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To cut LAPD’s budget by $150 million, reduce officer ranks below 10,000, report says

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Nury Martinez is pushing for cuts of up to $150 million at the LAPD.
Los Angeles City Councilwoman Nury Martinez, shown at a news conference in 2017, is pushing for cuts of up to $150 million at the LAPD.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

If the Los Angeles City Council wants to cut $150 million from the Police Department, it should scale back hiring, top city analysts said in a report released Friday.

Chief Legislative Analyst Sharon Tso and City Administrative Officer Richard Llewellyn said the effort to cut back spending at the LAPD would leave the department with 9,757 officers by the end of June 2021. Doing so would mark a major shift in policy for the city leaders who had long pushed to get — and keep — the department at or above 10,000 officers.

The report said the proposed rollback in police spending would also mean reducing LAPD overtime spending in the coming year. If the department does not change the way it operates, the analysts said, that could mean more “overtime banking,” with officers working overtime but not receiving compensation for those hours until later years.

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Making such cuts would allow the city to reduce LAPD spending and redirect the savings into other services without resorting to layoffs, the report said. Other suggested cuts include reducing spending on technology, replacement vehicles and expense accounts.

Cutting spending at the LAPD has been a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles and an array of other grass-roots groups and labor unions, who say money should be shifted from policing to other local needs. Activists have argued that many duties now handled by police officers could be shouldered more effectively by other workers.

Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents coastal neighborhoods from Westchester to Pacific Palisades, has already come out in favor of putting a halt to hiring, which would gradually decrease the size of the force as officers retire and resign. Such a move should last at least until the city’s financial crisis is over, Bonin said last week.

“We are already forcing a hiring freeze on other departments,” he said in a statement. “We cannot keep cutting core city services while growing the department that is the largest segment of the budget.”

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Craig Lally, president of the union that represents rank-and-file officers at the LAPD, immediately denounced the proposal as “irresponsible,” saying council members “need to explain to the public how fewer officers, longer emergency response times, and exploding costs are in the best interest of Angelenos.”

The proposal “will lead to longer response times to emergencies, eliminate dozens of daily patrol areas across the city and increase the city’s unfunded liability for overtime by over $50,000,000,” he said in a statement.

The proposed cuts also troubled Councilman Joe Buscaino, who argued that “real police reform” would come from expanding a community policing program, not slashing overtime.

“Instead of nickel-and-diming public safety to address under-investment into communities of color, we should put on the ballot a serious proposal to raise billions,” said Buscaino, whose district covers Watts and San Pedro.

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Black Lives Matter-L.A. and other groups have been pressing council members to back the People’s Budget, an alternative spending plan for City Hall that would reduce funding for the LAPD by around 90% — a much deeper cut than the $150 million that city leaders have suggested.

Under the activists’ proposal, savings would be redirected into housing, healthcare and other public services, such as mental health counselors and gang intervention specialists.

Cutting "$150 million looks big, until you realize it still leaves the LAPD with 51% of the city’s unrestricted revenues,” BLM-LA co-founder Melina Abdullah said earlier this month. “City Council and Mayor Garcetti need to know that we’re fighting for truly transformative change here and won’t be bought off with just this minimal amount of money.”

Activists presented the People’s Budget to five of the council’s 15 members on Monday during a two-hour meeting at City Hall. Councilwoman Nury Martinez, who has proposed cutting the LAPD by up to $150 million, praised the ideas put forward by activists, saying: “This is exactly how you reimagine neighborhoods.”

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The Los Angeles Police Protective League has targeted Martinez over her proposed cuts, sending mailers to voters in her San Fernando Valley district warning that the reductions would cause police to respond more slowly to emergencies. The mailer says, “Tell Nury Martinez to stop playing politics with people’s lives!”

The dynamics around public safety spending have shifted rapidly over the last two months.

In April, Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed a 7% boost to the LAPD — an increase fueled in large part by new raises and bonuses for officers — and cuts of 10% to many other city employees. Although activists sharply criticized that approach, they did not gain momentum until massive citywide protests broke out over police brutality and the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Garcetti changed course, joining Martinez in her call for cuts of up to $150 million. Such a cut could eliminate the previously planned budget increase for the police department, which Chief Michel Moore said would probably result in staffing reductions.


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