Police Chief Eve Irvine stops her stroll down Manhattan Beach Boulevard and points to the scene of the notorious crime. “Right there,” Irvine says. “That's where I saw her lying in the middle of the street in her own vomit.”
It was July 2011, the weekend of the annual Six-Man Volleyball Tournament. Over the last few years, the once-sedate event featuring athletes in funny costumes had morphed into a giant beach party that drew players — and partiers — from all over the country, turning high-tone Manhattan Beach into a frothy frat house of out-of-control drinking, public sexual activity and all-night noise, fights and general rowdiness. It drove longtime residents crazy.
The outcry was so loud that police promised to increase patrols and drop the look-the-other-way tolerance they'd practiced in the past. The city's new chief — on the job for less than two months — would prove no exception.
Irvine, 49, recalls, “When I went over to her, she urinated in the street. She looked up at me, sobbed loudly, and said, 'Oh, you're the chief? I'm so sorry.' “
“I personally made the arrest,” Irvine says proudly.
That simple misdemeanor arrest for public drunkenness found its way into the city's three local newspapers and became the public's introduction to the new chief — a 5-foot-3, 115-pound dynamo.
Irvine would still have to answer the comment she's heard throughout her 30-year law enforcement career: “You don't look like a police officer.” But instead of being known solely as Manhattan Beach's first female chief (and only the fourth in all of L.A. County history), the incident rebranded her as someone who was willing to get down in the trenches with her troops.
After all Irvine had been through in nearly 30 years with the Inglewood Police Department, arresting a 26-year-old drunk was easy. Starting out as a police cadet in 1982, she worked her way up through the ranks to become a captain in 2003.
Along the way she worked undercover, posing as a prostitute — leading to guffaws when some officers not in on the sting stopped and questioned her on Imperial Avenue.
“The guys in the van were laughing so loud they couldn't hear me telling them to call the officers off,” Irvine recalls.
Another she's-all-right milestone came when Irvine and her male partner stopped a naked man high on PCP. The man knocked her partner's glasses off, putting him out of action, so Irvine took him on alone and got socked in the face.
“When I got punched, I remember thinking 'Already?' ” she says.
In 2011 Manhattan Beach picked Irvine as its chief out of more than 80 applicants. She gladly left the mean streets of Inglewood for the meandering ones of Manhattan Beach.
After pointing out the scene of her reputation-making arrest, Irvine continues her walk down Manhattan Beach Boulevard. It's such an impossibly perfect, sunny day, with the deep blue Pacific Ocean and the Manhattan Beach pier just a few yards away, that she's inspired to offer a personal confession.
“I'm just an Italian-Jewish girl from Long Island,” she says. “Every day I have to pinch myself to make sure I'm really the police chief here.”