Police Ask for Money to Hire 20 New Officers

Times Staff Writer

In reaction to the city's rapid growth and the emergence of more law enforcement problems, the Glendale Police Department has asked for 20 new police officers this year and a total of 40 over the next five years.

If the request is approved, the department would expand the police roster of 196 by more than 20% this year alone. It will be considered by the Glendale City Council in budget hearings next month.

Police Chief David J. Thompson said his department also requested a substantial budget increase to deal with the city's growing law enforcement problems, especially traffic management and gang activity.

"I am praying very, very hard that the city will give a favorable review to our request," Thompson said.

His prayers could go at least partly unanswered. Two council members said Wednesday that the council may not be able to come up with the $1.2 million to $1.4 million needed to pay and equip 20 new officers.

Councilman Uncertain

"The police request might be a reasonable one," Councilman Larry Zarian said. "But I don't think we can afford it, with all the requests from the other city departments."

Zarian said he wants to add 35 to 43 new officers over the next five years, as requested by Thompson, but added that he believes that the city can afford no more than 10 additional officers in the upcoming budget year.

Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg said the biggest obstacle is finding 20 new officers without compromising the Police Department's recruiting standards.

"I don't see how we can accomplish it," she said. "I would hope we never lower our standards just to get numbers."

Thompson acknowledged that it would demand a "Herculean effort" of the City Council to meet his department's requests. But he said the city is in dire need of such heroics.

Since 1987, he said, his department has added only 25 sworn officers while the city's population has soared.

Moreover, he said, the city has experienced significant changes in the patterns of criminal behavior, and the crimes prevalent today demand more manpower than those of yesteryear.

"The burglary rate has gone down," he said, "but there's been an auto-theft explosion, and we're experiencing some gang-related behavior, both criminal and antisocial."

To deter such activities, Thompson said, more foot-patrol officers are needed. "And foot patrols are much more expensive than car patrols because they cover a smaller area," he said.

More Demands

The booming downtown commercial district has put more demands on the police force, Thompson said.

"The skyline is growing and the traffic congestion is growing correspondingly," he said. To avoid gridlock, Thompson said, police officers will have to be assigned to direct traffic during peak hours.

In the past, police officers have directed traffic to help cope with Christmas shoppers, Thompson said. But given the city's soaring growth rate, officers will have to begin controlling traffic year-round, he said.

"Glendale is growing in numbers and diversity," Thompson said. "Our department has to grow accordingly."

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