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L.A. police chief says city officials are ‘seriously contemplating’ laying off police officers

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore speaks during a news conference
Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said Wednesday that city officials are “seriously contemplating” laying off police officers amid a major budget crisis.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said Wednesday that city officials are “seriously contemplating” layoffs of police officers as part of the effort to close a projected budget deficit expected to reach or exceed $600 million.

Moore made his remarks just two days before the city’s budget analysts are expected to issue a report on the city’s financial crisis and the steps needed to address it. Mayor Eric Garcetti and members of the City Council will begin examining those proposals — and discussing the size of the city workforce — over the next few weeks, he said.

As they look for solutions, city leaders are considering layoffs for police officers and civilians at the LAPD, the chief said.

“We have already experienced … a reduction in our workforce, between sworn and civilian, in excess of 500 personnel,” Moore said during a video Q&A with members of the news media. “To suffer further losses would be devastating to the safety of the city.”

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The city’s financial crisis, brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, has been steadily growing for months, with hotel taxes, parking fines and other forms of revenue falling short of amounts in previous years. In July, the council cut $150 million from the LAPD budget, taking staffing down to 9,757 officers by June, the lowest level since 2008.

Asked about Moore’s remarks, Garcetti acknowledged that L.A. and its residents are experiencing a “brutal” year economically. The mayor said city leaders must be ready to make difficult decisions, particularly if the federal government fails to provide relief to cities and states hit hard by the pandemic.

“It is my hope we will do everything we can to avoid layoffs,” Garcetti said. “So, I know it’s kind of sexy to lead with the worst. But I hope that’s at the very bottom of our list.”

The number of Californians hospitalized with coronavirus surged to a record high for a fourth straight day — soaring above 8,000 amid continued concerns that a sustained spike in patients may eventually swamp the state’s healthcare system.

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Garcetti said layoffs would harm city services for years and would probably hit the city’s most vulnerable employees — those who are younger and people of color — the hardest.

Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents LAPD officers, said city leaders are seeking new reductions just as homicides and gun violence are rising.

“Unfortunately, this is not make-believe, and these proposed cuts will lead to thousands of more violent crime victims, 70% being Black or Hispanic, and devastate thousands of families,” he said. “Whoever cooked up this approach clearly does not care about our communities overwhelmed by violence.”

So far this year, Los Angeles has seen a 28% increase in homicides — an additional 68 murders — and a 40% increase in shooting victims compared with 2019, Moore said.

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The increase in shooting victims is connected, in part, to violence among street gangs, the chief said. “Also we’ve seen an increase in persons experiencing homelessness … being victims of homicides at the hands of other individuals who are experiencing homelessness,” he said.

Moore is not the first city official to raise the prospect of LAPD layoffs in recent days.

Last week, in an interview with The Times, Councilman Paul Krekorian said the city is looking at job cuts for police officers and firefighters.

“I don’t see a way to avoid layoffs of city employees,” said Krekorian, who heads the council’s powerful Budget and Finance Committee. “And I do not think it would make sense to exempt any category of employees in doing that.”

Krekorian added that if the city received a federal aid package, or concessions from its employee unions, those layoffs could be avoided.

Budget officials are projecting a revenue gap of around $600 million, a figure that represents about 9% of the city’s general fund, which pays for such basic services as police officers and firefighters.

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City negotiators sent a letter last month to the LAPD union asking its leaders to return to the bargaining table to discuss the financial crisis.

The union declined, saying city leaders should look elsewhere for cuts.

League members are on track to receive a 3.25% pay increase in January. Civilian city workers are scheduled to receive a 2% increase that same month, followed by another 2% raise in June.

Garcetti asked city department heads to begin working on a “potential layoff scenario” in September. City leaders are planning to move ahead with furloughs — representing a 10% pay cut — on civilian workers next month.


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