Police Chief Daryl F. Gates, who usually goes in a back door at Parker Center, used the front door Thursday, and it was a lucky break for Los Angeles City Councilman John Ferraro's campaign for mayor.
Ferraro was holding a news conference in front of the police headquarters building to provide details of his plan to increase the size of the Police Department by 1,300 officers. Gates strolled past, looked surprised at the commotion and explained that he usually takes a freight elevator in back of the building. He soon became a major player in the scene, doing so in a way that helped Ferraro's campaign.
Responding to questions, Gates supported Ferraro in the councilman's contention that Mayor Tom Bradley had unjustly robbed the San Fernando Valley of nine police officers this year in creating a 29-officer task force to stop violence at two South-Central Los Angeles housing projects.
Gates said the task force idea "originated from the South Bureau (the unit in charge of South-Central), and I supported it."
Wanted to Delay Plan But Gates said he had not wanted to create the task force until 100 newly hired officers had graduated from the Police Academy. His plan, he said, "was pulled off the (Police Commission) agenda by the mayor" in favor of immediate creation of the task force--a decision that required the department to take officers from the Valley, Northeast, Hollywood, Wilshire, West Los Angeles and Pacific divisions.
Afterward, Ferraro said he believes that Gates' words backed up the councilman's contention. It was the second time this week that Gates has said something helpful to Ferraro: He said at a neighborhood meeting in Hollywood Tuesday night that the department has been overly generous in assigning officers to South-Central.
Gates has said he will remain neutral in the mayoral race, although he and Ferraro conferred before the councilman announced his candidacy, and Ferraro has been a strong council supporter of the chief, who is a Bradley foe.
In describing his plan to increase the police force, Ferraro proposed cutting $7 million from the budget and taking $2 million from the city reserve fund to finance 300 officers the first year, a move he said would cost $8.9 million. After that, he said, additional cuts in city spending, along with money from surplus funds, could finance the hiring of 250 more officers each year until the 1,300 figure is reached.
Bradley later said: "I suggest you take a look at the plan. You will find the holes in it."
But Gates, standing beside Ferraro, said: "We support as many additional police officers as we can get, through any means. We (the department) ought not to decide where the funds come from."
Jim Sobject, a city administrative office analyst who handles the police budget, disagreed with Ferraro's figures.
He said Ferraro's first year $8.9-million figure would pay for 300 recruits in training in one year. But when the recruits are on the streets, he said, it would take $16.9 million to finance their salaries, benefits, equipment and civilian support personnel.
The mayor on Monday proposed asking voter permission to raise taxes so the police force can be expanded by 1,000 officers. Ferraro said Bradley advocated a larger Police Department "only after I called attention in my news conference to the steady decimation of our Police Department under Tom Bradley." He said Bradley's plan is a "typical Bradley solution--a new tax."
To make room in the city budget for the new officers, Ferraro also called for abandonment of a Bradley-backed plan to enlarge the City Council to permit a better chance for election of Latino and Asian council members; elimination of the Public Works Board, appointed by Bradley; a $1-million savings through adoption of the Los Angeles energy conservation plan pending before the council and a 0.5% reduction in all city departments except the police, fire, community development, sanitation, recreation and parks and libraries departments.
"In the 18 years John Ferraro has been in the City Council," Bradley replied, "I have never known him to propose an increase in the Police Department budget."
Ferraro's campaign manager, Ron Smith, said his search of records showed that Ferraro proposed a $377,659 increase in 1980, a $254,490 hike in 1982 and a $603,614 increase in 1977, all of which lost. He also fought unsuccessfully for an override of a Bradley veto of a department-backed plan to keep 42 officers in administrative positions. Bradley succeeded in pushing through a plan to have them replaced by civilians, saving money.
On another issue, Ferraro, who had been at the council meeting earlier in the day, missed a vote supporting a measure adding $1.5 million to the department's budget for police overtime. It lost 7 to 5.
The number of officers on the force has declined from 7,459 in 1973 to the present 6,900.