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L.A. urged to stop hiring police; temporary measure seen as budget fix [Updated]

March 18, 2011 |  1:47 pm

The top budget adviser at Los Angeles City Hall called Friday for the Police Department to halt recruitment for the next three months -- a move that would save $725,000 but cause the LAPD to fall as many as 68 officers below the target set by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council.

Looking to close a $54-million gap for a budget year already in its ninth month, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana released a report recommending that the mayor and City Council drop their plan for hiring police officers through June 30, the end of the fiscal year. The LAPD currently hires enough officers to replace the normal turnover of those who retire or resign.

Santana contends that the city should delay new hiring at least until July 1, when a new ballot measure -- one approved in the March 8 election -- goes into effect, trimming the retirement benefits of newly hired police and firefighters. In recent years, Villaraigosa and the council have repeatedly refused to stop LAPD hiring.

[Updated at 2:37 p.m.: Villaraigosa Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Szabo, who handles budget issues for the mayor, said Santana’s proposal “makes no financial or operational sense whatsoever.”

“It doesn’t come close to solving the problem this year and only makes next year’s problem worse,” he said. “The only way this plan saves any money at all is through a permanent reduction to the police force, which the mayor is not willing to entertain.”]

That Santana has recommended the idea signals the dwindling number of choices for policy analysts, who are also preparing recommendations for closing a $350-million shortfall for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Councilman Richard Alarcon said the proposal represented “a shift” in the thinking of the city’s budget office -- and showed that the requests to end police hiring will remain at the center of debate.

“As long as more cuts have to be made," he said, "it is never out of the question.”

The mayor has insisted that the LAPD remain at 9,963 officers, a figure that would put him roughly four-fifths of the way toward reaching his promise of hiring 1,000 new police. If hiring were stopped during the next budget year, the size of the LAPD would drop by roughly 400 officers, according to city officials.


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Photo: LAPD officers. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times