(June 1, 2006) --One thing almost everyone agrees on is that the Long Beach Police Department needs more police officers. Despite the agreement, there is much debate about how many officers, how fast they should be added, and how will they be paid for.
Chief Batts has been a strong proponent of increasing the number of officers and in fact he has offered several plans ranging from an additional 39 officers up to 300 additional officers. Chief Batts has been expressing the need for more officers for three years. His message is given to anyone who will listen, and has been the topic of discussion at numerous council meetings. All the while, Frank Colonna has failed to rally around this issue, offer a plan, or take any significant steps toward achieving what has suddenly become his biggest campaign promise.
The Long Beach Police Officers Association is 100 percent in support of the Chief's efforts to grow the department. In order to maintain and hopefully increase the quality of life for the residents of Long Beach the department must grow. We believe that 100 additional officers is manageable, and a great foundation for getting to where we should be, which is the option presented by the Chief that adds 300 police officers.
Bob Foster states that he will grow the department by at least 100 officers over the next four years. This is a manageable, realistic, and attainable goal. Frank Colonna promises to increase the number of police officers by 300 in the next four years. Colonna's time frame is completely unmanageable, unrealistic and unattainable. This is destined to be just another broken campaign promise. Allow me to explain.
In order to fund the growth that is needed there will need to be additional revenues created. This belief is held by the majority of the Council, as well as city management. Over the last three years, the Council and management have worked diligently to eliminate nearly 100 million dollars in structural deficit.
According to Frank, immediately upon concluding the most drastic reductions in the history of the city, he will find an additional 55 million dollars. Frank has been in office for eight years. If that wasnít enough time to find the money, how will he find it as Mayor?
At a recent debate when Frank was pressed for a plan on where the 55 million dollars would come from, his response was that it would come from "leadership." Last time I checked, the bank doesn't cash leadership.
Not only does Frank not know where the money will come from, he doesnít understand the limitations of the department. Frank states, that he will add "an additional 300 officers" during his first term. With the current budget calling for 995 police officers, I assume Frank will increase that number by 300 to 1295 officers. We lose approximately 45 officers a year through normal attrition, all of whom will have to be replaced in order to grow. We have 923 officers on the department today and 77 recruits entering the academy this week which should produce another 49 officers, bringing us to 972. In order to reach 1295 officers we will need 503 new officers to make it through the processes out into the street over the next four years (1295 - 972 + 180 = 503). That would require the department to grow over 50% in just four years. Again, that is not manageable.
There are a few more things that Frank has failed to consider. We have an average drop out rate in both the academy and field training of approximately 20% each. In order to get 503 police officers out in the field you need to have 790 people start the academy over the next four years, or we will have to lower standards, and that is not acceptable. So the next unanswered question is; where are all of these applicants going to come from? We are experiencing one of the worst shortages of qualified applicants ever. To compound that issue, LAPD is looking to hire 3,000 and the Sheriffs department another 1,000. Even if we overcome these issues, we do not have enough training officers to train all of these people once they get in the field.
If as Frank claims, he can pull all of this off, without raising taxes, then why hasnít he done it. He hasnít done it over the last eight years while he has had a vote on the Council, how will he do it as Mayor without a vote? The reality is Frank does not have a plan. He has made a promise that can not be kept. I promise this: if Frank is elected we will end up with more excuses than police officers.
Lieutenant Stephen James
President, Long Beach Police Officers Association