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Citing budget woes, L.A. council committee calls for a halt to police hiring

April 12, 2010 |  6:23 pm

Worried about the city’s ability to get through the rest of the fiscal year, a Los Angeles City Council committee recommended Monday that the Los Angeles Police Department immediately stop hiring new officers.

On a 3-1 vote, the Budget and Finance Committee called for a halt to the hiring process, which currently allows the LAPD to replace those who resign or retire. Such a move was designed to keep the number of sworn officers at 9,963 for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

Councilman Bernard C. Parks said the committee made its decision after learning that the LAPD is on track to have 22 more officers than it expected because of lower attrition rates. Parks said the proposal, which comes up for a full council vote Wednesday, also came in response to warnings from City Controller Wendy Greuel about the dangers of dipping too heavily into the city’s reserve to balance the budget.

The budget committee has made recommendations in previous years to halt police hiring, only to have that advice ignored by the full council. But the situation is more dire this year, with a $222-million shortfall and 93 workers who have already been notified that they are being laid off.

“If you keep hiring police officers, you have to lay off other folks," said Parks, a former LAPD chief. "You can’t have them both. So if the council majority decides to keep hiring, the issue that’s going to confront them is, where is the money going to come from?"

This time around, the three votes to halt police hiring were cast by council members Parks, Paul Koretz and Jose Huizar. Although Huizar voted in favor of the halt to police hiring, he is still weighing his options, a spokesman said.

“He wants to wait until it gets to [the] council, where he can look at it more intently,” Huizar spokesman Rick Coca said. “Obviously, the budget situation we’re in is pretty unprecedented.”

Villaraigosa's office did not have an immediate response to the vote, but in recent days the mayor has repeated his insistence that the LAPD hire enough officers to replace those who resign or retire.

Parks said an immediate halt to police hiring would prevent the recruitment of 80 officers over the next  2 1/2 months. Councilman Bill Rosendahl voted against the motion, saying he still wants more discussion.

“I’m all about process, that’s all,” he said. “I don’t necessarily disagree with this conclusion, but I’m not there yet. I think it’s appropriate to have the discussion with all the council members.”

“This year, all these options are going to be on the table,” he added.

-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall