Chief Urges Mayor to Hire More Officers
Police Chief William J. Bratton has been pressing Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to accelerate the hiring of more officers, with the goal of reaching a 10,000-officer force by next summer.
A memo from Bratton to Villaraigosa that was released this week after The Times filed a Public Records Act request lists the chief’s first goal as “increase the department, with the objective of reaching 10,000 sworn personnel by the end of the fiscal year,” which would be June 30, 2006.
In an interview Wednesday, Bratton said he has been working with Villaraigosa and City Council members to remove obstacles to the accelerated hiring plan. Among the efforts, Bratton said he was pushing for the installation of lighting at a police training facility in Granada Hills. The action would allow the department to double its annual recruit training from 720 officers to 1,440.
“That would at least give us the potential, if funds become available, to move in that direction,” Bratton said.
Although stopping short of committing to a deadline, the mayor told Bratton and the LAPD command staff during a private meeting Wednesday that he supported all efforts to put more officers on patrol faster.
“I view Chief Bratton as a partner and will work with him to put more officers on the street as quickly as possible,” Villaraigosa said in a statement later.
Councilman Tony Cardenas said he supported the chief’s goal of accelerated hiring and has agreed to spearhead the effort to find up to $1.5 million to provide lighting for night training.
“With everybody saying we need more officers, it would be ridiculous to be thwarted because we need more lights,” Cardenas said.
The renovation of the training center could face another hurdle because an environmental impact report on the project is five years old and might need to be updated, Bratton said.
On a parallel path, the LAPD this week launched an ambitious recruiting campaign on television and the Internet to overcome past problems in attracting enough recruits.
Even if the training issue is addressed, Bratton said, the city still would have to find money to hire more officers.
The current budget provides enough money to expand the police force by 370 officers, to a total of 9,611. At that rate, it would take more than a year beyond next summer to reach 10,000.
Bratton conceded that it could be more than a year before political leaders were ready to return to voters to ask for a sales tax increase to pay for more police. In the meantime, Villaraigosa has asked his staff to scrutinize the budget drafted by former Mayor James K. Hahn for possible savings that could be put into expanding the LAPD.
“To the extent we identify additional budget savings, public safety and other essential city services will be our top priority,” Villaraigosa said.
His new public safety deputy confirmed that he has already been told to work with the chief on expanding the force, which now has about 9,250 officers.
“The mayor’s office is committed to supporting the initiative to bring more police officers into Los Angeles,” said Maurice Suh, who was appointed by Villaraigosa this week as deputy mayor for homeland security and public safety.
The mayor and Bratton have met frequently since the election in May. On Wednesday they attended a briefing on the LAPD’s computer-assisted crime tracking system for South Los Angeles.
The chief acknowledged before the meeting that tough decisions on financing the police force expansion remain with the city’s political leadership but said he was doing all he could to make faster hiring possible after the decisions were made.
“We’re trying to line up all the balls and to remove all the obstacles,” Bratton said.