By Dana Bartholomew
VAN NUYS — It has served as the hub for law enforcement in the San Fernando Valley for half a century and now serves as a symbol for community renewal.
So the Van Nuys Community Police Station got a rousing 50th birthday bash on Saturday celebrated by Los Angeles police, public officials and the community.
"Fifty years ago, our forefathers said we need to have a home base integral to this city," said Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, standing in front of the station that until recently served as home of the Valley Bureau. "Van Nuys has served as a base of operations ever since.
"We're extremely proud of the work that's done here — and extremely proud of the community that's built here."
Throughout the day, its veterans merged with current officers and residents in its home at the Van Nuys Civic Center. Outside, residents ogled static police displays from its bomb squad to its SWAT team. Inside, they took tours from its basement roll call room to its upstairs jail.
Meanwhile, city officials who recall when Van Nuys served as a safe business and civic center of the Valley said they aim to restore an area now flooded with prostitutes and marijuana stores. But while crime has declined for a decade, more needs to be done.
"Van Nuys can not be, and will not allowed to be, the capital of marijuana dispensaries, with 60 dispensaries alone, as well as human trafficking," said Councilwoman Nury Martinez, a Valley native. "We will (help restore the area) together."
To bring back Van Nuys, they say its residents must get to know its local police and work together.
"It was an ideal suburb and place," said Councilman Paul Krekorian, who also grew up in the Valley. "People wanted to raise their kids. It had the finest schools. People flocked to the Valley. Then it went through some changes.
"But it's coming back, thanks to the great work the police are doing. ... We're bringing the Valley back to a place where people want to be — a better place."
The three-story Van Nuys police station was built to serve as the new Valley Police Headquarters for a booming postwar San Fernando Valley suburb.
Standing in the shadow of its former home at the historic Valley Municipal Building, the then state-of-the-art headquarters for the Valley Division would serve a growing number of police divisions within a modernist lattice of concrete windows.
Built with $5 million of voter approved funds, the station has since served as home to thousands of police, from officers to detectives to commanders.
Three officers from the Valley Division, renamed the Van Nuys Division, also gave the ultimate sacrifice: Officer Sidney Riegel, killed by an ex-con during a robbery in 1961; Officer Roger R. Warren, killed by a 16-year-old sniper in 1967; and Officer Gabriel Delgado Perez-Negron, killed by a speeding car in 1995.
Senior lead officers from Van Nuys station led visitors from the basement roll call room, where digital screens flashed the territories and leaders of local gangs, to the Van Nuys jail, whose more than two dozen cells accepted those arrested.
"No doughnuts," joked Senior Lead Officer Justin Bergmann, outside a police weight room.
Officer Michael Laufer peered from a small window where he dispenses the police shotguns, Tasers, car keys and much of the equipment that composed each 30-pound police belt before each Van Nuys Division shift. His immaculate equipment room, he said, has been rated
No. 1 out of 21 Los Angeles Police Department divisions.
"If we have anything that needs repair," said the mustachioed cop, surveying the neatly stacked piles of police gear, "every morning, it goes straight to the armory."
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McClatchy-Tribune News Service