La Verne Magazine
Winter 2001

From Pen to Badge

by Alisha Rosas
photography by Denisse Villalba

Preparing himself for his 12-hour shift patrolling the streets of La Verne from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., Ramzi Rabadi says he utilizes the skills he learned in journalism with his new chosen career in law enforcement.

His eyes stay focused on the car up ahead. The vehicle straddles over the painted lines on the street, weaving in between the lanes. The car's lights are not on, a sign that the driver may be drunk and forgot to turn them on. Quickly, red and blue lights flash as Ramzi Rabadi, La Verne Police Department officer, pulls the car over.

The driver's eyes are nervous in the rear-view mirror. Rabadi walks to the driver's side window and motions for it to be rolled down; in a moment, the pungent smell of alcohol escapes through the window opening, and it is clear that the driver should not have been on the road.

Rabadi, who once pursued a future in journalism, graduated in 1998 from the University of La Verne. He now patrols the nights of La Verne and determines the fates of many such drivers. The Pasadena resident has been working for LVPD for a little more than a year now and cannot imagine doing anything else but patrolling the streets of La Verne despite his training and experience in the media world. "When I got out of school, I found out that journalism was not what I wanted to do," says Rabadi. "It was hard to find a job, and I didn't enjoy it. I enjoyed it during school, but I could not see myself doing it afterward."

As the summer of 1998 passed, Rabadi decided to follow the advice of fellow family members involved in law enforcement and went on ride-alongs with officers. "I enjoyed it," he says. "I knew that it was the job for me." The LVPD hired him shortly after as a reserve officer. With experience in the Department being his only form of pay at the time, Rabadi enrolled in the Los Angeles Sheriff's Academy that August and found himself learning about shooting techniques, self-defense and mind-game tactics over a period of six months. Shortly after, he completed another six-month academy to be able to apply as a full-time police officer with the Department. During that duration, he was also pursuing his master's degree at ULV in public administration. "I want to stay ahead of everyone else in law enforcement," he says. "I definitely want to move up, hopefully someday be chief. I'm just taking it one step at a time right now."

Although he describes himself as aggressive, it is hard to imagine the 26-year-old with the dark eyes and a friendly smile anything but gentle. "I look for stuff out there. With my training as an officer, I see things that the average citizen won't see," he says.

Rabadi believes that education is essential to be a good officer. In fact, he says that his communication skills have helped him in his chosen career. "You need the good ear, he explains. "That's where my journalism major has helped me out. I just let them talk and hear what they have to say. I do it with everyone I deal with, victims, suspects and regular citizens."

Working three 12-hour graveyard shifts a week, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., is something Rabadi does not complain about. Arriving to work early to work out before his night begins is something he enjoys on a regular basis. Nelly, his mother, however, worries about her son. "She worries a lot," he says, smiling, "even more when I work nights because I leave, and I do not get back until the next morning. But my family knows that this job makes me happy, and that this is what I want to do."

The transition of being a journalism major to a police officer is an obvious one. Rabadi seems to take the transition in a laid-back manner. "I'm scared of guns in the wrong hands," he admits. "And of getting hurt or injured. A lot of times you have to ask yourself if it's worth it."

Pulling drunk drivers over may seem worth it. Riding as a secondary patrol car in a high-chase pursuit seems to also convince him. "I always go for it," he says, "but later, it's like, 'Oh, my God.' You realize afterward the things you did that put your life in danger."

Rabadi says that La Verne has a problem with drunk drivers, crime and other community concerns, just like any other city. He says it bothers him when people believe that since the city has such a low-crime rate, that the police officers do nothing. "It they think we are not doing anything, you cannot argue with a person like that," he says. "I don't want to say that they are ignorant, but there's so much that we do. Even my own family thinks that nothing happens in La Verne, and that the city stops at Foothill. But we have our small gangs. We get a little bit of everything. Just name it, and we've had it. Nobody sees it because it happens at two in the morning, and it won't be on the front page of a newspaper the next day, but we get it all the time."

According to a web site for Mother's Against Drunk Driving, "More Americans have died in alcohol-related traffic crashes than in all the wars the United States has been involved in since our country was founded." Such tragedies may be a reason why Rabadi holds little empathy toward those driving under the influence. "There are certain times that stick out on Foothill Boulevard mostly," he says, "usually between 12:20 a.m. and 2:30 a.m."

He says that after noticing a suspicious vehicle on the road and pulling the driver over, he will call for back up from another officer before field testing the driver's coordination skills or blood alcohol level. "It's sad because you can't really believe that the person was out there on the road," he says. "I've had guys stumble, trying to pick up their legs, or guys that can't even understand instructions to count to 30. For some officers, [drunk driving] is their pet peeve. It bothers me, but I just try to do my job. You do not give warnings to people who are drunk driving."

Some images of Rabadi's time on the force have stayed with him this past year. "I've had a baby die in front of me," he says, explaining how the baby had drowned. "I was in training then and seeing a baby blue will always stay with me. It's the same with people getting injured, stabbed. Seeing blood will always stay with you."

Perhaps the reason Rabadi is able to find joy in his unpredictable working situation revolves around his ability to leave his job at the Department when his shift is over. "When I'm off work, I'm not a police officer," he says.

"That's how you keep yourself healthy. I can't be a police officer 24-hours a day. I'm Ramzi, just a regular person, just a regular Joe."