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Editorial: No more freebies for the Rams

With all the celebrating and backslapping by city leaders on the return of professional football to Los Angeles, apparently somebody forgot to figure out who’s going to pay for all the security around the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The Rams are playing at the Coliseum for three seasons while the team builds a $2.6-billion stadium in Inglewood. During two exhibition games last month, the Los Angeles Police Department reassigned some 200 on-duty officers to provide traffic control and security outside the stadium ticket gates at taxpayer expense. This should not continue.

Several Los Angeles City Council members sent a letter to Rams owner Stan Kroenke last month, politely asking him to fully fund the public safety presence outside the stadium, which includes the LAPD, the Los Angeles Fire Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and California Highway Patrol. But Kroenke did not respond to their letter. Mayor Eric Garcetti said the city will meet again with Rams officials to try and hammer out a cost-recovery contract before the first home game of the season Sept. 18.

Last week, former City Councilman Dennis Zine attempted to force the issue by filing a lawsuit to block the city and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck from spending any more tax dollars on security until the city is reimbursed and the team agrees to foot the bill in the future. Zine argued that the free security — which would cost about $2 million for the season — is an illegal gift of public funds to a “billion-dollar corporation.” He announced the lawsuit alongside officials from the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing LAPD officers, who said that officers and detectives had been pulled from their investigations and assignments to handle security.

The Rams are covering the cost of security inside the Coliseum, paying for off-duty LAPD officers to work overtime. The debate is over who should cover the cost of security outside the stadium — including the parking lots and the surrounding neighborhoods — on game days, often attended by as many as 70,000 football fans. Police officials said the heightened police presence is essential and the National Football League also requires adequate security around stadiums. City law states that, in general, event sponsors are supposed to pay for extra services, but there’s no consistency because the contracts are worked out on a case-by-case basis. For example, the Dodgers have an agreement with the city under which the team pays for police security in and around the stadium. But the city does not have such an agreement with the University of Southern California, which operates the Coliseum.

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It’s not good policy to pull officers from their duties to provide security at a private, for-profit event. Nor is it fair to stick taxpayers with the bill.

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