LAPD in danger of layoffs without sales tax hike, chief warns
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck on Thursday warned that police officers will be in danger of layoffs unless the city proceeds with a half-cent sales tax hike planned for the March 5 ballot.
Speaking to The Times’ editorial board, Beck complained that he is already unable to hire 911 operators, custody officers and mechanics to repair squad cars. And he warned that the LAPD would probably lose 500 officers without the more than $200 million expected from a sales tax increase.
Beck said 300 would be reduced by halting hiring and another 200 could disappear as a result of layoffs. “That’s 500 cops. And that is a huge impact," said Beck, appearing with City Council President Herb Wesson, who proposed the tax hike last week.
“I hope that that isn’t what happens," Beck said. "And I don’t want to panic my workforce. But I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think it was a severe threat on public safety in Los Angeles.”Beck made his pitch two days after California voters approved Proposition 30, which increased the statewide sales tax by one-fourth of a cent to pay for public safety and education. His department is already scheduled to lose nearly 160 civilian employees, many of them secretaries and clerk typists, in January due to city budget cuts.
City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the city’s top budget official, is scheduled to present an analysis of the proposed half-cent sales tax hike Friday. And on Tuesday, the council will vote on whether to place it on the March 5 ballot, when voters will also select a mayor, city attorney, city controller and fill eight council seats.
Beck appeared alongside Santana and Wesson, who have argued that city leaders have taken major steps to restructure their budget by removing thousands of workers from the payroll and rolling back pension benefits for newly hired employees.
Beck said one of those measures -– reducing pay for entry-level officers –- could create a crisis in police hiring, by making it more difficult for his agency to attract recruits. "They can go to any of the other cities in the region and get more money," he said.
Wesson’s proposal represents the latest effort by L.A. leaders to secure more money for public safety. During his first term, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the council tripled the trash fee charged to homeowners and small apartment buildings, saying the proceeds would allow them to add 1,000 officers to the LAPD. In 2008, Villaraigosa and then-Chief William Bratton pushed for passage of Proposition S, a telephone tax measure, saying it would shield the department from deep cuts.
Beck said the latest proposal has been offered because the danger to public safety is “very real” –- adding that he relies on the advice of Wesson and Santana.
“These are two people that I trust and that I deal with all the time,” he said. “And when they tell me things are bad, I know they’re bad. This is not crying wolf as people have accused the city in other years, other administrations.”
-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall
Photo: Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck is shown in July. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times