Council & Mgt. On Providing Cops & Stopping Killings:
Without Notice, Council Directs City Atty To Prepare Resolutions Backing County Sales Tax Hike And Urging Congress To Keep Funding COPS Grants; Resolutions Will Get Coming Council Vote, Perhaps Jan. 13
Council Sends City Mgt. Gang Strategy to Public Safety & Housing & Neighborhoods Committees
Colonna Says City Has Acceptable Level of Policing
Baker Presses Batts: What Else Do You Need? Batts Reiterates LBPD Needs 130 More Cops But Speaking As Mgt. Says City Hall Can't Afford It Now
Councilman Dennis Carroll:
(January 7, 2004, updated) -- The Long Beach City Council responded to a rash of killings in Central LB by discussing city management's gang strategy, sending the gang issue and strategy to a future joint meeting of the Council's Public Safety Committee and Housing and Neighborhoods Committee...and requested preparation of resolutions that would put LB City Hall on record as backing an increase in the County's sales tax.
At the January 6 Council meeting -- without prior notice and to our knowledge for the first time publicly -- LB city management, via LBPD Chief Anthony Batts, urged support for a County sales tax hike for law enforcement backed by L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca.
[update] Sheriff Baca is apparently proposing a 1/2 of 1% sales tax increase which would take the sales tax from 8.25% to 8.75%. [end update]
Councilmembers voted -- also without notice -- to direct the City Attorney to move forward immediately to prepare a resolution that if subsequently passed by the Council would put LB City Hall on record supporting the half-cent sales tax hike backed by Sheriff Baca.
The Council likewise voted to direct the City Attorney to prepare a resolution that if subsequently passed by the Council would support continued federal funding of the federal COPS grants program.
All three motions passed 8-0 (Webb absent for entire meeting) although the two motions backing the sales tax hike and further federal COPS funding were not agendized in advance. The item publicly agendized was, "Report on Police Department action plan regarding gang related violence in Long Beach."
The usual Council practice is to agendize a request for the City Attorney to prepare a resolution on a policy matter, have a Council vote, then return a week or so later with the resolution verbiage for review and a second Council vote. On January 6, dispensed with the usual first step entirely although the resolutions themselves will be agendized for a coming Council vote perhaps as soon as January 13.
Second District Councilman Dan Baker pressed Police Chief Batts on what other resources LBPD needed to stop the violence. Chief Batts reiterated his position, first stated at a September 2003 Council budget session, that LBPD needs 130 more officers, but as in September 03 again stopped short of directly asking the Council for them.
Chief Batts restated city management's position that LB City Hall cannot currently afford the needed officers, saying to do so would jeopardize library, park and other services he claimed help prevent gang activity. In September 2003, Batts likewise stopped short of asking the Council to fund 130 more officers he said were needed, noting City Hall's budget deficit and saying the decision was a ultimately policy matter for the Council to decide.
The Council actions ensued following a series of shootings of LB residents of Cambodian descent. In response, Councilman Carroll and Vice Mayor Frank Colonna jointly agendized for the January 6 Council meeting a request for a report from city management on a "Police Department Action Plan Regarding Gang Related Violence in Long Beach."
In their agendizing memo, Colonna and Carroll said in part that "our City Council has made a commitment to eliminate the terror of gangs and violence from every neighborhood in our city...We must respond to this renewed, senseless cycle of gang related violence with an intense and sustained effort led by our Police Department. The recent "Operation Clean Streets" task force and the "Mile of Men" marches have demonstrated our community’s widespread commitment to maintaining peace in our neighborhoods. Law abiding citizens have had enough. We must stop the violence." They requested "a report from the City Manager regarding the Police Chief’s current violent crime suppression strategy action plan to address the current episode of gang related violence in our city.
Councilman Carroll has chaired the Council's Public Safety Committee since July 2002 and is seeking reelection to Council office in April 2004.
In March 2002, Vice Mayor Colonna made a motion, which Councilman Carroll voted to support, to send a report by the City Auditor on police staffing to the Public Safety Committee for analysis and a response back to the Council. To date, the Public Safety Committee chaired by Carroll has taken no action on the police staff report that was referred to it.
LBReport.com posts extended transcript excerpts (unofficial, prepared by us) below. They are what we consider salient comments, although not all speakers or their comments are indicated.
Councilman Carroll: ...I had the opportunity [recently] to accompany East Division officer Chris Rose on a portion of his patrol...to see again what we might do to get a handle on this situation. I was with him for several hours. No sooner had I gotten out of the car than I learned another person was shot and killed. It was a quiet night. There was no reason for it. I know the police were out there. I was out there. I saw them out there. We saw other [police] cars.
And it is a sickening feeling to personally experience that in a sense no matter how many police we might use to flood an area, it does not prevent the possibility of someone being shot if someone else wants to do that...
It's particularly disheartening for this Councilman, and I think I speak for the other Councilmembers, to do everything that we have tried to do...and here we are finding ourselves in this circumstance...
...How much can we do without confronting the fact that it appears, if people are intent on shooting another individual, they're going to do that. And I hope the people understand I have been involved in the criminal justice system for almost thirty years, in juvenile courts. I sat as a judge pro tem in juvenile courts. I've dealt with these young men...[M]ost of them are good kids who have gone wrong, and the whole point of juvenile court is to rehabilitate them...
[But] there are a certain number who, when the guns come out unfortunately, are prepared to take the life of another individual. From my perspective, those young men, although they're not always juvenile court but those men need to be removed from our community.
The question becomes, with everything we are doing now, is it possible for us to do anything more. And the question I ask myself is, we will not tolerate what we have been seeing the last two and a half months. I don't know what more we need to do, and that's why Councilman Colonna and myself, the city manager and the Chief are bringing this matter forward to all of us...
...We need new ideas, new approaches. We need to do something, it is simply not tolerable that these persons are dying in our community...
...Gangs have been around for many, many years and probably will be around for many more, but we need to do what we can to ameliorate these conditions. I am hopeful that out of our discussion tonight we will learn that our police force is doing a tremendous job, that by and large we still live in a safe city, although it is not a crime free city and unfortunately in a big city which that is, that does not seem to be a realistic goal as much as we might want to have that to be our goal.
We are going to do what needs to be done. I spoke again this evening with the Police Chief and was assured of his commitment. The City Manager is going to make what resources we need to be made available to the officers. I had the pleasure last evening with the Vice Mayor of meeting with the leaders in the Cambodian community. They are committed to doing what's necessary in their community...
But I want you to know, this Councilmember does not forget any of this. We live with it 24 hours a day and sleep with it. If we had a major bullet or had a major wand, there would not be any more shootings in Long Beach ever...
Vice Mayor Colonna
...Vice Mayor Colonna:...[T]his is not just a police issue, it's a community issue, and what can we do in terms of getting people to step up and identify some of these people. When you read in the newspaper that the people sitting next to a person who was a victim is refusing to say what's going on, and you know that he knows who did it, you know we've got a problem...
...Perhaps what we can do if it's possible is work with public service announcements in Cambodian, and Hispanic and any other language that could make some sense on some of our other than English cable channels in order to get the message out to people that it is a community responsibility to try to help clean up the streets...
...I'm prepared, and I think other Councilmembers I'm sure would support, some type of a resolution that we could put forward that we could advance to our federal elected officials of how important our COPS funding is here for our city.
We are at, I think, an acceptable level of policing in our city. We've worked real hard to get there. We've worked under the constraints of a budget that's seen the disappearance of approximately $30 million from a utility tax that was a great assist in terms of keeping our level of funding out there, but we have done what we can to make sure that the Chief has the resources that he has asked for...
Councilman Dan Baker inquiry to Chief Batts, intervening response by Mayor O'Neill, second inquiry by Baker and response by Chief Batts
Councilman Baker: ...My concern is that we as a city, we're talking, and we're talking, and we're talking and we're meeting and I don't see what we need to be happening is to make the madness stop. And so I have a very simple question. I read in the Press-Telegram that the Chief asked us for 130 officers and we didn't provide it. Unfortunately, I don't think they got the facts right there which is par for the course.
But Chief, the very simple question I have for you is, what do you need from us to make this [violence] stop? And then, as the Vice Mayor said, this Council I believe will do everything possible to provide you the assets that you need to do that, but what I don't want to see come out of this is another task force and another round of meetings...
Mayor O'Neill [intervenes]:: I just wanted to say that the report we're going to get is going to show that things have actually gone down, crime has gone down, however it doesn't look like that when it seems something [is] in the paper every day. I know it's no consolation but all cities are facing this right now, with the gangs that we have in this area, and I wish we were an island like we used to be but we're not, but we're right involved with it. It's not madness in Long Beach, it's madness throughout southern California...
[Chief Batts then delivered his presentation...but didn't explicitly discuss the need for additional police officers. Following Chief Batts' presentation, Councilman Baker pressed his inquiry]
Councilman Baker: Chief, I greatly appreciate the report...I look at your first page...and the very last page...and I have one question for you: Do you need anything else from this City Council to accomplish this?
Councilwoman Kell: (amid Council chamber laughter) Go ahead, Chief. Go ahead.
Chief Batts: (laughs) Councilman Baker. I think we could always use different things. Reality, much like what I said when I was at the [Sept. 2003] budget meeting, and I've seen a lot of things written and a lot of statements from what I said and only a part of what I said was usually printed or referenced.
...What I stated is what I thought this organization needed was 130 more police officers.
The second part of what I said is also being a responsible manager [as] part of this city I understand that we don't have that coming and this city cannot afford to do that at this point in time. If we in fact were to do that we would lose more libraries, more parks, more locations, more things that we need to help fight this battle in preventing gang activity and gang crime.
The City Manager has assured me, and has stated many times publicly, is when we come out of this budget crisis that we have now, we will get the resources at the pace that will help this city. He has made this very clear, many times.
The City Council has been very gracious to this police organization, whether through new motorcycles, whether through new helicopters, whether through new buildings that have gone up and structures that we need. So you've been consistently supportive during the times of the things that we need.
Can we use more? Absolutely, but we're also a very responsible organization and what we're doing now is making do with the resources that we have...
...You ask what can we do? I think we need...[to] start pushing the issue of communicating, talking, telling. And yeah, people will say, 'Well I'm afraid of retaliation.' But that only goes so far. If we don't start telling, informing, sharing and protecting our community, we really will be afraid.
So what I ask of this Council is that we take the bold step and start pushing those issues.
What I ask of this Council is that we start pushing at a federal level that we need grants and we need Community Oriented Policing Grants [COPS grants] to help put more officers on the street based on the overtime to get us out of this budgetary concern that we have.
What I ask is that Sheriff Baca has championed a policy of a 2% [sic, actually 1/2 of 1%] sales tax [increase] that will give the City of Long Beach $20 million to use toward law enforcement. I would ask that the City Council support that proposal also...
Community members (not all speakers indicated)
Mr. Lester: ...My father was murdered on Long Beach Blvd. eleven years ago, so I know all too well what the repercussions are when people in your family disappear.
I listen to this Council talk about this particular issue, and the Police Chief has said...we'll make things work 'cause we don't want to hurt other programs and services.
...All I hear is you're going to adopt a resolution asking the federal government for more money. This is not a federal problem. This is a Long Beach problem. Why can't you spend the money for these kids who are being killed, that their parents pay in property taxes and all the fees and revenues to fix the problem here?
Why do we always have to wait on the President and the Congress and the Governor to fix problems that we create?
We give Section 8 vouchers to every Tom, Dick and Harry. We create SROs [single room occupancy] and sober living homes for every damn community west of Cherry. So one minute you're fighting storefront churches, the next minute you're letting a Sober Living operator come into the neighborhood...
...You guys refuse to get tough with landlords. You refuse to say no to more low income affordable housing. You have made this city into a slum.
If you want to fix it...start passing laws. Quit asking and begging for money. Start making some changes. Stop building multi-family shopping centers. Stop building 100 unit low income apartment buildings. We don't need any more. Say no...'cause all you're doing is creating a cycle...
You don't get federal money unless you got problems. When you got 3,000 employees that are dependent on grant money from the government, guess what, you don't get rid of the problem because they need their job too.
Steve James, LB Police Officers Ass'n President
Mr. James: ...You [to Councilmembers] voted to cut our pay $7,500. That's the direction you've given to these folks over here [points to management]...
We could use more officers. We've proven in the past more officers equates to lower crime. Y2K is a perfect example. We had a City of Long Beach that had virtually -- virtually -- no crime, because there were so many police officers out in the streets.
The Chief is right. We can't afford to do that every day. I'm not going to say we should close every library and every park in order to do that but there is a happy medium somewhere.
You're direction to the City Manager right now will create an exodus of from this police department. People are going to go where they can make more money, where they can pay their bills, where they feed their families. Instead of increasing the numbers, you're going to be decreasing them with the policies you have in place right now...
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Councilmembers approved three motions:
- Motion (Carroll) to refer management's report and its "2004 Violent Crime Suppression Strategies" to a joint meeting of the Council's Public Safety Committee and Housing and Neighborhoods Committees.
- Motion (Colonna) to prepare a resolution (for presentation likely at the Jan. 13 Council meeting) in support of continued federal funding for federal COPS grants. (Webb absent 8-0)
- Motion (Richardson) to prepare a resolution (for presentation likely at the Jan. 13 Council meeting) supporting L.A. County Sheriff Baca's proposal for a sales tax increase.
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