LBPD Tells Council's Public Safety Committee That LB Currently Has Two "Quality of Life" Police Officers (One Each Assigned To East And South Divisions) Who Also Handle Homeless/Transient/Vagrant Crime Issues Citywide "As Necessary"; Committee Makes No Voted Recommendation; Austin Signals He'll Raise Issue In Council's FY18 Budget Actions (Coming In Aug-Sept.)
|(July 14, 2017, 10:40 a.m.) -- LBPD has told the City Council's Public Safety Committee (chair Price, vice chair Supernaw, member Austin) that Long Beach has currently has two police officers to handle what the City Councilmembers have called "Quality of Life" issues (but some impacted neighborhood have termed increased robberies, burglaries thefts and drug use) related to homeless/transient/vagrant behavior, and the two current "Quality of Life" officers are assigned to LBPD's East and South Divisions, but handle such issues citywide "as needed."
The information sparked Committee discussion of LBPD Quality of Life officer staffing, deployment and responses, among other issues, at the Committee's July 13 meeting. The meeting was held (a "first" for the Committee) outside City Hall at LBFD's ELB Fire Training Center with a scheduled start time of 6 p.m. to allow greater public access and participation; roughly twenty people attended, the largest number Committee chair Price said had attended any of the Committee's previous meetings.
[Scroll down for further.]
LBPD Deputy Police Chief Richard Conant displayed a Power Point slide showing data compiled during FY17 (began Oct. 1, 2016), indicating that the Quality of Life officers:
He said the Quality of Life police officers have "primary repsonsibility or duty to reach out to homeless individuals that are spread out throughout our divisions and attempt to gain first the confidence of those individuals and provide them with some sort of wrap-around services that are available. If those services are not accepted and these individuals are engaging in criminal behavior, the individuals are then incarcerated based on their offenses." He added that "A quality of life officer is also responsible to our citizenry in the city as well, so it's not just what impacts people that are experiencing homelessness, it is also issues that impact our residents and their responsibility is to do the right things at the right times to take care of our residents as well, so it's not just one-sided...Our job is both sides of the coin."
During Committee Q & A (and prefacing his question by noting that although he's obviously interested in North Division (with homeless individuals along the L.A. river and elsewhere) but is also concerned about LB's west side, 8th dist. Councilman Austin asked if adding one or two officers would be used to assist or otherwise applied in North Division. Deputy Chief Conant replied that if LBPD had the ability to deploy Quality of Life officers in each of its divisions, he would do so.
Councilman Austin asked how LBPD currently handles Quality of Life issues in North Division. Deputy Chief Conant replied that Quality of Life officers assist patrol officers on various types of calls but the converse is also true and patrol officers also respond to quality of life issues. Councilman Austin commended Deputy Chief Conant for the data he provided, and commented that additional data would be helpful to Councilmembers in understanding the value of expanding Quality of Life services across the city. Councilman Austin also stated that he'd like to see greater consistency in the application of services and resources and hopes to have that discussion during the upcoming FY18 budget process.
Councilwoman Price asked Deputy Chief Conant if LBPD had made any recommendations to management on the issue in the proposed FY18 budget. It's in preparation now, Deputy Chief Conant replied...and Councilwoman Price indicated this would be a good time to cite the bvenefits of the Quality of Life officers.
Earlier in the discussion, Chair Price poised a question to Deputy Chief Conant that invited him to acknowledge (as he did) that deployment of Quality of Life officers isn't simply a fiscal [budget] issue but also requires adequate training to provide the officer with the skill set necessary to handle Quality of Life issues. Deputy Chief Conant said there is in fact an extensive training process involved, to which Price underscored that the issue isn't simply a matter of funding but actually funding plus training, which Conant said is correct.
[Ed. note: The City Council decides how many officers LBPD has available to deploy for any LBPD uses when it votes to adopt or modify City Hall's budgets. In FY17, the Council restored 17 budgeted officers out of 208 budgeted officers that LB taxpayers previously received (erased in "proportional budget reductions" recommended by former Mayor Foster and approved by Councils that included now-Mayor Robert Garcia.]
In the context of making arrests, Chair Price also raised an issue that she's stressed elsewhere: the impact of Prop 47 [a Nov. 2014 statewide ballot measure that reduced a number of former felonies to misdemeanors]. During Q & A, Deputy Chief Conant acknowledged that the number of traditional arrests have indeed fallen under Prop 47. He said misdemeanors not committed in the officer's presence or infractions are now often handled by "cite and release" with a paper citation, and if ignored by the recipient, a warrant results, which can then result in bringing a homeless person into the system. Price asked if LBPD still arrests in the traditional sense (handcuffs, booking, etc.) for possession of a controlled substance, to which Deputy Chief Conant said the number of such arrests has indeed declined and "we are severely impacted by that decision [Prop 47]."
As previously reported by LBREPORT.com, on March 9, 2017 city management quietly sent a memo to the Mayor and all LB Councilmembers [subsequently discovered and published by LBREPORT.com here] informing the electeds that the City has a "team" historically comprised of two [quality of life] officers, "created by re-allocating patrol officers responsible for 911-response and...funded by the use of the City's General Fund" added that "due to recent staffing shortages, one of the two officers previously assigned to this team was reassigned back to general Patrol Duties."
The Public Safety Committee could have, but didn't, make a voted recommendation on the matter to the full City Council...which is due to receive Mayor Garcia's budget recommendations on or before Aug. 1 on city management's not-yet-released proposed FY18 budget. The Council can change the management proposed/Mayor recommended budget on police staffing (or any General Fund items) or before Sept. 15 (or management's proposed budget takes effect.)
Over the past year, residents in a number of neighborhoods have attributed increased thefts, robberies and burglaries to homeless/transient/vagrants and urged stronger City enforcement actions. On April 15, an online petition surfaced (originating with some 3rd Council district residents) stated that "they can't go to the parks, joggers take pepper spray with them, businesses are robbed, our garages are ransacked, our belongings are stolen, our cars are broken into. We are on high alert and are unable to enjoy our own neighborhood because we feel it has been taken over...We feel that the Mayor and Chief of Police, along with our elected officials, don't care or don't know what to do. We are sick of having community forums on the topic. We are sick of meetings that produce a lot of wishy washy rhetoric. Please help us get tougher. It feels like we are being invaded and when we complain, we are told we're insensitive as if we're supposed to cower in fear, clutching our possessions, scared to leave the house rather than say we're sick of it. Mayor, Chief, we're SICK of it. Please help us" (full petition here.)
The group launched a Facebook page (titled "ENUF -- Eastside Neighborhoods United Fully" at this link) but no individuals who indicated they were part of ENUF testified at the July 13 Public Safety Committee meeting.
On May 23, Councilwoman Price, joined by Councilmembers Austin and Andrews, agendized a policy item -- ultimately supported by voted action of the City Council -- that advocated a more "holistic" approach to the issue, calling it a "perception" of many residents that the issue is one of enforcement but asserting that "the reality is that enforcement of existing laws is only one aspect of the issue." The Price-Austin-Andrews May 23 item continued "[O]thers would argue this is a Health Department issue, which is also insufficient, as the topic includes issues well beyond only Health Department programs and services. As is also the case with it being related to housing, economics, mental health, and other areas. The truth is they are all right as this is a complex multidimensional issue spanning national trends, societal shifts, cultural ideology, state law, education, and countless other topics." It concluded: "[F]ocused and creative solutions for those experiencing homelessness or threatened with homelessness must be addressed in addition to the quality of life issues that residents experience every day should be included in the strategy and analysis. Thus, the spirit of this item is to engage in a holistic approach to the issue of homelessness and residential quality of life."
blog comments powered by Disqus
Recommend LBREPORT.com to your Facebook friends:
Follow LBReport.com with:
Contact us: mail@LBReport.com
Hardwood Floor Specialists
Call (562) 422-2800 or (714) 836-7050