Los Angeles police officer Deon Joseph patrols one of the toughest places in the U.S.: Skid Row, a 50-block concentration of drug dealers, gangs, chronically homeless and the mentally ill, and the shelters and clinics in downtown Los Angeles that serve them, says the Los Angeles Times. “About 2,500 people on probation for violent crimes or narcotics crimes. Registered sex offenders, which can range from 500 to 700 individuals concentrated in here because there are no services anywhere else,” Joseph says.
Everyone on the battered sidewalks knows him. He’s been the senior lead officer for 17 years. Marcus Butler, security director at the Midnight Mission, one of the largest Skid Row shelters, says Joseph is that rare cop here who’s earned deep trust and respect within the neighborhood. “When you see Deon Joseph in this police uniform and he’s a black policeman and he’s all muscles and big. But that’s not what you get. You get a person that cares, that asks what he can do to help,” Butler says. This is a big deal. Skid Row’s number of mentally ill has swelled to near historic highs. It’s estimated that at least a third of the 3,500 people living on the street have a mental illness or are disabled.