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Unions say plan to expand LAPD would hurt parks, libraries

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A plan to expand the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department by adding public safety officers from another city department would strip 37 officers from their current patrol duties at the city’s libraries, parks and municipal buildings.

According to city budget and public safety officials, who detailed the proposal at a Los Angeles City Council committee meeting on Friday, the LAPD would assume control of scores of sworn police and civilian security officers who are currently employees of the General Services Department.

About 37 GSD police officers would become full-fledged LAPD officers, patrolling city streets or assuming other typical LAPD assignments instead of watching over libraries, parks and other city property. Another 60 GSD police officers also absorbed by the LAPD would continue to patrol city property, along with current GSD security officers.

Councilman Paul Krekorian, who sits on the Public Safety Committee where the proposal was heard, expressed concern about what the change could mean for safety at the city’s parks, which already have fewer park rangers than in the past because of layoffs in 2010.

Those fears were echoed by several city employee labor union leaders. Roy Stone, president of the Librarians' Guild, said he worried that protecting libraries would not be a priority of the LAPD. “We’re going to be at the bottom of the list,” he said.

The proposal comes as the city is weighing deep cuts to LAPD civilian support staff. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called last week for the elimination of 669 city jobs — 231 through layoffs. The bulk of the layoffs in the mayor's $7.2-billion budget would affect civilian employees at the LAPD, where some 159 clerks, secretaries and other administrators would be put out of work.

“How can you lay off clerical folks while absorbing all of this?” said Dolores Spears of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. 

Victor Gordo of the Coalition of L.A. City Unions said he believes the proposal is motivated by politics. The consolidation would push the number of police officers on the LAPD to 10,023, according to Eileen Decker, deputy mayor for Homeland Security and Public Safety. That number exceeds a goal desired by Villaraigosa and the City Council to have more than 10,000 police officers on the force.

That number, Gordo said, "is what this is about.”

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, who wrote a report recommending the police consolidation, said the plan was not designed to exceed 10,000 officers but to strengthen public safety in the city and to allow the Department of General Services to focus on its core mission of maintaining city property.

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-- Kate Linthicum at City Hall

twitter.com/katelinthicum

Photo: Los Angeles Police Department headquarters. Credit: Scott Harrison / Los Angeles Times

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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