Mission & History
PAL is a unique community organization that fosters trust between youth and the men and women of the Santa Monica Police Department in a safe and nurturing environment. Through education, cultural, recreational and outreach programs, PAL helps develop skills and self-esteem encouraging youth to reach their full potential.
In 1986, under the direction of City Manager John Jalili, the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) began assessing gaps in the city police services. One gap was an accessible police presence in the Pico Neighborhood, which had a large immigrant population. After extensive research of crime prevention programs nationwide, Police Chief James Keane decided that a "storefront" operation could bring residents and officers together in an informal setting.
One year later, the Police Department opened the Police Community Center at Virginia Park. Two Spanish-speaking officers were assigned to the center six days a week. Much to everyone's surprise, local children returned day after day to "hang out" with officers Cesar Scolari and Duke Torrez.Community and Cultural Services (CCS) staff member, Patty Loggins, worked with the officers to provide field trips, dances and other activities, including beginning computer skills workshops.
With serendipitous timing, the California Police Activities League (CalPAL) state office offered a workshop on how to start a Police Activities League or PAL. All who attended were in agreement that a PAL was just what Santa Monica needed. With the support of Chief Keane and City Manager John Jalili, Santa Monica embraced the Police Activities League model.
Shortly after PAL was created, California bond funds to build youth centers became available. John Rossi, director of the John Rossi Youth Center, insisted that Santa Monica apply for the funding. John Rossi was an extraordinary man, a selfless and tireless advocate and mentor to high-risk youth. He convinced Chief Keane to apply for the funds, and the Chief assigned Senior Administrative Analyst Helen Albright to write the grant proposal. No one truly believed that affluent Santa Monica would be successful in securing the funding but Chief Keane pushed forward. Within months the Santa Monica Police Department was notified that the impossible had happened and the City was awarded $795,695 in State bond funds. While this was a wonderful success, the state funding did not completely cover all construction and furnishing costs. The City Manager's office arranged to provide several hundred thousand dollars toward the center. Still short in funding, Chief Keane tapped outside funding sources and budget cost savings to cover the shortfall.
The PAL Fitness Center was established in 1990 to provide structured, non-traditional fitness programs to the youth. The gym was housed in a warehouse type structure that was originally used as a shop building for a technical school. The gym was located at Virginia Avenue Park. In 1998, Santa Monica PAL was awarded a grant for $300,000 to upgrade and refurbish the PAL Fitness Center as part of the Virginia Avenue Project redevelopment. In 2004, the PAL Fitness Gym at Virginia Avenue Park was re-opened. The PAL Fitness Center offers boxing, yoga, weight lifting and an exercise room that is used for a variety of classes. PAL is working in collaboration with other organizations to ensure a nutritional component to the programs. Special classes are held to meet the needs of girls and female young adults. Over 300 youth participate in various PAL fitness programs.
Groundbreaking ceremonies for the PAL Youth Center were held in 1992 at a site chosen because it was close to the Pico Neighborhood and more centralized for access by Santa Monica youth outside the Pico neighborhood. PAL continues to operate two sites as the PAL Fitness Center remains a vital part of the PAL program. By that time, Chief Keane had retired and SMPD's partnership with PAL was under the guidance of a new chief, James Butts, Jr. Chief Butts came from a background that placed a high value on fostering strong families and youth, a value very much instilled by the example set by his father. James Butts, Sr. was actively involved in youth organizations and taught his sons the importance of offering positive outlets and role models for young people. It came as no surprise that Chief Butts was one of PAL's biggest supporters. Santa Monica's PAL Youth Center opened in 1993.
We seek to further establish PAL as a community leader and a resource for local youth.