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Police Shouldn’t Have to Rely on Donations : City Should Fund All Divisions--Even If It Means Tax Hike

Consider the following scenario: You’ve been victimized by crime and head down to your local Los Angeles Police Department division to have a report filed. You arrive, and the officer helping you has to wait in line to use a barely functioning typewriter. Maybe the officer even has to wait to use a desk. Can someone at the station fax you some information? No, they don’t have a facsimile machine.

For the past several months, we’ve maintained something of a drumbeat on this page about equipment shortages and people-power shortages at the LAPD. Our refrain: we’re fortunate to have a declining crime rate, because this is the most under-policed of the nation’s largest cities. And when the size of the force is too small for the city it attempts to serve, you at least want it to be a department that is as technologically advanced as possible. Well, we’re in sad shape in that regard as well.

Addressing both matters figures to be an expensive proposition, but the message appears to be getting through in some parts of town. One of the most impressive examples involves the LAPD’s Devonshire Division, and the work of neighbor Becky Leveque. Two years, ago, Leveque organized a community meeting on police issues, expecting a turnout of two dozen people. She was stunned when 500 people came.

Leveque founded a group called SOLID, or Supporters of Law enforcement In Devonshire. Now, the group claims a Neighborhood Watch membership of 11,000. But even more impressive is what SOLID has done for the LAPD at Devonshire.

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Yes, this is a well-to-do community by Los Angeles standards, but this is also the Northridge area, close to the epicenter of an earthquake that caused the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history. It is in that context that the generosity of the Devonshire division’s neighbors must be viewed.

SOLID has donated computers for nearly every desk in the division. It has supplied laser printers, linens, bunk beds and a $3,000 telephone system that notifies neighbors of burglaries on their street. They have also donated cellular telephones, answering machines, a paper shredder, even night-vision goggles.

But even as we praise the civic-mindedness of the Devonshire Division’s neighbors, we have concerns.

First, the police shouldn’t have to rely on unusual generosity to obtain this kind of standard equipment. It’s the kind of thing that the city as a whole must be willing to fund for all police divisions, particularly those in less affluent neighborhoods, even if it means a tax increase of some kind.

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This city is better served by a department that is equally well-equipped throughout its divisions, regardless of the financial might of the neighborhood in which those stations are located. For example, it will hardly matter that Devonshire has a strong computer capability if few other divisions around town have the hardware and software needed to share information.

Local elected officials should also note SOLID’s work for another reason as well. Perhaps it is a sign of a “sea change,” in the form of an increasing willingness among residents to fund the kind of police force the city truly needs.


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