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Greuel lays out ambitious plan to hire more police and firefighters

February 5, 2013 |  3:18 pm

Photo: Los Angeles mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel at a debate on Jan. 28. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Mayoral hopeful Wendy Greuel laid out an ambitious plan Tuesday to expand the ranks of the Los Angeles police force and city firefighters by about 20% over seven years -- an expensive goal that her critics said was virtually impossible to achieve given the city’s current finances.

Flanked by city firefighters, whose union has endorsed her, Greuel said she had settled on the goal of 12,000 officers -- up from the current level of 10,023 -- based on the suggestion of former LAPD Chief Bill Bratton. She said she would expand crime prevention programs, create a “public safety trust fund” for emergencies and try to improve response times at a time when the fire department staff has dropped from 3,600 to about 3,300 due to budget cuts.

“We can do all of this without raising taxes,” Greuel said at a news conference outside of the firefighter union. “It’s about cutting waste and it’s about setting priorities.”

FULL COVERAGE: L.A.'s race for mayor

But Greuel’s opponents immediately challenged the feasibility of her plan. The average cost of a city police officer this fiscal year is $149,000, including pension and health benefits -- meaning that the addition of the new police officers alone would add hundreds of millions of dollars to the annual budget.

The city already faces a deficit of nearly $220 million next year, and Greuel did not outline any specific cuts to pay for her plan, beyond her questionable claim that she can wrest $160 million in savings from efficiencies that she has identified through her audits as city controller.

Instead, she said she would hire new police and firefighters by diverting 20% of new revenue growth to that goal, but it was unclear whether any money would be available. The city’s chief budget officer, Miguel Santana, has projected that revenue growth will only be about 3% next year at a time when the city’s expenditures are growing by about 4% to 5%.

“The good news is our revenue is growing -- and it’s been growing for the last few years and will continue to grow. The challenge is our expenditures are growing at a faster rate,” Santana said Tuesday.

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-- Maeve Reston

twitter.com/MaeveReston

Photo: Los Angeles mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel at a debate Jan. 28. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

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