when several neighbors reported that an “African-American male had broken into a home,” Santa Monica Police Lt. Saul Rodriguez told City News Service.
“Within several minutes we de-escalated the incident,” Rodriguez said. “We quickly went outside and introduced himself to his neighbors. We did nothing wrong. We have to respond to calls of this nature.”
Rhames said Friday on Sirius XM’s “The Clay Cane” show that he was watching ESPN when he heard knocking at his door.
“I open the door, there’s a red dot pointed at my face from a nine millimeter,” Rhames said. He was ordered to put his hands in the air, adding that there were at least four officers and a police dog at his house.
Rodriguez also said a similar occurred September 6, 2015 and involved Fay Wells, a black woman who had locked herself out of her apartment.
Wells, who earned an MBA from Dartmouth University, and was a vice president of strategy at a company at the time, wrote about the incident in the Washington Post. In the piece, Wells wrote that she called for a locksmith and once inside her apartment heard a man’s voice and what sounded like a small dog whimpering outside.
“I imagined a loiterer and opened the door to move him along. I was surprised to see a large dog halfway up the staircase to my door. I stepped back inside, closed the door and locked it. I heard barking. I approached my front window and loudly asked what was going on. Peering through my blinds I saw a gun.
” A man stood at the bottom of the stairs, pointing it at me. I stepped back and heard ‘Come outside with your hands up.”’
Wells said she later learned that the Santa Monica Police Department had dispatched 19 officers after one of her neighbors reported a burglary at her apartment.
“She (the neighbor) didn’t know who she (Wells) was,” Rodriguez said.
Hence, the police department launched a city-wide “Meet Your Neighbors” program on Jan. 30, 2017, according to a department news statement.
“The key to this event is simple engagement and community building through a coffee date or ice cream social, for example,” the statement said. “Our challenge to the community is to step out of their comfort zone and get to know the people on their block — their neighbors.”
Jacqueline Seabrooks, the first female black patrol officer for the Santa Monica Police Department in 1982, and California’s first black woman to serve as police chief for a municipality when she became chief of the Inglewood Police Department in 2007, began her tenure as Santa Monica’s police chief in 2012, retiring Sept. 30, 2017.