Police Chief Batts Tells Council: LB Needs 130 More Cops
(Sept. 17, 2003) -- In one of the most significant presentations by a LB Police Chief in recent memory, LBPD Chief of Police Anthony Batts came to the City Council podium and told Councilmembers -- respectfully but unambiguously -- that LB needs 130 more police officers.
"By our command staff estimates, we're down 90 officers in patrol calls for service, 10 detectives, and we need another thirty officers for new walking and bike beats in our most crime prone neighborhoods and in our growing downtown residential and entertainment center. That's a total of 130 officers, to date, this moment, right now," Chief Batts said at a Sept. 16 afternoon budget workshop...scheduled just hours before a Council vote to adopt the budget.
Responding to Chief Batts' presentation, the president of the Long Beach Police Officers Association, Steve James, came to the podium and told Councilmembers, "Plain and simple, you have a Chief that finally came down here and finally told you the truth," POA President James said.
Chief Batts told the Council of several areas he believes pose public safety challenges, including:
Private development is moving ahead at full speed and will impact demand for public services. Town Center, CityPlace and the Carnival Cruise Terminal will soon be joined by the Pike project...The downtown, including Pine Ave., is evolving into both a residential neighborhood and an entertainment center which is attracting large numbers of residents and out of town visitors, and placing additional deployment demands on law enforcement.
Homeland security requirements are real and expanding. In addition to our Harbor and Airport security units, every officer now assumes Homeland Security responsibilities.
Chief Batts displayed a chart that indicated:
|FY 2003 Budgeted||950.25 FTE [full time equivalent]|
|FY 2004 Budgeted||968.25|
Chief Batts acknowledged that the Council faced budget challenges and competing needs, and as a member of the "city team" he understood the Council's need to strike a balance on allocating resources.
"[W]e are fully aware we as a city are not in the position to expand the Department at the needed rate," Chief Batts said, later adding, "We have staffing shortages, and when the resources are available, we need more police officers."
It was a polite but no-nonsense presentation:
Councilman Baker: ...You also mentioned 130 new officers. I would love to see that. I wonder if you have any ideas on how we can get there?
Chief Batts: ...I don't have the answer to the question because it goes into policy issues, but I think as a city, we're going to be behind the 8-ball in a couple of years, and I don't know if we'll have the mechanism to catch up at that point in time.
Councilwoman Kell: ...How much growth are you talking about?
Chief Batts: Well even today without having the Camden projects on line, without having the Genesis project on line, without having the CityPlace project on line, all this growth that we have in the city. I'm talking about the Boeing project that we have that's pending out there. Those are all things that pull on the organization. Before you open the Pike project, although they have security, and they have security out there much like the Town Center, usually that pulls on our resources also throughout the city. That pulls from your area to go up to Town Center and just stay on top of that issue...
8th district Councilman Rob Webb asked Chief Batts about officer levels in City Hall's 1994 Police Dept. "Strategic Plan" (a product of the City Auditor's office and then-city management). Chief Batts referred to an attachment to the plan (a "wish list," he called it) that indicated LB at 1,023 sworn officers by FY 2000 (i.e. four years ago). "That wish list number comes very close to where we need to be today," Chief Batts said.
In a significant action following Chief Batts' presentation, the President of the Long Beach Police Officers Association, Steve James, came to the podium to underscore what Chief Batts said about the need for more officers.
POA President James: ...Plain and simple, you have a Chief that finally came down here and finally told you the truth.
He just told you we need 130 more police officers. You haven't heard that [before]. About [two years ago], I walked back after one of these meetings with our then-Chief of Police, and he made a comment that he would have asked for more cops if he would have known that an extra million dollars was going to be given to the Public Corporation for the Arts, but he was under the impression that we didn't have the money.
Well, this Chief just came forward and told you we need 130 more cops.
He also told you, which is very important to me, that right now a lack of pay raises has caused a problem: we're unable to get lateral police officers...We are already experiencing a problem with hiring because of our pay structure...
...Ultimately, when the Chief told you he needs 130 more officers, and questions were asked if he has any plans, he very politely told you it's a policy issue. Well what does that mean? That's your problem. That's what it means. That means it's your problem. That's what you ran for office for. He told you he needs 130 more cops. You need to find a way to do that.
...I just want to commend the Chief. I think he did a dynamite job. He's doing a dynamite job...
Chief Batts noted that although crime rose early in 2003, total crime has dropped significantly in recent months. "As a result of the hard work of your police officers, civilian staff who support them, a diligent command staff, our city team, the city is seeing the results. The crime rates have been steadily decreasing for the past five months," Chief Batts said. He noted that like other CA communities, LB has experienced increases in auto burglary and auto theft.
Councilmembers had kind words for Chief Batts...but none publicly indicated a willingness to budget the officers Chief Batts recommended.
LBPD's budget accounts for the largest proportion of General Fund spending...but for some reason, someone scheduled Chief Batts' budget presentation as the next to last item at the last budget workshop on the afternoon of Sept. 16 just hours before the Council was expected to vote to adopt the budget.
[Sept. 17 p.m. update: LBReport.com has learned that budget presentations by city manager departments were presented as requested by the City Council. The LBPD budget presentation was originally scheduled for Sept 9, but deferred to Sept. 16 to accommodate the absence of Councilman Dan Baker who wanted to be present for the police budget presentation but was attending a Sacramento meeting of the League of CA Cities.]
When the Council did vote on the budget a few hours after its presentation, no Councilmember moved to give LB taxpayers the 130 officers Chief Batts said were needed.