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City Hall & Port Quietly Negotiate Deal That Could Take Police From Neighborhoods For Port, Harbor District Security

Will come to Council for approval

(April 30, 2002) -- With crime rising and LB police levels thinner per capita than Signal Hill and L.A. and lower than publicly budgeted, LB city management and Port staff have been quietly negotiating a plan that could reduce police on LB neighborhood streets to handle Port and harbor district security.

The item came to public attention after it was disclosed at a Harbor Commission meeting yesterday.

Port of LB Managing Director of Maritime Services, Don Wylie, wrote in an April 25 memo to Harbor Commissioners, "As you know, we have been in discussions with the Long Beach Police Department to modify our existing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to provide enhanced police services within the Harbor District. We have finalized our discussions and are submitting the modified term sheet." The memo was approved by Port Executive Director Richard Steinke. It requested that the Harbor authorize Steinke to execute a modified MOU containing substantially the following terms. (The Harbor Commissioners approved this.)

According to the publicly released term sheet, patrol methodology would have officers and sergeants as dedicated resources to the harbor District. "75% of their time will be spent patrolling the land and water areas under the control of the Harbor Department and the remaining 25% will be spent patrolling City controlled assets."

The term sheet indicates staffing costs would be $1.35 million, overtime $174,000 with roughly $211,000 in vessels, vehicles and a facility if needed.

LB taxpayers -- not Port tenants -- would pay 25% of the financial cost...and fewer officers to handle LB neighborhood policing.

The Long Beach Press-Telegram said officials cited security concerns for declining to say how many officers might be involved, but applying simple deductive math provides a rough estimate.

Since the MOU is for two years, and the City Manager and City Auditor have in previous Council discussions publicly estimated that $1 million could pay for 10 officers (City Manager figure, officers fully equipped) to 13 officers (City Auditor figure, pure personnel staffing), we estimate that roughly (very roughly) six to ten officers could be involved.

The arrangement was not mentioned in an otherwise comprehensive March, 2002 Council report on police levels by City Auditor Gary Burroughs or in a February, 2002 staff report by LBPD Chief Jerome Lance (although Lance's report did refer to officials taking a look at security needs post Sept. 11)..

The City Auditor's March 2002 report provided much useful detail, revealing that despite the Council's publicly budgeted level of roughly 913 sworn officers, LB had roughly 140 fewer sworn officers available for service as of Feb. 2002. Roughly 70 sworn budgeted slots were filled by non-sworn (retired, so-called "dinosaur" officers) and roughly 40 budgeted sworn positions were (in Feb. 02) unfilled.

Last week, 40 recruits graduated from the police academy and were sworn, although they will have to work in tandem with more experienced officers for roughly 16 months more.

LBPD's ranks are expected to be depleted by retirements later this year under a generous new pension system, including an as yet unknown percentage of retirees from roughly 70 additional officers not on LB streets due to injuries or other types of disability.

Following presentation of the Auditor's report, the Council opted not to address police staffing levels until the upcoming budget process (which governs the new budget year starting Oct 1). If a new police academy class wasn't started until on Oct 1, new recruits wouldn't graduate until March 2003, meaning LB neighborhoods would feel the deficit until at least then, if not longer (if the class started later).

Without a realistic plan by city management or the Council action to bolster neighborhood police levels, the Port-LBPD could spur calls to bring L.A. County Sheriffs in to temporarily handle duties until LBPD's ranks are replenished and increased.

4th district neighborhood leader Traci Wilson-Kleekamp has previously raised the issue of bringing Sheriffs into LB to handle duties temporarily based on LB's rising crime and the Council's failure to budget sufficient police even before the Port-LBPD arrangement came to light.

The Port-LBPD arrangement would eventually have to come to the City Council for approval. The Harbor Department's revelation of the proposed deal comes just weeks after citywide elections decided the 3d, 5th and 9th Council district races.

The Mayor's race, and 7th district Council seat, remain in contention. It is prsently unclear whether the proposed Port-LBPD arrangement will come to the Council before the June, 2002 election.

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