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Remembering LAPD Deputy Chief Kenneth Garner – UPDATED

March 1st, 2009 by Celeste Fremon


UPDATE: Details regarding the services for Chief Garner may be found at the end of the post.


LAPD’s Deputy Chief Kenneth Garner collapsed
and died Sunday in his home. He was 53. Garner was the second highest ranking Black officer in the LAPD. (Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger ranks the highest.) It is, as yet, unclear what caused Garner’s death, although friends suspect a heart attack.

His death is a shock and loss to both the department and the various communities he policed in his nearly 32 years of wearing the badge of the Los Angeles Police Department.

When Deputy Chief Kenneth Garner took over as the head of South Bureau of the LAPD in March of 2008, it meant that he was suddenly in charge of policing one of the most complicated, vibrant, but too often dangerous pieces of real estate in America.

Yet Garner grew up in the South L.A. neighborhood he came to command, and he embraced the challenge of doing all he could for its residents.

I met and observed Garner in several contexts during his year on the job, and noticed that he quickly gained respect in areas of town that were not generally predisposed to feel warm and cozy toward the police.

Garner was a “beacon of reform and change within the LAPD,” Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, told the City News Service.

“He’s one of a handful of Blacks at the L.A.P.D. that I credit with helping change my perspective on the police department,” writes Jasmyne Cannick on her blog. (That’s Cannick in the snap with Garner below) “It’s a sad day for Los Angeles.”

The respect from Hutchinson, Cannick and others was granted for good reason. Garner made a point of reaching beyond the classic role of policing to think of new and creative ways that law enforcement could better protect and serve. He made a point of showing up frequently at the community forums that the Roundtable holds every week.

And last year Garner came up with an idea called The Urban Assistance Initiative, that was designed to help people who were coming out of prison transition to a legal and productive life. This voluntary parolee reentry program, which was launched this past January with the help of some community-based organizations in the Crenshaw area, is to help with employment, life skills training and educational opportunities, as well as such basics as clothing, housing, substance abuse treatment and long-term psychological family counseling.

Both growing up and during his experience as a police officer, Garner had seen too many men and women get stuck in the revolving door of repeated incarceration, and hoped the initiative would pioneer a replicable model that would help the thousands who are paroled into LA’s communities every year (making Los Angeles home to the largest parolee population in the nation) get off the recidivism merry go round and into productive lives.

“This program is not designed for powder puffs or a lot of white-collar criminals but it is for hard core criminals, because we could fill it with white-collar offenders and have a huge success rate but the problem in our community would go unsolved,” Garner said when explaining the planned reentry program. “We have to develop a way to help young people stop committing these crimes and going to prison because they ultimately lose and their communities lose their potential.”

Read that paragraph again. It gives an excellent clue as to how much Los Angeles lost in losing the potential of Kenny Garner.

“I’m talking about a man who was loved, a commanding officer who was loved by his officers,” said Sergeant Ronnie Cato. “We called him Kenny G. His concept, his ideology was people first. He was able to balance people and their needs—putting people first and still fighting crime. We’ve lost one of our best.”

Sergeant Samuel Mark, who works in the South Traffic division told me the same thing on Sunday night.

“Everybody was overjoyed when he became Deputy Chief,” Mark said. “They loved him. He treated everybody like they were his equal, no matter their rank. He was a sweetheart of a man. Everybody’s in shock. Just in shock.”



Viewing: Sunday, March 8th 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.. Crenshaw Christian Center – Faith Dome
7901 South Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA

Memorial Service: Monday, March 9th, 10:00 a.m.. Crenshaw Christian Center – Faith Dome

Internment: Immediately following the Memorial Service Rose Hills Cemetery, 3888 Workman Mill Road Whittier, CA

Posted in LAPD, Obits | 17 Comments »

17 Responses

  1. R. M. Jones Says:

    I am devastated to hear about the passing of my precious cousin, Deputy Chief Kenneth O. Garner. I thank God for his life, and the footprints that he left in his community, as well as in the hearts of all who knew and loved him!

    I pray that the seeds he planted, in the lives of those whom he touched, will take root and grow to the utmost…continuing to carry on his awesome legacy!

    My prayers for comfort and peace to his daughter Lauren and his parents.

  2. Sergeant Stephany Payne LAPD Says:

    I lost my friend yesterday. I have known him for 30 years, he encouraged me to join the Department. His love for the community was huge and so was his heart. He will be missed by all. Kenny was always a phone call away, not only for me but for anyone.

    My love and prayers go to his daughter Lauren, his parents and his girlfriend, and my Soror, Luwanna. There will always be a void in their life as well as mine.

    I Love You Kenny Rest In Peace.

  3. Ingrid (Evans) Spasser Says:

    My prayers go out the family of Deputy Chief Kenneth Garner, this a tremendous loss to the LAPD family and especially to the community. We both grew up in the same community and met for the first time when he first joined the LAPD my husband at that time was on the LAPD. He will be missed by everyone who knew him. Rest in Peace.

  4. Sharon Summerise-Brown Says:

    My prayers are with Deputy Chief Garner’s family and with my OSB family. As a former civilian employee of the LAPD Operations South Bureau, he will personally be missed greatly. Although I have been gone for over a year, but I pay a personal visit to the OSB family very frequently, because my life was touched so deeply by that department. It is an extended family that I will always cherish and proud to be apart of. Deputy Chief Garner is one the most modest, worthy, humble, and gifted leaders I have been blessed to know. Rest In Peace Chief.

  5. Janet Says:

    God Bless Deputy Chief Kenny Garner. When you spoke to Kenny you didn’t see a color. He was a wonderful human being who cared about people especially youth. He was loved not only by community people in the South but people in the Valley at Foothill Division where he was for a time Captain of that division. I remember receiving tons of e-mails when he got transferred out. Kenny had the smile of an angel. He is the one who should be credited with bringing in more recruits to LAPD to help reach their goal of 10,000. No doubt the LAPD family is in mourning but also communities all over Los Angeles where he worked are mourning as well. We will truly miss seeing Kenny at meetings and that smile of his. Lord may he rest in peace

  6. Ana Rodriguez Says:

    Kenny was a good friend of mines of 21 years, he was alway there for anyone that needed him, he was gentle and kind, he loved working in the community, and he was always available for any given situation. Whenever kenneth said ” Let me make a couple of phone call ” that meant ” Action ” i enjoyed his friendship and he will be greatly missed, to his family and friends, my condolences and to the LAPD Department, rejoice knowing he is resting now, to lauren a sweet angel that i have known since a baby, be strong and of good courage, he is embracing his new life now, and may god strengthen you and your grandparent during this most difficult time. love ana

  7. Ana Rodriguez Says:


  8. Lynnette Says:

    LAPD (and City of Los Angeles) has undoubtly lost one of it’s “very” finest. I recently saw him walking in the MLK parade and he/we both waved in acknowlegement. I knew him as Ofcr. Garner at Wilshire Division and he exemplified all that was good not only as an officer but as a person. I knew he would move up the ranks and LAPD, consider it an honor and a priviledge to have had him as one of your own. May the prayers of many and God’s Peace bring comfort to the family, friends, fellow commarades and the City of Los Angeles.

  9. Charles A. Howard Says:

    Kenny G. you were the son I never had. Miss you

  10. Crystal Says:

    Kenny, I will miss you more than you will ever know. You were a blessing in my life.

  11. anna maria Says:

    I will miss you and I will always remember the great times we had together.You have given me memories that I will never ever forget. You were the best!

  12. Donna Says:

    Kenny, my friend…are time spent together will never, ever be forgotten. Love you always!

  13. Layton McGrady Says:

    I met Kenny when we were in the FBI National Academy ten years ago. He is on the front cover of American Police Beat this month. In the photo he has a serious look on his face. When I first looked at the photo, I didn’t realize it was Kenny, I only remember him smiling. It was a shock to hear of his death and he will be missed.

  14. james stout Says:

    Kenny what can I say, we did the lapd bench press contest together, u were always there for me. When u made capt and came to std we were all so happy, we knew u would treat all the motors like men and woman and be fair to us all, I miss u so much, c u in heaven chief love u so much

  15. » Blog Archive » Social Justice Shorts Says:

    [...] speaking of the LAPD, today is the service for Deputy Chief Kenny Garner—which makes it a sad, sad [...]

  16. Ana Rodriguez Says:

    Still thinking of you, missing you…

  17. » Blog Archive » LAPD and the LA Times Discover Parole Reform Says:

    [...] this program and that Jackson is putting it into action. (I even mentioned it glowingly in the remembrance I wrote about Chief Garner.) Both men’s hearts are/were in the right place. Kyle Jackson has a son who is locked up, so [...]

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