Compton council shelves plans to create new city police department
After floundering for several months, plans to create a new Compton Police Department officially died Tuesday night.
Faced with a massive budget deficit and the prospect of layoffs, the Compton City Council rescinded last June’s vote to end its contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and form a local police force again.
Councilwoman Barbara Calhoun, one of the three who voted in favor of bringing the city's police department back, switched her vote Tuesday night, rendering the venture officially dead for the time being. Calhoun also announced her intention to place a measure on the ballot that would allow voters to mandate that the city keep the sheriff's contract.
Former City Clerk Charles Davis, with backing from the sheriff's deputies' union, has been circulating a petition that would place an initiative posing that question on the ballot. Calhoun is up for reelection April 19 and faces a field of six challengers. She said the revelation of "cash-flow problems,” not the impending election, led her to change her mind.
“In 2009, there was money. In 2011, there's no money. We're talking about layoffs," she said after the meeting.
The plans had been on shaky ground for several months, despite the $1.7 million the city has spent on preparations to set up the new department. The hiring of staff, including a police chief, was stymied in December, when a budget amendment failed to get the four votes necessary to go forward.
The council had reallocated $19.5 million in lease revenue bonds originally slated to build a senior center and transit center parking structure to the project. Because the bonds were tax-exempt, the funds could be used only for capital costs and not for staffing. As of January, Compton was facing a $33-million budget shortfall for the fiscal year, having already begun the year with a $20-million general fund deficit.
Mayor Eric Perrodin, a former Compton police officer and leading proponent of reviving the municipal department, said he believes the city would be better able to control costs if it had its own police department. But he said he will not continue to press the issue.
"I'm a realist, and I can see right now, the majority of the council doesn't believe that's the case, so I'm not going to expend any more energy on that," he said.
-- Abby Sewell at Compton City Hall