Garcetti seeks more LAPD spending and increased police overtime

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Wednesday called for an 8.5% increase in the police department’s operating budget, giving a major boost to overtime pay while seeking to fill hundreds of positions vacant.

Garcetti released his $11.8 billion budget for the coming year, which would increase the LAPD’s operating budget by $149 million and bring LAPD personnel to 9,735 officers by mid-2023. , an increase of 29 posts compared to this year’s budget.

Achieving this goal can be a heavy burden. The LAPD steadily loses officers through retirements and resignations, and now has 9,371 officers. The department struggled to replace these departing officers, in part because of a backlog of applicants in the personnel department.

To meet the mayor’s goal while accounting for attrition in the police ranks, the city would need to hire 780 officers in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. Garcetti said he’s confident the city can achieve that goal, in part by beefing up staff in the personnel department, which oversees hiring.

“I have personally been very involved in the weeds between our personnel department and our police department to look at what are the hiccups and bumps in the road that have made it take so long to do background checks and other things,” he said.

The spending plan now heads to city council, which must approve the budget by the end of next month.

The push for more LAPD money could easily become an issue in the June 7 municipal elections, which feature a number of council candidates seeking to rein in law enforcement spending. Los Angeles recorded 397 homicides last year – the most since 2006, and a change almost entirely due to increased gun violence.

City administrative official Matt Szabo, a top budget analyst, said the spending plan would increase officers’ overtime pay by about 37% from the current budget year. Overall police spending, he said, would rise to $3.2 billion once employee pensions, health care, utilities and construction costs are taken into account, an increase of about 4%.

Nearly $40 million of the LAPD’s proposed raise can be attributed to pay increases for department staff, some of which have been delayed during the pandemic, Szabo said.

Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter-LA, which supports police defunding, called Garcetti’s proposed LAPD budget increase “ridiculous.” Police shootings have increased dramatically, she said, and households are still recovering from the pandemic – and need services other than those provided by the police,

“We hope the city council will be brave and cut what they have proposed,” she said.

Garcetti’s budget proposal would also allocate nearly $1.2 billion to homelessness initiatives, with the largest share going to the Project Homekey program. These funds would allow the city to purchase buildings and convert them into 928 housing units for homeless Angelenos, Szabo said.

Another large share would come from proceeds from the HHH proposal, the 2016 bond measure that also pays for housing for homeless residents.

Garcetti’s budget team said the spending plan includes $54 million for alternatives to policing, such as gang response workers and mental health teams. And it would allow the hiring of hundreds of sanitation workers, including new positions to combat the illegal dumping and “bulky item pick-up” of sofas, mattresses and other items on city sidewalks and boardwalks. city.

The budget plan also sets aside $658 million in reserve for a crisis — the largest amount in the city’s history and aimed at ensuring the city’s next municipal administration is “prepared for an emergency,” Garcetti said. .

Garcetti’s budget proposal offers less than the 12.5% ​​increase — or $213 million — that was requested for the LAPD last fall by the Board of Police Commissioners, which is made up of appointees by the mayor.

The spending plan calls for $7.3 million to pay for reform measures that have been proposed following the LAPD’s mismanaged response to the mass protests and unrest that erupted in 2020 over George’s murder Floyd in the hands of Minneapolis police.

Police Chief Michel Moore did not immediately comment on the mayor’s budget. But he expressed exasperation in recent months with the city’s struggle to recruit officers, saying applicants have had to wait months to clear background checks.

The bottleneck has been so severe that the Police Academy has graduated recruit classes of fewer than 40 recruits at a time, compared to an average of 50 to 60, Moore said last month. At this rate, he said, the department would barely be able to deal with attrition, let alone rebuild its workforce.

The issue has sparked high-level discussions in recent months between Moore and Dana Brown, the new chief executive of the personnel department, and several recommendations for hiring agents faster.

In a March 8 email to Moore, obtained by The Times via a public records request, Brown suggested that city officials streamline the background check process for police applicants, including part of the process. where contestants detail their personal story.

Brown also noted in his email that “substantive standards” had already been changed recently, without official approval, regarding marijuana use, finances, and “bias/extremism.”

The ministry would not say what those changes were. Some city officials have expressed concern that hiring standards could be relaxed given the recent drop in officer numbers and the focus by Garcetti and others on increasing faster. rows.

Los Angeles Times

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