News / Perspective / Amnesia File

As Council's Public Safety Committee Meets Today (3 p.m.) On Police Levels, See/Hear What It Did & Didn't Do On Replenishment Police Academy Class And Other Items to webcast today's Public Safety Committee meeting LIVE at 3 p.m. (not available LIVE on City Hall website)


June 12, 2012) -- opens our Amnesia File in preparation for this afternoon's (June 12, 3:00 p.m.) meeting of the City Council's Public Safety Committee (comprised of Mayor-chosen chair Garcia, vice chair Schipske, member Johnson). photo: Jan.31, 2012 Committee meeting plans to webcast the meeting LIVE. (City Hall's website doesn't provide live coverage of Committee meetings.)

The Committee's agendized items (usually chair chosen) don't address the status of the gunfire detection system that Councilman Garcia [and separately editorially] supported last year. Despite $350,000 allocated from oil revenue in Oct. 2011 for such a system, it still hasn't materialized.

Today's Committee agenda includes the following:

(1) an update on crime statistics; (2) a "report on Police Academy and staffing"; (3) report on a "residential alley video surveillance pilot program"; (4) update on accommodations for females at Fire Stations (5) report on Los Angeles Special Needs Awareness Program (SNAP) registry (6) quarterly data from Fire Calls for Service.

Roughly a year and a half ago in November 2010, then-newly hired Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell told LB media outlets and separately told the City Council's Public Safety Committee that he hopes to conduct a lateral-hire replenishment police academy class (producing roughly ten officers) in early spring 2011, coupled with a full recruit-academy class (roughly 32 recruits) starting in early FY12, which began Oct. 1, 2011 and is about to end in September 2012.

In November 2010 testimony, Chief McDonnell told the Council's Public Safety Committee that if City Hall doesn't begin the process of replenishing officers in the coming months: it could be very hard for the City to "catch up" to needed police levels.

In September 2011, the Council voted to spend money that could have been allocated to a replenishment Academy class to instead maintain status quo staffing (meaning PD levels would deplete further with anticipated retirements). A month later in October 2011, a Council majority, with Schipske, Gabelich, Neal dissenting, declined to use accrued oil revenue to avert PD and FD staffing reductions. The Council majority approved spending the money instead on items including a shot spotter gunfire detection system (still invisible), tree trimming, pothole repair (which other cities manage to provide in addition to replenishing retiring police), a courthouse prisoner transfer tunnel whose multi-million dollar cost exposure city management concealed until the courthouse deal was done, and a City Hall website upgrade

In November 2010, Chief McDonnell described for the Public Safety Committee his hope for a lateral hire police academy class (spring 2011) and a full recruit police academy class (with a 16-18 month start-to-finish time), aiming for a start date in or about Jan. 1, 2012.

To hear the salient portion of Chief McDonnell's report to the Public Safety Committee, click here.

On hearing the Chief's report, Committee chair Councilman Robert Garcia acknowledged the seriousness of the situation, at one point calling it a "crisis"...but didn't commit to supporting a FY12 recruit replenishment Police Academy class.

Committee member/Councilman James Johnson was more blunt. He informed Chief McDonnell that he (Johnson) believes the Council needed to know more about the FY12 fiscal situation before agreeing to budget a FY12 replenishment police academy.

(A few weeks earlier, Councilman Johnson recommended that the Council adopt a "two year" budget planning process, apparently arguing that City Hall could forecast revenue and expenses two years in advance.)

To hear Councilmembers' Garcia and Johnson's Nov. 30, 2010 responses to Chief McDonnell's presentation, click here.

Public Safety Committee chair Garcia didn't report back to the City Council in 2011 on what Chief McDonnell said or agendize a Council item to take action in response.

On Jan. 31, 2012, the Committee voted 2-1 (Schipske dissenting) to recommend in February that the City Council ask City Management to return in March with what Councilman Garcia described as a "Multi-Year Police Academy recruitment plan." Councilwoman Schipske called the Committtee majority's action a feel-good item and urged the Committee to recommend starting a replenishment academy class as rapidly as possible. Councilman Garcia self-described his proposal and the Committee majority's action as a "responsible approach."

On March 7, 2012, at an afternoon (not evening prime time) Council meeting, a budget session was held to "to receive and file a presentation on the Fiscal Outlook for 2013 and Beyond." At that meeting city management told the City Council, and taxpayers, that City Hall's current levels of service aren't sustainable and cuts in addition to those already made would be necessary for at least the next three years.

Management offered three options for funding a replenishment police academy class: shift the entire cost to other city departments, or shift half the cost to other departments and supplement with "one time" funds, or fund the academy class entirely with "new tax revenue" and possibly "one time funds."

City Hall Financial Management Director John Gross said that even with "proportonal reductions," City Hall's service levels (for items apart from police) were expected to decline to levels at which the Council should "reexamine them" to decide what should and shouldn't be funded.

No Councilmembers flatly endorsed the idea of a LB tax increase ballot measures...but none dissented. No Councilmembers advocated funding a replenishment police academy immediately.

And no Councilmembers advocated funding a replenishment Academy class in FY13 (begins October 2012) regardless of whether a tax increase ballot measure is advanced or passes.

City Manager Pat West said city management didn't favor a Council decision on funding a replenishment Police Academy class until overall budget decisions in September 2012 (for FY13).

Mayor Foster (who sought office on a pledge to put 100 more officers on the street) called it a "knee jerk" reaction to assume that more police were necessarily better at reducing crime. He suggested (as he has since the economic downturn prompted his budget cuts) that technological methods might provide efficiencies. Public Safety Committee chair Councilman Robert Garcia agreed with the Mayor and didn't make any motions to fund a replenishment police academy class. He moved to shift the subject to discussion of the type of downtown and urban environment people would like to see [an approach inviting a public "buy-in" to a tax increase that would supposedly to produce it.]

When asked in Council colloquy about continued attrition, Police Chief Jim McDonnell said the Department is on average losing about 44 officer/per year.

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