10,000 cops on the street is 'a magic illusion,' L.A. councilman says
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's goal of having a police force of 10,000 sworn officers is fiscal folly if the city is forced by layoffs in civilian staff to pull cops off the street to take over clerical tasks, two City Council members said Tuesday.
Villaraigosa's expansion of the Los Angeles Police Department has been a centerpiece of his administration and one that the council generally has supported as it approved the hiring and training of up to 1,000 new officers.
But with the city facing tough budget choices, including laying off police clerical staff, it may be time to rethink the 10,000-officer target, said Councilman Paul Koretz, sitting on the Budget and Finance Committee.
"We built a hole into our budget that we never, ever had money for,'' Koretz said. "We just imagined that we could and just said this is a good thing and let’s do it."
A number somewhat lower than the "magic illusion of 10,000 officers" might make more fiscal sense and would still prioritize public safety, the councilman said. "There wouldn’t be any difference in terms of the services we are providing," he said.
Councilman Bill Rosendahl, another member of the committee, echoed a similar sentiment, calling the 10,000-cops-goal a "magic number of nothingness."
"This is not a coincidence. Cities around the state that have cut their police forces are paying a price; they're seeing a rise in crime,'' the mayor said. "That is not a price I am willing to pay."
The discussion came as committee members reviewed a budget update that calls for 209 job cuts, primarily from police clerical staff. Committee members worried that those cuts would result in officers being pulled from patrol to handle desk work.
LAPD Cmdr. Sandy Jo MacArthur said managers were looking at centralizing record keeping to blunt the impact of fewer clerical staff. About 97 sworn officers have been pulled from the streets to work in the jail, she said. Overall, the city has 9,963 officers, she said.
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-- Catherine Saillant at Los Angeles City Hall
Photo: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, center, unveils his balanced budget plan flanked by Police Chief Charlie Beck, left, and Fire Chief Brian Cummings at City Hall in April. Credit: Christina House / For The Times