Santa Monica Lookout
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Orchestrating the Downtown Santa Monica Beat

Frank Gruber for City Council





Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pico Business Improvement District
7th Annual Pico Festival
Sunday, October 28th

By Jorge Casuso

October 31, 2012 -- It is a perfect summer’s day on the Promenade. While a heat wave grips the Los Angeles region, a cool breeze is blowing in from the ocean just a few blocks away.

Lt. David Hunscke, the officer in charge of policing Downtown, stands near a corner of the popular strip and watches the weekday afternoon crowd. A young man stops to ask if he can light up a cigarette (he can’t), and a passerby slows to offer the officer a greeting and a smile.

“I like the feel of it,” says Hunscke. “It just has a life to it. You see older people, younger people, tourists. People come to enjoy themselves and have a good time. People want to be here, and that’s awesome.”

Hunscke, who took over the beat on August 7, is in charge of the eight officers who patrol the Downtown on bikes, in squad cars and on foot, after newly installed Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks added three full-time officers.

Hunscke monitors merchant’s complaints, pores over monthly logs of traffic collisions and speaks with Downtown stakeholders to plan his strategy to help make Downtown safe and inviting.

Sometimes that requires sending officers with decibel readers to make sure street performers are not too loud or increasing traffic enforcement to curb accidents or deploying undercover officers to nab shoplifters.

“We’re big enough to have these special units and small enough to reach out,” says Hunscke. “I can pick up the phone and call my traffic lieutenant, and he can send high-visibility enforcement for pedestrian safety.”

Policing one of the nation’s most successful destinations is a challenging job that requires a flexible strategy and the ability to boost the number of officers needed to handle the often-swelling crowds.

“Holidays determine deployment, or when school lets out or goes back in,” Hunske says. “Traffic and parking and the congestion all add a little tweak to everything.”

Born in Sandusky, Ohio, a quaint town of 25,000 on the shores of Lake Erie, Hunscke always knew he wanted to be a cop.

“It’s in your blood,” he says, noting that no one else in his family is in law enforcement. “In sixth grade, I knew. It’s something you just know.”

Hunscke set out to follow a path that would lead to his goal. He joined the Marines, where he picked up the experience he would need to become an officer, and ended up in Camp Pendleton near San Diego. Two weeks after completing his duty, he was in Santa Monica wearing a police officer’s uniform.

“I decided where I wanted to go, and I landed here,” he says.

During his 22 years on the force, Hunscke has worked as a patrol officer, been a member of the Crime Impact Team and Vice Unit, worked intelligence investigations and managed the jail. “There’s never a day you don’t learn something,” he says.

Despite being a successful model for modern outdoor strips, the Promenade reminds Hunscke of the old main street in Sandusky where his grandmother would take him on weekends.

“It had storefronts like this,” says Hunscke, pointing at the century-old buildings that line the popular strip. “It wasn’t until I got older that they built the mall.”

Hunscke has never shed his small town upbringing. “It’s a little faster pace than I would like,” he says of Santa Monica. “I’m used to a small town, but how do you throttle back?”

Then the Ohio native, who can still recall trudging to school in the snow, looks up at the blue sky with a single cloud sailing above.

“This is great,” he says smiling. “You’ve got clouds today. That’s so you know it’s real.”

Sgt. Hunscke can be reached at 310-458-8418 or by email at

To contact Jeffrey Glaser, the Neighborhood Resource Officer for the Downtown, call 424-200-0683.

The Community Relations Unit can be contacted at 310-458-8474, and Sgt. Sal Lucio, who supervises the Bike Unit in the area, can be reached at 310-458-8445.

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