Officer Deon Joseph is a law enforcement consultant who has worked for the LAPD for over 24 years, twenty-two of those years in downtown Los Angeles’ Skid Row community. From patrolling the streets or providing a shoulder for the community to lean on to meeting with public figures and advocating for change, Deon is driven to create an environment conducive to change for the homeless and those trying to reclaim their lives from the grip of addiction. He is an honest, faithful, passionate and caring man – traits he pours into his daily life and activities.
For the past ten years, Deon has served as Senior Lead Officer in charge of safety of the people that live on Skid Row. Deon was able to help change the culture of Skid Row along with his fellow officers, via a grassroots approach as opposed to handcuffs. Over time, Deon discovered that he could not simply make arrests with any hopes of making lasting changes on Skid Row. Coupled with reducing crime in Skid Row, Deon helped build a better relationship between the LAPD and the homeless population they serve. Deon is considered a subject matter expert on Skid Row crime and culture and has been sought out by multiple news organizations, filmmakers, and politicians to speak on issues related to Skid Row.
To accomplish changes to the culture of Skid Row, Deon collaborated with the community to develop programs such as the “Just Like U” Mentor program, which began in 2006 at the Union Rescue Mission. The program was designed to motivate kids living in poverty to see themselves beyond their negative circumstance by placing mentors in front of them who have become successful, but whose lives mirrored the lives of the children.
In 2008, Deon created an education safety and self-defense seminar focused on the women of Skid Row called “Ladies Night.” The goal of this program was to ensure that the women of Skid Row understood that no matter their race, criminal background or socioeconomic status, they had a fundamental right to report domestic violence and sexual abuse committed against them, and they would not be penalized for doing so.
In 2009, Deon began an outreach program with seven other officers that included passing out hygiene kits, as well as drug, housing, and job program information to the homeless to guide them away from the streets and into area programs. Working with housing programs within and outside of Skid Row, Deon was able to help house over 100 homeless people over eight years who were truly ready to take a chance and change their lives for the better. Deon along with his fellow officers were responsible for a 40% reduction in overall crime in Skid Row, and a 32% reduction in death from 2005 to 2009.
Deon, with the help of the Skid Row community, has aggressively focused crime-fighting efforts on drug dealers who are not homeless and come down to Skid Row to sell drugs and alcohol inside and outside of the drug programs.
Deon goes beyond policing the community of Skid Row, he has become a part of it, establishing relationships with a community that most believed would be impossible to do. Deon is proud to be able to show love to the people of Skid Row from an unexpected place. “I just want to be a strong voice in ending homelessness, saving women from being victimized and changing the negative culture and perception of police in the community,” he remarks. Although Deon does not engage in his efforts for accolades, he has been honored citywide and nationally for his work.
Deon’s selflessness was instilled in him by his heroes, his parents. His parents dedicated their lives to helping others whether they were homeless, abused children or anyone else who needed support. Embracing the early examples and life lessons of his parents, Deon personifies a legacy of community outreach and support that he hopes his own three sons will pass onto the world.