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LAPD union seeks to raise $10 million to fight layoffs and help political allies in 2022

The LAPD's biggest union is asking its members to contribute.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League is asking its members to donate $22 per pay period to help the union spread its message and support political allies in the 2022 election.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Faced with the threat of layoffs and calls from activists to defund law enforcement, the Los Angeles Police Department’s largest union is looking to raise at least $10 million to fight the cutbacks and support its favored candidates in 2022.

The Police Protective League, which represents about 9,800 officers, mailed its members ballots last week asking them to donate $22 per paycheck for the next 48 weeks to help the union support its allies, attack those it views as enemies and inform the public of the dangers associated with eliminating hundreds of positions at the LAPD.

If approved, a portion of the “Protecting Our Profession” assessment would be used in part for the 2022 election, when candidates will be running for Los Angeles mayor, city attorney and as many as eight City Council seats. The funds could also go toward supporting candidates in Sacramento and fighting state and federal legislation, said union spokesman Dustin DeRollo.

“We’re offering our members a chance to make a choice,” DeRollo said. “They can get engaged and make an impact by taking political action — essentially giving up a lunch and a couple of coffees a week — or they can stand by and watch the abolishment of the police department happen. That’s a stark choice, but in today’s environment, it’s real.”

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The union’s ballots went out days after City Hall budget analysts recommended that the council begin preparing for the layoffs of up to 951 police officers and 738 civilian employees at the LAPD, part of a larger strategy for closing a deficit. Council members scaled back that effort, taking the number of targeted positions down to 355 officers and 273 civilian LAPD employees.

The fundraising pitch is one of several aggressive tactics being pursued by the union in the wake of an election in which some of its favored candidates, including Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, were soundly defeated.

A legal battle is brewing as the police union promises to block any review by the LAPD inspector general of officer disciplinary hearings.

On Monday, the union announced a web page and new billboard advertisements highlighting the city’s recent spike in homicides and shooting victims. That campaign is targeting five of the L.A. City Council’s 15 members: Mike Bonin, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Curren Price, Monica Rodriguez and President Nury Martinez.

Asked about the strategy, Rodriguez invited the police union and other employee groups to return to the bargaining table and “propose solutions” to the city’s financial crisis.

“No one wants to make budget cuts, but we are facing an economic crisis of historical proportions,” said Rodriguez, who faces reelection in 2022.

Bonin, who is also up for reelection in 2022, repeated his call for LAPD officers to delay a pair of upcoming raises. Because the union has not made such concessions, the city is considering deep cuts, he said.

“Voters are coming to understand that the police union certainly doesn’t have their best interests at heart,” Bonin added.

If the union’s members vote in favor of the fundraising plan, the new assessment would go toward television commercials, digital ads and other forms of messaging targeting politicians who have “aligned themselves with ill-informed activists intent on defunding” the police department, according to an email sent to members. Those activists have become much more vocal following massive protests over the death of George Floyd earlier this year in Minneapolis.

“As you are aware, some city politicians are calling for 1,000 of our officers to be laid off, while [Black Lives Matter] is calling for a 90% reduction in the LAPD budget,” the union email states.

Akili, an organizer with Black Lives Matter-LA who goes by a single name, said he believes public sentiment has begun to turn away from the union. A recent Loyola Marymount University poll found that nearly 37% of respondents in Los Angeles favor the compete dismantling of the police — a position shared by Black Lives Matter-LA, said Akili.

“What we have been calling for is beginning to resonate, not just with Black Lives Matter supporters, but with the general public,” he said.

The council cut the LAPD budget by $150 million in July, promising to reinvest a portion of the funds in communities of color and the most disadvantaged neighborhoods.

That reduction did not go far enough for grassroots groups such as Ground Game L.A. and the People’s City Council, which have argued for the outright abolition of the LAPD, with the proceeds going toward rent relief, affordable housing and other community needs.

Astrid Cota, an organizer with the People’s City Council, said she is confident the “people power” of Black Lives Matter and its allies will overcome the union’s political spending. Cota, a graphic designer who lives in Highland Park, also said she’s happy the union is asking its members for more money.

“That means that they are scared, and they know that they are under attack,” she said. “Defunding the police is a nice way to say abolish the police, because the police are extremely problematic, abusive, and they don’t keep people safe.”

The union, for its part, has criticized the City Council for cutting the LAPD budget, saying much of the money is being diverted into a “slush fund” for its members to spend on alley cleanups, landscaped medians, tree-stump removal and other nuts-and-bolts services. If L.A.’s politicians want to help disadvantaged communities, they should shield those neighborhoods from public safety cuts, said Los Angeles Police Protective League President Craig Lally.

The L.A. City Council also agreed to borrow $150 million and drain much of the city’s reserves in an attempt to erase a projected $675-million deficit.

“Nearly 90% of our homicide victims are ... Black and Hispanic, and 70% of our violent crime victims are Black and Hispanic, yet this is a crisis no one is talking about,” he said in a statement.

Union officials began laying the groundwork for a fundraising drive this past summer, following the cuts to the LAPD and the debate over state bills requiring new oversight and accountability over police agencies.

The police union frequently spends big on its favored candidates at City Hall, making expenditures that are not covered by the city’s campaign spending limits. Still, some of the union’s efforts have been unsuccessful.

In the 2013 mayoral election, the league spent $1.5 million supporting the mayoral bid of then-City Controller Wendy Greuel. She lost to Eric Garcetti, then the City Council president.

The union spent nearly $45,000 earlier this year in support of Councilman David Ryu and $50,000 on the supervisorial bid of former Councilman Herb Wesson. Ryu lost to urban planner Nithya Raman, who argued in favor of making the LAPD a “much smaller” armed force, and Wesson lost to County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, who ran as a reformer on law enforcement.

The union also spent more than $1 million on efforts to reelect Lacey. Her opponent, George Gascón, took office as her replacement last week.


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