Peter Torres, City Council District 9
This is a partial transcript of Peter Torres interview with the L.A. Weeklys editorial board. As with all of the candidate interviews, it has been only lightly edited and has not been fact-checked. L.A. WEEKLY: Youre challenging Jan Perry. Are you currently an LAPD officer? PETER TORRES: I am, yes. L.A. WEEKLY: Why are you running against Jan Perry in this race? PETER TORRES: Im running for City Council for the 9th District basically for the same reason I became a Los Angeles police officer. To serve the community where Ive lived my whole life. The area of Newton Division, which is the center of the 9th District. When I tell people that, They say thats good, cause Jan Perry hasnt done anything. If she hadnt done anything, I probably wouldnt be running. Its because of things that she has done is why I am running. L.A. WEEKLY: Could you give me a quick rundown? PETER TORRES: The city of Los Angeles has a big problem with homelessness. Typically, in the downtown area of Skid Row. Shes transferred the problem of the homeless to south Los Angeles. She not once notified the neighborhood council. She did not once notify the schools in the area. She did not once notify the residents in that community. Were creating a new Skid Row in South L. A. My property crimes are up. My burglaries at 3:00 in the morning are up. My residential burglaries at 2:00 in the afternoon are up since people are not home. Kids walk through this neighborhood. Nine out of ten of them have been arrested. Its not women and children who are seeking shelter; its people who are addicted to crack cocaine. L.A. WEEKLY: Why do you believe she moved the homeless from one area to another? PETER TORRES: There are a lot of people pouring billions of dollars into downtown. Im all for that. But, shes ignoring 90 percent of her residents who live south of the 10 Freeway. People who voted for her. Those are the people shes supposed to represent. Shes not representing the interests of any of them. Developers are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into that area. Thats why shes doing it. L.A. WEEKLY: What else has she done to the district? PETER TORRES: The 9th District has the highest amount of crime for 2004 and 2003 and yet we had the least amount of resources. Its not only putting peoples lives in danger to live there, but as police officers its also - Last February 20, I was the first officer to find an officer down. L.A. WEEKLY: Who was that? PETER TORRES: Ricardo Lizarraga. He responded to a radio call. He was overwhelmed with calls and so the next thing - L.A. WEEKLY: Newton is no longer down, is it? PETER TORRES: Its still down compared to Devonshire. The mayor needs more police; otherwise voters are not going to reelect him. Perry knows all these facts but not once did you ever hear her tell the mayor who shes allied with, or the chief, that she demand more police. Not once. I addressed my captains, my captain says - so people know this. Im the only LAPD officer who lives and works in south L.A. Um, a lot of ... L.A. WEEKLY: Is that right? PETER TORRES: Im the only ... L.A. WEEKLY: In all of the LAPD? PETER TORRES: In all of LAPD. I remember when I was about 21 I said I would never be an LAPD officer, growing up in south L. A. I never knew that there was such a title as senior lead officer. I want to help John Doe. And here I am now. L.A. WEEKLY: Have you served your entire career here? PETER TORRES: Eight years. L.A. WEEKLY: What else has Jan Perry done? PETER TORRES: I cross to go north on Washington from Figueroa and not only are the lights so much brighter but bus stops have their own lights on every bus stop. And Im thinking, well the time is a lot less than it is south of Washington. So, why are there lights here on bus stops downtown but there are no lights for bus stops in south L. A. The streetlights are dimmer. It doesnt make sense. Four years ago, we had the highest amount of teenage pregnancies in all of California. We cannot disregard this. We need to have child care centers so that they can finish high school, go to junior college and get a job so that they can provide for their children. We have three high schools in the 9th District. Jefferson, Fremont and Manual Arts. Those three are among the lowest-performing high schools, not only in L. A. Unified, but also in California. Just how she can raise $350,000 with limits and not tax deductible in eight, nine weeks? Well, you know what? I will build a study hall a one-block radius from each high school because Ive been to thousands of homes - The neighbors are blasting their boom boxes - Theres no place to study. Its so challenging. Theres no libraries in there and one or two in the whole district. So what Id like to do is build a study hall with Internet computers. A small classroom setting where we could hire maybe some students who live in that area or maybe students at USC or Trade Tech. They can tutor some of these kids. There are a lot of children there who want to succeed. A lot of people see the community - that kids are dropouts, and parents dont care. Thats not true. These people have so many challenges. So these are things I want to do. I want to bring better police protection. I want to help reduce crime. I think its more important that we save lives. L.A. WEEKLY: Do you support increased commercial development or market rate housing in the district? What about south of Washington? PETER TORRES: You mentioned affordable housing. 90011 is the biggest area of the ninth district. The average household income is $220,000. The average house in L. A. County last year was $435,000 so the homes are affordable. 90011 was even actually lower than any county average. So, the homes are affordable but the people there dont have the 20 percent down for these houses. Id like to see the city help them prequalify them. Lets give them like zero percent interest - Lets get businesses some reasonable small business loan so they can fix their businesses. Lets make them more attractive, move inviting for people to shop there as it is south of the 10 Freeway. It needs the bus lanes center. People are attracted to that when they go out at nighttime. We have that already in south L. A. You go down Broadway and San Pedro and all the major corridors at night. Theyre bustling with people. L.A. WEEKLY: But havent you heard that people dont feel safe out there? PETER TORRES: Thats true. L.A. WEEKLY: And isnt it also true that the activities those people are involved in are not the type of activities that the community wants to have going on? PETER TORRES: Right. Thats why we need the best-qualified person for this spot. Im much better qualified in reducing violent crime in the 9th District than Jan Perry. Shes never lived there. She came to California when she was 21. Ive lived here my whole life. I know every street. I know every alley. I know people; I know all the preschool and the churches. Im a police officer. Im very aware of what the crime trends are. We need to really bring the violence in that community down. Im on the 14th schedule and I am given the responsibility of basically having my days - as long as you go ten straight hours, four days a week. You can determine those days. L.A. WEEKLY: Is that because youre a senior lead officer? PETER TORRES: Its because Im a senior lead officer. L.A. WEEKLY: Are there any childhood experiences that you can recall that sparked this commitment you have to your community and the police department? PETER TORRES: I dont know. I have five brothers and three sisters and Im the only person whos actually gone - I love what I do. I work hard at what I do. I truly believe that no actions, thoughts or work goes unnoticed in the community. Everything you say, do and think impacts the community. L.A. WEEKLY: Who taught you that? PETER TORRES: I have believed that for a long time. L.A. WEEKLY: Was it a teacher or a parent? PETER TORRES: I was brought up in Catholic school for 12 years. My father would bring guys off the street, guys who were drunk, and give them a shower. He would let them stay in the garage for a few days. Feed them and try to give them some help. I think that might have influenced me. My own curiosity has taken me to places. But all that taught me is that everything out there is all in here. When I talk to gang members and say, Doesnt your mom live here? Dont you want them to live in a nice neighborhood? Oh, of course. Then help me help you make this a better neighborhood. And you know what? Simple words like that can go along way. Cause for the first time someone is actually talking to them, and not beating something into them. Now, they have a tremendous amount of respect for Officer Torres because they know that hes not kidding. Hes actually here to help. Dont get me wrong. If I catch one of these guys doing something, I arrest them and they go to jail. Even in the neighborhood, respect will go a long way. If they know that youre from the neighborhood, they have a lot of respect. L.A. WEEKLY: Why do you want to be city councilman if the LAPD needs you? PETER TORRES: I dont want to be a commander. My whole goal is to those kids. So, when I see someone doing harm to the community whether it is a gang or a representative, then I do what I need to do to stop it. She is doing a disservice to that community - L.A. WEEKLY: Dont you think Bratton would want you to be groomed as commanding officer? PETER TORRES: Someone told me that Bratton told him that the last man we need is another cop on City Council. L.A. WEEKLY: He might be smart to keep you on the force. How many shootings have you been involved with in your career? PETER TORRES: Ive never shot anyone. L.A. WEEKLY: Have you been shot at? PETER TORRES: Ive been shot at. L.A. WEEKLY: Have you ever been hit? PETER TORRES: Never been hit. L.A. WEEKLY: How many times have you run for this office? PETER TORRES: I ran for this office eight years ago when no one ran for office. I ran because initially no one ran. This place is devoid of leadership. In fact, Rita Walters had to sue the city of Los Angeles to run for that seat because she said that she had never lived in the 9th District but as a school board member she represented part of the 9th District. And that should allow her to run for office. The state gave her that right, which I disagree with. There was really nobody else running. So, I thought, you know what? Im 29 years old. I looked around for leadership since I was in my early 20s. I always looked around for someone I can put my full support behind. After ten years, I stopped looking. There was nobody. Im the only person who can truly represent that community and protect it. L.A. WEEKLY: What can you tell us about Eddie Reyes? PETER TORRES: Ive met him a few times. Hes 29 years old. Hes a teacher and I think one day he might make a great school board member. He wouldnt be a good city council member for this district at this time. Im the perfect candidate. I think he has a lot of big credentials. I dont know exactly how long hes lived here or hes lived there but any young man who graduates from Berkeley and gets his masters in education is commendable. L.A. WEEKLY: How do you get along with Perry? PETER TORRES: Ive known her for some time. Im very professional with her. She knows me by name. Shes been in my home before. L.A. WEEKLY: What brought her to your home? PETER TORRES: I had an apartment on 10th and Towne for a few years and she said she lived there and I - when she was there she would come in. Oh, hi, Peter, and - L.A. WEEKLY: She lived there? PETER TORRES: Thats where she said she lived. L.A. WEEKLY: Did you get the feeling she wanted to work with you or that you were a thorn in her side? PETER TORRES: Well put it this way. To anyone wholl listen, she tells them bad things about me. L.A. WEEKLY: What would she say? PETER TORRES: She says that Im racist. L.A. WEEKLY: In what way? PETER TORRES: She says Im against blacks. She says Im going door-to-door telling people to not vote for Jan Perry. I dont even mention her name when I go door to door. Our strategy is dont mention names, and just identify the problems and say how we can address these problems. Period. L.A. WEEKLY: How do you think blacks and Latinos get along in the community? PETER TORRES: I think its better than it is bad. Um ... L.A. WEEKLY: Do these tensions exist and what do they derive from? PETER TORRES: They exist. Its not a big problem. Black and Hispanics in South L.A. are going at it. Not in the 9th District. Not in the high schools. Mainly because the three high schools are about 97 percent Hispanic. Theres very few young blacks 18 and under in the 9th District. And they pretty much get along. L.A. WEEKLY: Then what does she gain by playing the race card? PETER TORRES: She thinks that perhaps some of the black voters are going to vote for me. So shes turned it around by scaring them and saying, Dont vote for him because hes not for you. She doesnt know because shes never lived south of the 10 Freeway. She lived across the street from a busy concert hall, the very corner of the 9th District. She goes from Disney Concert Hall to City Hall. I have to go back and forth. Rarely does she come south of the 10 Freeway. She spends all her time at the Staples Center and all these different areas. When people do bad things I dont waste my time and energy trying to figure out why do they do it. L.A. WEEKLY: What would you do with the homeless problem in Skid Row? PETER TORRES: We need to look at whats going on with the homeless issue. I think it should be a county problem. In the same way, county jail releases a lot of people on a daily basis. A lot of these are homeless, and just end up going down to Skid Row. L.A. WEEKLY: Right to Skid Row? PETER TORRES: Right. This is not the 9th Districts sole responsibility. Its the citys responsibility and its the countys responsibility because Burbank, Glendale and all these different cities that are arresting people, theyre sending them to county jail and its all coming here and theyre all staying here. One idea is if somebody gets released who was arrested by Burbank then maybe we give him or her a packet voucher. We take them back somewhere to Burbank. Maybe Burbank has a homeless shelter. Lets do that. L.A. WEEKLY: Anything else? PETER TORRES: I plan to live in the worst neighborhood to bring it up. Thats what it takes, and its a huge responsibility. I have identified the problems and I know the solutions. I love what I do. I love serving these people. After all these years, I still have the drive. But Ill tell you that every officer who came on this job truly cares for the society. And a lot of them after awhile are very burned out because of peer pressure. Everyone came on this job for that idealism. You got to go out there and serve, and treat people with respect.
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