Issue: Police Officers

<i> Compiled by Iris Yokoi</i> / <i> Times community correspondent</i>

A Los Angeles Police Department study completed this year identified 622 jobs whose duties do not require the skills of an officer. Should the city suspend its hiring freeze and bring in civilians for these tasks, thereby putting more police on the streets?

* Steve Ward: executive director of Security Services and instructor at USC School of Public Admin. As a general concept, civilianization is probably in order. But I haven’t seen the list of positions. There may be some positions that may benefit from police experience. Those are positions where individuals have to make interpretations--of reports, for example--that require knowledge and background of police functions and mission. But they can benefit from bringing civilians in . . . freeing up officers to be transferred to field assignments. The total compensation package for a police officer is much greater than for a civilian, and that includes salary, benefits and retirement. A public safety retirement package is much more costly than retirement programs for other workers. The investment in a civilian will almost always show a savings compared to the officer being replaced.

* Maxine Lake: 17-year Echo Park resident, Echo Park Improvement Assn. member I do feel civilians should be involved with desk jobs. There are things civilians can do. They need to free up the officers to be out there on the streets . . . especially since the initiative for extra police fell through (in the April 20 election). There’s clearly a shortage. People want protection, but a lot of people have animosity toward police. If more officers were on the streets, they’d be able to deal with people more. Civilians could help with truancy efforts and follow-ups on stuff like making sure graffiti removal was done. And if more civilians were involved, they’d have less of a negative attitude toward police.


* Mike Hoy: coordinator of the Pico-Union Improvement Assn. I would favor anything which gives more resources to the Police Department in a cost-effective manner--using police reserves for desk jobs, hiring administrative assistants for desk jobs under officers’ supervision, more volunteers to answer the phones, etc. The more we have officers interacting in the neighborhoods--on the street, talking to people--the better. I would like to also see neighborhood security patrols, on a volunteer or entry-level pay basis, walking the streets and putting a presence there. That tells criminals they no longer own the streets. Perhaps the police reserves program needs to . . . fill those needs.

* Bonnie Louie: office manager of the Chinatown Community Police Service Center I would like to see some desk positions retained for officers who are temporarily unable to work in the field--for example, those who are pregnant or recovering from injuries, etc. I don’t think people have an adequate appreciation of the importance of the job. People in those positions are often the first point of contact between the public and the Police Department, as well as a communication hub within a division. Sometimes they need to make decisions during life-and-death emergency situations. The job doesn’t necessarily call for officers who are receiving hazardous duty pay, but it does call for qualified people with good training.