(June 1, 2006) -- During the "Reign" of City Manager John Dever, from 1975 to 1987, our Long Beach Police Department was underfunded, gang activity exploded and crime soared. Our City was in a sorry state in 1990 when I arrived on Council. Even with shootings nightly and a terrible murder rate, City Council continued to quarrel about methods of improving circumstances for our citizens. In discussions I remember clearly that some Council Members loudly proclaimed that "More police won't help," and "We just can't afford more officers."
Our Mayor was Ernie Kell. I was one of five Council Members that supported Kell and forced the issue (the other four were Edgerton, Harwood, Kellogg, and Robbins) by voting to contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to police most of the area north of the San Diego Freeway (North and East Long Beach). The Sheriff had offered low cost enforcement, the plan enabled LBPD to concentrate their working the remainder of City and, after approval, crime declined rapidly. More officers were at work and the two agencies competed by aggressively enforcing the law. Our citizens finally had help.
The matter of deciding which department would ultimately serve the whole City came later. The utility tax approval enabled the hiring of more officers, LBPD beefed up staff, finally took back the entire City, and crime continued to fall. The success (also driven constantly by Bill Pearl, later developing www.longbeachreport.com, appearing at Council in support of more staff for police and fire) was amazing - homicides fell from 126 in 1992 to 58 in 1998. Graffiti disappeared and business returned. The City Council then PROMISED to keep police staffing at 2 sworn officers per 1,000 population.
Kell left office and support for more police (keeping the 2 officers per 1,000 people) faded.
Now, our population has climbed and LBPD has not maintained the 2 per 1,000 ratio. The campaign for Mayor of Long Beach, in my opinion, has become a matter of "Political Spin" for City Council Member Frank Colonna. His recall of events of the past few years is clouded. He doesn't remember voting to move the $250,000,000 (five year pension holiday funds) to swell the on-going budget, he's forgotten about spiking his own regular city employee pension - the real move that broke the budget.
YOU WON'T FIND THE AMOUNT OF THE ANNUAL PAYMENT FOR PENSION ANYWHERE IN THE CITY BUDGET - Why not Frank? Don't you want our citizens to see it? How much do we pay for pensions?
Colonna wants 300 more cops. We're broke. Our budget (that Colonna says is balanced) won't permit library hours to be restored or streets, curbs and sidewalks to be fixed. How do we pay for 300 more officers? Colonna says "it's about leadership." And, he argues against more taxes. That is no answer. That's a spin-ster at work. He thinks we'll believe it.
Bob Foster says he'll provide 100 officers over a three year period. Is that enough? I don't think so, but he's HONEST. He wants to grapple with the budget FIRST, than make additional plans. How refreshing. Foster is not making outrageous promises that can't be kept. That's one of the reasons why I TRUST him.
One last thought about policing. It is all about maintaining a response time to EMERGENCIES of three minutes or less. That's the real reason that crime has declined. LBPD has a wonderful group of man and women that are putting their lives on the line. I know what that's all about and I'm appreciate of their work. Help them help us.
Doug Drummond served on the LB Police Dept. for over 29 years, reaching the rank of Commander and was then elected to represent LB's 3rd Council district from 1992 to 1998. He was succeeded in office by Councilman Frank Colonna. In the April 2006 Mayoral election, Drummond received roughly 20% of the vote, coming in third.