Council Salutes Police Chief Pedersen
Police Chief Don Pedersen
By Lynne Bronstein
A line of uniformed Culver City police officers stood at the left side of the Mike Balkman Council Chambers; another line filled the back of the auditorium. The chamber was also packed with community residents who had come to salute Police Chief Don Pedersen.
At its April 21 meeting, the City Council gave a commendation to Pedersen, who is retiring after serving for eight years. Pedersen has accepted a newly created position as Inspector General with the County of Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.
The Council members each gave a brief talk about their feelings for Pedersen. Andrew Weissman characterized him for his "dedicated service, conscientiousness, and for making the department the envy of every department.....the quality of life in Culver City is directly attributable to the work of the men and women of the Culver City police department."
Jim Clarke recalled attending "The Citizens Police Academy" program, created to educate residents on the various aspects of law enforcement.
"You secured a ride-by for me on a weekend," Clarke remembered. "So I got plenty of action in there. I got to write a parking ticket and recover a stolen car."
On a serious level, Clarke praised Pedersen for making the police department "much better than it was in 1957," the year Clarke came to Culver City. Clarke also threw in kudos for the Culver City Fire Department.
"You survived a coup," was how Mehaul O'Leary described the biggest challenge faced by Pedersen during his tenure. In 2010, Pedersen received a "no-confidence" vote from the Culver City Police Officers Association, who attempted to remove him from office.
A counter-vote for Pederson was made by members of The Los Angeles County Police Chiefs Association (LACPCA) whose statement issued at that time read in part: "Chief Pedersen is known amongst his colleagues as a person of good character and a man of integrity ... Don has consistently demonstrated good judgment, a low-key and friendly demeanor, and a collaborative approach to problem-solving."
The City Council at that time also expressed support for Pedersen when after emerging from a closed session on June 28, then-Mayor Christopher Armenta announced "On behalf of the council, we support the Police Chief's (Pedersen) direction and vision for our police department."
O'Leary praised Pedersen for being able to "bring the department back together" after the ouster attempt failed.
Meghan Sahli-Wells noted that "crime is down" in Culver City (it's down by 30 per cent, Pedersen later confirmed) because of Pedersen's skills in running the department.
"I'll miss our breakfasts," she added.
Jeff Cooper praised Pedersen for "being there" for him as an individual as well as heading the police force.
Pederson reacted with modesty to all these accolades. "It's really been an honor and privilege to have been the police chief of Culver City," he said. But his praise was for his officers: "The men and women of the police department are true professionals. They do a tremendous amount of difficult work and under difficult circumstances. It takes a special person to do this job. When I started 30 years ago it was easier than it is today. Give them a big hand."
And the audience applauded the police force.
The Council also gave a certificate of appreciation to Max Paetzold for his years of service both full and part time with the city's traffic department.
A certificate of appreciation was also awarded to the Culver City Historic Society and the Culver City Cultural Commission for their work in historic preservation. The month of May is to be Historic Preservation month.