More Cops? Sure, but How?

Note to the mayoral candidates: All voters must be at least 18 years old, which means all voters are adults. They can handle the truth. So how about giving them some?

Thousands more police officers cannot be had without a price. Most voters acknowledged and accepted that by voting last month for Proposition 1, which would have increased property taxes on the average homeowner by $6 a month. But although 59% voted for it, the unreasonable requirement of a two-thirds vote--which allows a minority of the electorate to subvert the wishes of everyone else--meant the measure failed.

So candidates Michael Woo and Richard Riordan are left to scramble for new ways to pay for more cops. At least Woo supported Proposition 1. Riordan did not; he has held to the pie-in-the-sky notion that, in effect, voters can get thousands more police by just leasing Los Angeles International Airport.

Riordan proposes to add 3,000 officers within four years by pushing a lease of LAX to a private operator. He says a 30-year lease could generate an upfront payment of $250 million, and annual payments starting at $130 million.

Naturally the airport's profits are tempting to those grappling with a city deficit of $180 million. But federal and local officials warn that for the foreseeable future, LAX revenues will continue to be protected by both federal law and City Charter provisions that prohibit the use of airport funds for non-airport-related services.

Besides the significant legal hurdles, there's the problem of estimated income. A new analysis requested by airport officials and done by an outside consultant indicates that the city could expect less than $15 million annually from leasing. Not very solid ground on which to base the hiring of much-needed LAPD officers.

For his part, Woo has come up with a proposal for an 872-member increase in patrol officers within a year and a force of 10,000 in four years. He says that the bulk of the first-year increase could be accomplished through shifting officers from desks to the streets and that 250 officers could be paid for by reducing the mayoral and City Council budgets 20%. But critics say those cuts would finance only 50 new officers a year. Big difference.

Woo wants to use Community Redevelopment Agency funds to pay for police, which couldn't happen without state legislation. Similar legislation was defeated last year.

So it's back to the drawing board for Riordan and Woo. The police proposals of both sound relatively painless. But in the real world there's very little gain without some pain.

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