Meet LBPD East Division Cmdr. Paul LeBaron
From Issue: Volume XXI - Number 3
By Steve Propes
In the professional life of new East Division Commander Paul LeBaron, the month of January holds special significance. It’s his birthday month, he just turned 43, and it was 20 years ago this January that LeBaron got married, one month after joining the police department, while still a student at Cal State Long Beach.
Each of these decisions proved to be a positive, as LeBaron is obviously moving up the ranks at a fairly impressive clip. “I officially took over as commander on December 1st,” said LeBaron. Just previous to this new assignment, “I was the graveyard watch commander at West Division.” Prior to that he worked for a short time as a public information officer and for a longer time as a lieutenant in vice supervising investigations into the meth trade out of Mexico, among other assignments.
“I answer to Deputy Chief Luna of patrol bureau,” however the numbers of actual officers under his command “are fluctuating,” said LeBaron, who is replacing Michael Beckman. “Typically, we see commander rotations every couple of years.”
LeBaron was born and went to school in Orange County. “I was a soccer and volleyball player” and after high school, “I spent two years in Argentina and Paraguay jungles for my church, which changed everything that mattered. I learned people have inherent value despite their economic condition.” He speaks fluent Spanish and Portuguese as well as an Indian dialect he’s yet to encounter in Long Beach.
“For the last four years, I’ve been an adjunct staff member of the Museum of Tolerance in L.A., having worked there for the last 12 years teaching classes on diversity in law enforcement.”
LeBaron’s East Division responsibilities include a “patrol function, which includes calls for service, traffic enforcement,” and others issues related to crime and community involvement. “I have to be competent in all areas.”
“One of our challenges is the fact that we have a large geographic area and to make sure we have a presence in each area of the city. Crime is what we concern ourselves with; we made crime our primary focus. On the far east side, the priority would be property crime, theft related crimes, auto theft, auto burglary and residential burglary.
“As we’ve seen property crimes rise, we’re definitely trying to impact theft related crimes. Really good officers who do really good work, high visibility work, target those criminals who do those crimes, those three or four who are committing 100 crimes. Those are preventable crimes, open door, open window, valuables in sight in a car; it’s really frustrating, these preventable crimes.
“Arrested people who have been interviewed tell us, ‘I check a door handle then I take it.’ Even if it’s the change in the ashtray. If we could eliminate that, our officers can focus on the really bad guys. Sometimes we know of specific people who have MO’s, we look at them. We do focus on high volume activity. Just because someone’s on parole doesn’t mean they are offending.”
As to preventing these and similar crimes, LeBaron stated, “I highly recommend that anyone who gets a suspicious knock on a door, call the police, let us figure it out. We don’t want to step on the rights of people who are doing business.
“We are consistently enforcing against gang activity and we are paired up with other folks. I have a directed enforcement team to attack violent crime,” which he described as “murder, rape, robbery and assault.”
Even though “violent crimes in the East Division have gone down recently, violent crime is always going to be my number one priority. I consider all crime serious. With the price of gold going up, there’s been a trend toward person robbery, necklace snatches ... if you’re dressing yourself in gold chains, you might want to consider that would make yourself a target. It’s an emerging crime trend we look at. We encourage people to keep their head up, look around. With the price of cellular devices and people with head buried in cell phone; be aware of your surroundings.”
Asked about police numbers and how the city is policed, especially when resources need to be drawn from other divisions at a time of a major event, LeBaron answered, “we’re the Long Beach Police. Depending on what’s happening, we need to adjust resources. If we start moving officers, how’s the rest of the city doing?”
In some instance, mutual aid between jurisdictions is involved. “We partner with other cities on some levels.” As an example, LeBaron pointed out that Long Beach officers assisted Seal Beach police as they responded to the mass killings at Salon Meritage.
LeBaron offered succinct words of advice to eastside residents. “People know their neighborhoods better than anyone; if it doesn’t match, call it in.”