(Feb. 18, 2005) -- In an extemporaneous preview of his upcoming "State of the Police Dept." address, LB Chief of Police Anthony Batts says he will tell the City Council on March 1 that LBPD officers need better pay and -- reiterating a message he delivered to Councilmembers in September 2003 -- LB needs more police.
Chief Batts made his statements at LBPD's monthly Community Crime Prevention Meeting, an event open to the public and attended by neighborhood activists from across the city.
Chief Batts' statements on police pay prompted a roomful of applause, followed by audience reaction to a simultaneous challenge by the Chief to grassroots activists: help come up with a way to pay for needed increases in LB's police level, growing thinner per capita as LB invites more growth and development.
LBReport.com provides extended transcript excerpts below.
The Chief noted that crime in LB had fallen in several categories for two years in a row...and showed even more dramatic drops compared with the early 1990s:
"In 1993, we had 126 homicides in this city, 126 lives lost. Not to cheer, but [in 2004] we had 48 lives lost, a dramatic difference. We had 3,816 robberies in 1993...we had 1,531 [in 2004]...We had in 1993, 2,178 cars stolen...[in 2004] 914. Total crimes in 1993: 62,642. Total crimes , 31,834. [applause]. The city is becoming safer. These hard working police officers back here, these PSAs, this command staff, they do an outstanding job," Chief Batts said. He continued:Chief Batts: ...Two years ago [Sept. 03], I went before the City Council and I told the City Council I thought two years ago we needed 130 police officers...And I said that was at that time and those numbers were increasing, plus the city is growing...You have a bunch of condos that are going on in the downtown area. You have a beautiful entertainment zone that's going on downtown...I love that area! I am so proud of it, I've really got to tell you, at nighttime when you've got those beautiful blue lights that are goin' on, you have visitors that come in...because I remember when I started at the police organization in the 80s, I remember what that area looked like...and now, this has hotels, it's beautiful, it's an entertainment area...
...Activity down there has gone up 70%. Well that 70% translates into work for me, because when those bars close at 2 o'clock in the morning, and those 21 year old young men see those 21 year old young girls, and they've just finished drinking some beers, it becomes problematic down there, and you have one macho young kid bumping into another macho young kid and saying, hey I'm tougher than you, and so that requires work for us because we have to respond down there and stay on top of those things.
And so our numbers are not growing fast enough to keep pace with that. The city is growing with all the condos that are going on...and other projects that are down there...When all those people come, it's going to impact our resources and we're not growing fast enough to address that.
Now when I told the City Council we needed those numbers, well I was a neophyte chief and I didn't understand what I was doing because what I basically did is I said, "here's a problem" and knowing that we're going into the budget crisis I said "here's a problem" with no solution to it.
So my solution to it was, I started with [LAPD Chief] Bratton and [L.A. County Sheriff] Baca to do Measure A, which was the [proposed Nov. 2004 sales tax increase] throughout L.A. County...Well, it didn't make it, but the reality is that the issues are still there...
[In the 1980s] the level of violence started to go up in our city...you saw your first drive-by shootings. We [as LBPD officers on the street] started saying, 'We need more police officers.' You could see it. The crime rate was down, but we could see that if we didn't do something really quick, it was going to get out of hand.
And we started yelling upwards, 'We need more police officers out here. We need more police officers out here.' And it seemed like nobody heard us and nobody paid attention and the organization did not grow.
Less than ten years later -- less than ten years later -- they did say 'Let's bring in the Sheriffs' 'cause you can't keep pace and you can't do a good job. Think how demoralizing that is for police officers who are out there doing the best job that they can, honestly loving this city and not having the resources to do the job, and then have someone say 'We're going to get rid of you because you can't keep pace with the crime rate' although ten years earlier we were saying, 'Hey, pay attention.'...
We need to grow law enforcement here in the City of Long Beach. I'm standing there just like we did in the 1980s saying, 'We need more police officers.' Now the crime rate is down. We as command staff have made this organization extremely efficient. We've given them one mission, we've focused them, they responded, the crime rate is dropping down.
The numbers are growing in this city. This is very serious. And I don't know how many times or another way that I can say it to you. This organization needs to grow. It has to grow. And I hope someone's hearing me and I hope you're paying attention to what I'm saying...
...Now I'm not a politician. I'm not here to deal with politics. I'm here to deal with the safety of the city. That's my only job. That's my only mission.
As [LAPD Chief] Bratton is trying to roll a ball up the hill and say we need to tax ourselves, or we need to come up with something to pay for more police officers, I don't think that's the way to go. I don't think me as the Chief of Police is going to be able to roll that big boulder up the hill.
I think the citizens at the grassroots level -- if this is important, if you believe what I'm saying -- need to get involved in this. You guys need to, at a grassroots level, say this is what we need to do to get more police officers out here on the streets.
Now I'm very concerned about saying this because I get myself in trouble. We cut that UUT [utility users tax] that was supposed to go to law enforcement. And when I was out lobbying for [County proposed Measure A] and I was telling people 'hey, we need to do this,' to the person, everyone said 'we support you, but we don't trust that that money is going to go to law enforcement.'
I understand that [but we shouldn't cut off our nose to spite our face. It makes no sense.
The need is still there. That has not changed. We can write in language that says 'this money will go this location and this will have accountability to the citizens every year.'
And you can get politicians to say this is what's going to happen. You can get it written in that if it does not go to where you say it's going to go, it stops.
I think you can do it for the City of Long Beach, now I'm not talking about L.A. County, I'm talking about here in the City of Long Beach.
If you do not agree with what I'm trying to address with you, we need to look at something. And if somebody has a better way, if somebody has a better idea, then I think they should come up with it.
But I think you should get involved, the citizens need to get involved...I don't think I could beat that horse anymore. I don't think I could give that sense of urgency any more than what I'm doing. And I'm not putting hyperbole out there.
We're going stay and do as much as we can as a Police Dept. and we're going to try to keep that crime rate down as much as we possibly can. I don't know how much longer we can continue to do that with the number of officers that I have here today...
Q: [paraphrase] How many officers do you have now?
Chief Batts: We're budgeted for about 975 [officers] currently, I think we're probably about 940 right now. I told the Council, like I said, two years ago, that at that point in time we were about 130 [short] that I think we needed to get on top of crime, and that was a minimum number that we needed to do...
What I learned as a neophyte Chief too is that you shouldn't throw a number out there, because people will wrap around that number...So what I'm going to do is paint them a picture...based on other cities throughout the nation, and they get to pick what they want to do and how they want to go.
...We are at 1.7 [or] 1.8 [sworn officers] per thousand. Now I've got to put a caveat on with that. Police officers in Long Beach, we're at 2.0 [but] we have contracts with the Long Beach Unified School District, we have officers on campus, we have officers in the Harbor which is a contract to the Harbor. We have officers at the Airport which are a contract to the Airport. We have officers that are the buses, which are a contract to the [LB] Transit District.
Now the problem with that is, I can't pull them off of those areas. Those are all contract officers that are responsible and if I have a major event, I can't pull those guys off. They don't go to calls for service. They don't deal with day to day crime. They deal with the Airport and they deal with the Harbor. So if you pull those 40 officers out, you have [approx.] 1.7 officers...