Paying for More Police

The Los Angeles Police Department needs more officers. A force of 7,100 officers is not enough to protect and serve 3 million citizens in a city of 465 square miles. But there is no politically popular way to pay for the larger force. That assessment by the Blue Ribbon Task Force to Increase Police Protection is not new, but it is true.

The task force would gradually raise garbage fees over five years from $1.50 to $11.45 per month to pay for an additional 1,500 officers. The fee increase would net $75 million in new revenue and need no voter approval--unlike the two special police taxes that failed to get the two-thirds vote required by Proposition 13. Mayor Tom Bradley and the Los Angeles City Council should go for it.

Rubbish fees are not the most equitable way to raise money. Rich and poor would pay the same amount. Apartment owners and business owners, who pay private firms to collect trash from large industrial bins, would escape the charges. But Proposition 13 limits the options, and higher garbage fees may be the only hope.

Approving higher rubbish fees also would mean expediting a decision on the deployment formula that determines how police officers are parceled out among the communities of Los Angeles. Every area of the city deserves adequate protection. The question of what is adequate must begin with a formula that satisfies communities in East Los Angeles and South-Central Los Angeles that they are getting their fair share of patrol officers.

Bradley and members of the City Council have managed to put a few hundred more officers on patrol in recent years. But they have failed to finance major expansions of the force. Their task force has given them another chance to pay for more police.

Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates is for the new garbage fees. So are we. Los Angeles needs the 1,500 additional officers.

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