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LAPD Chief Wants 12,000 Officers

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton said Thursday that the city needs a minimum of 12,000 police officers -- an increase of more than 30% over the size of the current force -- to properly patrol the streets.

“Shame on Los Angeles,” Bratton told Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce board members gathered for a luncheon meeting.

“You only have 9,000 cops and a lot of your issues have been a reluctance to invest -- and I use that word strongly -- invest in public safety.”

The hiring and training of each new LAPD officer costs about $100,000, mayoral aides said, putting an initial price tag of more than $300 million on Bratton’s vision.

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Although the new chief has repeatedly said the force is too small, he also said in taking the job that he could make major strides in fighting crime without any additional hires.

On the day after he was chosen for the chief’s post last month, Bratton said that the city’s budget crunch made resources scarce and that increasing the force, even to the already-authorized level of 10,000, would not be possible in the short term.

His statement Thursday was the first in which Bratton has cited a specific figure that he considers the appropriate number of officers for the city.

A spokesman for Mayor James K. Hahn said that the mayor agrees “with the chief that we need more cops on the street.”

“The mayor also believes, and the chief clearly agrees with him, that the city can do a much, much better job policing the streets with the current force than we have been doing,” said Deputy Mayor Matt Middlebrook.

Additional money for hiring may be found through cuts in existing programs, Middlebrook said. He said city officials also plan to turn to Sacramento and Washington for crime-fighting assistance.

Still, the chief’s comments prompted incredulity among some City Council staffers, who emphasized that the city’s serious budget shortfall would make any mass hiring unlikely.

Bratton told the business leaders Thursday that a major investment in local policing would more than pay for itself.

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“Give us a couple of hundred of million more for the nuts and bolts and it won’t be a couple of hundred million back -- it will be billions,” he said.

Bratton, who served as New York City’s police commissioner in the mid-1990s, compared the potential of downtown Los Angeles with the renaissance of Lower Manhattan neighborhoods, such as Wall Street and Chinatown.

“New York’s investment in police -- look at how that paid off,” Bratton said.

When he was sworn in to head the LAPD, Bratton said staffing of the police force -- which at about one officer per 400 residents has one of the lowest ratios among the nation’s big cities -- needed to evaluated.

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Only recently has the department reversed a trend that had more sworn officers leaving the department than joining.

Bratton said he needs as many officers on the street as possible to implement the brand of community policing that tries to reduce serious crimes by stopping petty offenses.

“I think for him to do what he wants to do [12,000] is a reasonable number,” said Joe Domanick, a senior fellow at USC’s Annenberg School Institute and author of a history of the LAPD. “He doesn’t just want to do the old -- relying on patrol cars and reacting to things.”

Bratton told the several dozen business leaders that he plans to “reduce crime, reduce disorder and reduce fear.”

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He warned that the perception of danger “is as bad as the reality.”

“Unfortunately, we will end this year with the most murders of any city in the nation,” he said. “New York City will probably have fewer murders, despite having twice as many residents.”

While overall murders are down significantly nationwide from peaks in the early 1990s, Los Angeles in recent years has failed to match the declines seen in many other major cities.

Through late October, the NYPD reported 451 homicides in a city of more than 8 million, down about 10% from the previous year.

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The LAPD reported 556 homicides as of Nov. 2 in a city of about 3.7 million, up about 10% from last year.

Comparing gang violence in Los Angeles to a cancer, Bratton said it may take some time to determine the appropriate dose of radiation and chemotherapy.

“If you wouldn’t beef this department up in times of crisis,” Bratton said, “maybe you will do it with a success story.”


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