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L.A. looking at layoffs for as many as 1,900 workers, including 951 police officers

Police officers could be laid off under a new budget proposal heading to the Los Angeles City Council.
Budget analysts have proposed big reductions at the Los Angeles Police Department, including the elimination of 951 filled police officer positions.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Faced with a growing financial crisis, Los Angeles city budget analysts recommended Friday that the city begin preparing for the elimination of nearly 1,900 filled positions, including 951 police officers.

City Administrative Officer Rich Llewellyn advised Mayor Eric Garcetti and members of the City Council to lay plans for deep reductions at the Los Angeles Police Department, cutting the number of rank-and-file officers by roughly 10% while also eliminating 728 civilian jobs within the department.

If city leaders move ahead with such reductions, the LAPD could be left with fewer officers than at any point in 25 years.

In his 144-page report, Llewellyn said the cuts are needed to close a budget gap that’s expected to reach $675 million by June 30 — a crisis triggered by coronavirus-related shutdowns that have resulted in lower than expected taxes, fees and other revenue. Because the fiscal year is nearly half over, Garcetti and the council have less time to eliminate the gap, leaving them with far more aggressive cost-cutting proposals than in previous months.

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Llewellyn said the cuts, if approved, would affect the LAPD’s ability to respond to major crimes, just as it faces a “drastic” increase in homicide rates.” The reductions also could result in the closure of police stations, he said.

“Finally, if the civilian layoffs are approved [at the LAPD], sworn personnel would be reassigned to provide some civilian roles, further reducing the number of officers available for patrol,” Llewellyn wrote.

The council’s Budget and Finance Committee is expected to take up Llewellyn’s budget proposal on Monday. The report also recommends the elimination of positions at other agencies, including 143 in the city attorney’s office, 45 at animal services and 27 in the Bureau of Engineering.

Whether Garcetti and the council will support the recommendations is not yet clear. Furthermore, the number of job cuts — and potential layoffs — could be reduced if department heads find other ways to rein in spending.

Friday’s budget proposal is viewed by some at City Hall as an attempt to wring concessions from the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the rank-and-file police officers union. Officers are due to receive a 3.25% raise next month, followed by an additional 3% in 2022, and so far the union has shown no interest in forfeiting those increases.

If officers were to postpone next month’s raise, the city would save $17.7 million by June 30, one budget official said.

Craig Lally, president of the PPL, said L.A.'s politicians are pursuing deep cuts just as the city is experiencing a “shooting and homicide epidemic.” The LAPD already absorbed a $150-million reduction in July, he said, with some of the proceeds used to spare civilian city workers from pay cuts.

“This latest proposal will further victimize Black and Hispanic residents who make up 70% of L.A.’s violent crime victims,” he said. “It’s disgusting.”

Alex Comisar, an aide to Garcetti, said the mayor views layoffs as a last resort and is “doing everything possible to avoid them.”

“But without assistance from Washington and solutions from our employees, deep and harmful cuts are inevitable,” he said in a statement. “The mayor is working hard to find cost savings wherever we can and bring L.A.’s economy back as quickly as possible.”

For months, activist groups like Ground Game L.A. and the People’s City Council have called on City Hall to make deep reductions at the LAPD, which consumes roughly $3 billion per year, as part of the growing movement to defund or abolish police.

Although the LAPD represents less than 30% of the overall budget, it consumes half of the city’s “unrestricted” funds, which Garcetti and the council are free to spend as they wish.

In the weeks following protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, council members cut the LAPD by $150 million, agreeing to take the force down to 9,757 — its lowest level since 2008 — by June 30. If the latest round of job cuts is adopted, LAPD sworn staffing would fall to 8,801, Llewellyn said in his report.

That would leave the department with its the lowest staffing level since the 1994-95 fiscal year, when the department had 8,410 officers, according to records posted on the LAPD website and employment figures provided to The Times.

At that point, the city was recording more than 800 homicides per year and then-Mayor Richard Riordan had embarked on a major expansion of the department.

Police Chief Michel Moore said Friday that LAPD layoffs would be a “huge mistake,” hitting a department that has slashed overtime hours, scaled back equipment purchases and reduced the size of its workforce by 350 officers. Homicides are up 29% compared with last year and have now surpassed 300, their highest point in more than a decade. The number of shooting victims is up nearly 33%, according to the LAPD.

In the early 1990s, when the LAPD had fewer than 9,000 officers, the department also had fewer police stations and fewer controls for identifying and punishing officer misconduct, Moore said.

“There is zero support from me for these types of reductions,” the chief said, adding: “It will jeopardize the future of the city and its safety.”

Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, said any increase in crime should be attributed to a “lack of adequate resources in the community.”

“It is irresponsible to continue to spend on a policing system that does not solve crime but instead puts targets on the backs of our people,” Abdullah said in a statement. “Defund the police.”

City Councilman Kevin de León, who represents a Boyle Heights-to-Eagle Rock district, responded to Friday’s report by saying he intends to work with state and federal officials to secure more relief to help the city weather the pandemic. Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents coastal neighborhoods from Westchester to Pacific Palisades, renewed his call for the police union to postpone its upcoming raises.

Shielding the LAPD from cuts, Bonin said, would mean “bloodletting from departments that help renters, seniors, small businesses and kids and families.”

Bill Przylucki, executive director of Ground Game, called the elimination of 951 officer positions a “positive step,” saying the department has consumed too big a share of the city budget for too long. Layoffs in the LAPD would prevent additional reductions to parks, street repairs and other services, he added.

“We need to share those cuts equitably,” Przylucki said.

More than 15,000 civilian city workers are scheduled to take 11 furlough days starting next year, which will amount to a pay cut of 4%, according to one city budget official. Budget officials are looking at whether to add more furlough days for those workers.

The police union contract, approved by Garcetti and the City Council last year, bars the city from imposing furloughs on rank-and-file officers. Firefighters, sanitation workers and several other employee groups are partially or entirely exempted from furloughs.

The prospect of laying off police officers has been raised at City Hall before in recent years but failed to materialize.

In 2012, while arguing in favor of a half-cent sales tax measure to support the city budget, Police Chief Charlie Beck warned that a failure to approve the increase would probably result in the layoffs of 200 officers.

Voters rejected the measure in 2013, but those public safety job cuts did not occur.


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