LBPD Lt. Jim Foster holds up a graduation invitation he received from Long Beach resident Tiffany Hall. Photo by Stephanie Rivera.
It had been nearly a decade since police Lt. Jim Foster had seen Tiffany Hall, who was suffering from substance abuse throughout their many encounters in the streets of Long Beach, but on Wednesday morning the two were able to cross paths once again—this time under much happier circumstances.
“I’m here because I want to thank Lt. Foster for his respect and his compassion and the empathy that he showed to me and anyone he came in contact with,” Hall, a Long Beach resident, said during a press conference at the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) headquarters downtown.
Hall said each time she encountered the officer of over 17 years he would always encourage her to turn her life around, telling her she could do better, to try to go to school, to stop what she was doing.
“I would listen to him and I would pay attention to what he was saying but the substance abuse had more power over me than what he was saying, but what he was saying to me was right,” Hall said. “So in 2009, when I got arrested the last time, I was in a cell and I thought about everything Lt. Foster used to say to me and I made a decision right then and there and I surrendered. And when I surrendered I didn’t look back, I kept moving forward.”
Now Hall is scheduled to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Cal State Dominguez Hills next month—and surprised Foster with an invitation to attend.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Foster said.
He said yes!… to attend her college graduation years after she was continuously arrested by him in the streets of Long Beach. Now Lt. Foster’s encouragement has paid off for Tiffany Hall. Story to come. pic.twitter.com/BDmWj8QcHN
— Stephanie Rivera (@StephRivera88) April 18, 2018
The third generation Long Beach policeman said he remembered Hall as full of sass and energy and with a larger-than-life personality.
“I met Tiffany in some of the toughest parts of this city, areas at the time that were having problems with drugs and gangs and all the things that seem to plague big cities, but she was a unique spirit,” Hall said. “A lot of personality, a lot of humor, not afraid to come up to you and tell it like it is. What I learned quickly about Tiffany was that she had a tough outer shell but a very soft inner person.”
Being a seasoned officer and having experienced many interactions with people in similar positions, Foster also knew she had potential.
“Over time and experience you get a good feel for those who want help, have a future, understand a path and those who just have no interest whatsoever,” Hall said. “Tiffany from day one was someone who wanted to engage, have communication with police, but it took time to get her to a position where she can see it herself.”
Now Hall, who once was a product of her drug infested environment, plans to go to grad school and become a social worker to help others the way she was helped.
“I was shown compassion and empathy and most of all respect,” Hall said. “He showed me respect, all the while I was doing what I was doing, he showed me respect. He treated me like I was human and not like I was nobody and I thank you for that and I got a lot of respect for you.”
Foster said the stories his father told at the dinner table helped guide him as an officer, including to be tough on crime but kind to people—which could be seen in one particular encounter with Hall that she remembered.
Hall said one of her run-ins with Foster was on her birthday and after going around the corner passing her the first time he appeared before her once again.
“He came back and I was standing out there and he got out of the car and he was doing his little dance, [singing] happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday to you,’” Hall recounted. “And he said, ‘and tomorrow I’ll be back to get you’. The next day, he was right there to get me. But one thing I want to tell you Lt. Foster is I really appreciate the encouragement that you gave me. I never forgot it.”
While Hall said she could never understand then why Foster kept taking her to jail, she said she understands now.
“I obey all laws today. You can’t even get me to jaywalk,” Hall said. “And I respect the law today because I understand you can’t keep breaking the law and doing things illegally and expect a different outcome. It doesn’t work like that. You have to obey the law of the land.”
Hall said now she tells herself to never look back and to keep moving forward.
“If you keep looking behind you, you’ll never be able to see what’s in front of you,” she said.
Today we reunited @LongBeachCity resident Tiffany Hall, who suffered from substance abuse, with @LBPD Lieutenant Foster who helped turn her life around! He will be honored to attend her college graduation & wishes Tiffany continued success 💙👏🎓 #GoLongBeach #LBPDCares pic.twitter.com/hcbtTDK1Ui
— Long Beach PD (CA) (@LBPD) April 19, 2018
“I couldn’t be prouder of the fact that Tiffany has pulled herself out of some very tough circumstances,” Foster said of Hall’s accomplishments. “The biggest joy of my professional career is, from time to time, having contact with people who have found their way out of horrible circumstances and into life’s success—things a lot of us just take for granted.”
Hall and Foster’s reunion was made possible through the city’s justice lab, launched in January to provide new tools to first responders to divert residents in need out of the criminal justice system and toward much needed resources, said Tracy Colunga, director of the city’s Innovation Team which partnered with other city departments and community groups to develop the lab.
Colunga said after analyzing over 100,000 offenses in the city during a five-year time period, the i-team determined that 85 percent of repeat offenses aren’t serious crimes but rather misdemeanors.
The team also conducted 26 in-depth interviews with individuals who had been booked or cited 11 or more times.
“One of those amazing people we interviewed was Tiffany Hall which is how we found this story,” Colunga said. “This is one of countless stories where police officers like Lt. Foster do the right thing and treat people with dignity and respect.”
Colunga said the justice lab is helping first responders like police officers, firefighters and homeless outreach teams receive new tools to break the cycle of incarceration.
“My hope is that this is the first of many stories that we uncover together about how the justice lab in Long Beach is taking new approaches toward diverting individuals from the criminal justice system.”
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