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Mayor wants city to offer LAPD signing bonuses

Times Staff Writers

Pressing popular public safety initiatives at the start of the new year, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is scheduled to unveil a $1-million proposal today to lure recruits to the Los Angeles Police Department with signing bonuses.

Under the plan, to be announced at a swearing-in ceremony this morning for the first LAPD recruitment class of 2007, experienced officers who transfer from other police departments would receive $10,000. New recruits who complete training and a probationary period would receive $5,000, according to Matt Szabo, the mayor’s press secretary.

The proposal, which must be approved by the City Council, comes on the heels of a disappointing recruitment year for the LAPD, which lagged far behind the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in attracting new officers. The city has budgeted money for 1,000 more officers over the next several years. But last year, the department fell short of its recruiting goal because of transfers, retirements and a history of mistrust of the agency among minorities.

The signing bonuses are also intended to boost Villaraigosa’s promised campaign to crack down on gang violence. “The money is there to hire 1,000 new officers,” Szabo said. “The mayor’s said his priority is to get those officers on the street.”

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Villaraigosa is expected to be joined by Police Chief William J. Bratton and key City Council members for today’s announcement, signaling probable City Hall support for the proposal.

Last year, the city recruited more than 500 officers but lost more than 360 through departures.

The new program is designed to entice recruits to stay with the department, rather than transfer to other agencies after completing police academy training. New recruits would be given $2,500 after completing training and $2,500 more after a period of probation.

To help retain officers now in training, including 58 in the class the mayor is to address, the financial incentives would be retroactive and cover those who entered the recruitment process since July.

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Initial reaction to the proposal appeared positive.

Councilman Greig Smith, a reserve officer with the LAPD, said Villaraigosa is on the right track with the proposal, given the recruitment difficulties that police departments face around the country.

“We’ve been working for over a year now to find techniques and gimmicks to get people in the LAPD,” he said. “We’re competing with every law enforcement agency in the country, the federal government, the military, that’s recruiting the same group of people ... and there’s not enough people in the country to fill all of those vacancies.”

Smith, who served on the council’s Public Safety and Budget committees, said he would want to make sure, however, that newly recruited officers would be required to spend a significant amount of time with the department before earning their full signing bonuses.

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“I wouldn’t want them to get a bonus just on completion of probation because that’s only an 18-month period of time, and we really need to get an investment from them that’s much longer than that,” he said.

Council President Eric Garcetti also expressed support. In a prepared statement, he said, “This council has gone on record in favor of growing our department, and this seems like an appropriate tool for doing that.”

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rich.connell@latimes.com

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stuart.silverstein@latimes.com


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