"We're the best."
That was the response that Chief David Snowden gave Monday at the 23rd Black & White Ball when asked about the city's police department. And judging by the high turnout at the annual fundraiser held by the Beverly Hills Police Officers Association, residents seem to agree.
"As a citizen in Beverly Hills, elected or not, I think it's our obligation to support [our police]," Councilman Julian Gold said. "They care for us. They protect us. When we have the opportunity to show them that we care, we really need to do that."
Held at the Beverly Hilton, the event attracted hundreds of people and featured a silent and live auction, dinner and awards.
"The majority of the money that is raised from this supports our retiree medical trust fund," Lt. Joe Chirillo said. "That trust fund picks up the medical benefits for officers after the city's benefits stop. It continues them through life. Without it, we'd be on our own for insurance."
Not only does that fund support retired officers, but also their spouses.
"Under our current benefit structure, if we predecease our spouse, our spouse has no medical benefits," Chirillo said. "The trust provides those medical benefits."
In addition to medical benefits, the Black & White Ball raises money for scholarship opportunities for the children of city police.
"Tonight is the most important night of the entire year for the police association. It's our largest fundraiser," Snowden said. "Even more than the fundraising, it's the chance for our officers to mix with the community and show how much we appreciate their support throughout the year."
Detective Russell Sharp and Motor Officer Thomas Gates met each other the first day they joined the Beverly Hills Police Department in 1976. They went through the police academy together, worked a patrol car together, were motorcycle cops together and even retired from the force within a month of each other. Both were in attendance Monday evening.
"I'd start all over again tomorrow if they'd hire me on. It was by far the best police department you could ever imagine working for," Sharp said. "The No. 1 reason is the support from the people of Beverly Hills. It's such a good relationship between them and us. We work together as a partnership, rather than against each other."
Gates echoed Sharp's feelings about working in Beverly Hills.
"It was a great 35 years to work as an employee with the city. I truly enjoyed every minute of it," Gates said. "With a community that supports the police department like it does, it doesn't surprise me that this place is packed the way it is every year. It's an important event for everything it does for our association and our lifetime medical."
Gates has decided to stay on with the force as a reserve officer, as did Capt. Edward Kreins, who also retired this year.
"I think there is no doubt that Beverly Hills is really one of the finest communities and cities in the world. And having worked here for 31 years and just retiring as the captain, I feel so honored to have been a part of it," Kreins said. "That's why I am back now. I was able to stay on as a reserve officer. … It’s a way that I can give back a little to the community that's given so much to me and my family."
But not only does Beverly Hills support its police department, the officers support one another.
"I lateraled from another department," Patrol Officer Anne Marie Lunsman said. "This was the best decision that I made career wise, ever. It's not just a job. This is my family."
To view a photo gallery of the 23rd annual Black & White Ball, click .