|(July 26, 2020, 7:57 p.m.) -- On or about July 31 or August 1, Long Beach taxpayers will learn if Mayor Robert Garcia (who has no vote) will recommend "defunding" or reducing funding for the city's police department. He may not call it that; he may take pains not to call it that. But in substance it will happen when he releases city management's proposed FY21 budget wit his recommendations.
Below is a chart showing police levels for Long Beach taxpayers that the LB City Council has budgeted compared to city councils in other area cities.
In late June, L.A.'s City Council shifted a portion of LAPD's budget to other spending items but it will reduce LAPD police levels only slightly. By summer 2021, LAPD staffing will drop from about 2.49 officers/thoudsand residents to about 2.43 officers/thousand.
Regardless of one's views on LBPD, it is undeniable that (a) "defunding" or reducing funding for LBPD will mean fewer oficers available for neighborhoods citywide and (b) Mayor Garcia won't decide the issue; a Long Beach City Council majority will do so (subject to a Mayoral veto he's never used that six Councilmembers can override.) .
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Some Councilmembers staked out early positions in favor of defunding/reducing LBPD funding. In a June 7 webcast, 9th district (NLB) Councilman Rex Richardson acknowledged that his "Framework for Reconciliation" includes a provision intended to defund police spending. "Should we defund the police? Absolutely. Am I advocating to take out the police completely? No," Councilman Richardson said and indicated he supports shifting sums away from LBPD to other Council spending items.
Richardson argued (as do other proponents of "defunding"/reducing LBPD funding) that shifting spending to other items will produce better results. Richardson said investing in libraries and public health shows a "thriving healthy city" while putting greater sums into police doesn't. LBREPORT.com provides an audio clip of Councilman Richardson's stated position (runs 3:40) here.
A little over two weeks later on June 23, 2020, Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna publicly cautioned LB's Public Safety Committee (Price, Supernaw, Austin) that calls by some to "defund" (reduce funding for) LBPD -- coming on top of previous budget actions that reduced LBPD sworn and civilian staff by roughly 20% -- could jeopardize LBPD"s current officer training that has he said had reduced LBPD use of force incidents including officer involved shootings. Chief Luna backed up his testimony with data in a memo indicating that LBPD officer-involved shootings dropped from 9 in 2015 to 3 in 2019 and use of force incidents (including OIS) declined from 493 in 2015 to 340 in 2019.
In a colloquy with Committee member Councilman Austin, Chief Luna publicly raised an issue that's often taboo in City Hall public discussions: Council budgeted police levels for taxpayers. "[I]n 2009, this police department was significantly defunded," Chief Luna said. "We lost about 20% of our sworn and civilian staffing. We really never recovered from that."
In late June 2020, the Los Angeles City Council voted
To grasp what that means in LB terms, if LB were to budget 2.43 officers per thousand residents, LB would have to increase LBPD staffing by nearly 400 officers. 2.43 x 472.217 [LB's latest population in thousands] = 1,147 officers. LB's current budgeted police level (not including officers contracted to and paid by LB's Port, LB Airport, LBTransit, LBUSD, LBCC, LA County Carmelitos housing and LA Metro) amounts to barely 1.6 officers per thousand residents (754 officers or perhaps 759, unclear if promised bicycle patrol officers were actually funded and deployed.).
Also in late June, the Santa Monica City Council considered -- but backed off for now -- shifting a portion of SMPD's budget until city officials hold further discussions with defunding-advocates over the next 60-90 days.
Mayor Bob Foster was elected in 2006 on pledge to put 100 more officers on the street in his first four years in office...and he was well on his way to keeping that promise. But LB's police, firefighter and non-public safety unions had endorsed him in 2006, and in 2007 Foster recommended a police contract reopener with raises, and in 2008, he recommended new contracts for LB firefighter and IAM (non-public safety). None of these included pension reforms (long advocated by the LB Taxpayers Ass'n co-founder Tom Stout.) When the 2008 contracts came to the Council for publicly voted approval, Councilwoman Rae Gabelich famously turned away from Mayor Foster and asked City Manager Pat West: "How are we going to pay for this?" Dissatisfied with his answer, Councilwoman Gabelich voted "no" on both contracts (and Councilman DeLong voted for the firefighter contract but against the IAM contract.) ..
Within a few months, the economy slowed, the stock market tanked, the "Great Recession" began and the contracts for LB's police, fire and non-public safety unions had become unsustainable. Foster responded by recommending what he called "proportional budget reductions" (that didn't spare LBPD and LBFd staffing) and demanded that the unions agree to re-open their contracts and agree to pension reforms.
Councilman Robert Garcia (elected in a multi-candidate no-runoff special election) took office in Nay 2009. He voted for Foster's recommended "proportional budget reductions" (and Foster appointed him to chair the Council's "Public Safety Committee' where he similarly voiced no objections.) During a period spanning 2009-2014, the budgets approved by then-Councilman Garcia erased roughly 20% of LB's police level, the largest reduction in budgeted police officers for LB taxpayers in the more than 100 year history of the City of Long Beach,
Although Foster and Garcia may try to blame the "Great Recession," other area cities didn't erase 20% of their cities' police levels to weather the economic downturn.
After LB voters approved the Measure A sales tax increase in June 2016, now-Mayor Garcia began incrementally proposing to restore small numbers of police officers. Entering FY17, he proposed that the Council restore funding for 8 officers (out of 208 erased). Asked by LBEPORT.com at an August 2016 1st Council district budget meeting if she favored restoring more than 8 officers in FY 17, then-Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez tried to cover our camera lens.
In early 2017, Councilman/then-Vice Mayor Richardson pressed to restore Rescue 12 and restore 9 additional officers, which the Council did, restoring a total of 17 in FY17. The Council has since restored five bicycle patrol officers desired by Mayor Garcia (although it's unclear if they were actually deployed. We've included them in our total: 22 officers restored to date. This has left LB taxpayers without roughly 180 officers their city previously had but no longer has.
Simply put: LB's police level has already been defunded/reduced in ways other area cities didn't do. That's the numerical starting point for current discussions about "defunding" LBPD.
Although City Hall allocated Measure A funds mainly to infrastructure items, the annual $60+ million cash infusion effectively freed up other General Fund sums for other things...and City Hall tapped those sums for pay raises for the LB's police, firefighter and non-public safety unions, as well as "six figure club" city management.
The leadership of LB's police officers union (LBPOA) didn't publicly object to erasing 20% of LB's police level for LB taxpayers. Its political action committee (LBPOA PAC) provided the largest single funding source for the pro-Measure A sales tax campaign. LBPOA's PAC helped elect, re-elect and install new Council incumbents who supported contracts with pay raises for the union.
LB's police and firefighter unions, and Mayor Garcia, arguably distorted LB's electoral process in an apparently legal maneuver making a mockery of LB voters' campaign contribution limits. In a November 2020 no-runoff special election, LBPOA PAC, along with Mayor Garcia and immediate past 1st dist. Council incumbent Lena Gonzalez bypassed LB's voter enacted campaign contribution limits by giving $10,000 each to the LB Firefighter Ass'n which then ran an "independent" campaign (not subject to candidate campaign contribution limits) to install Mary Zendejas in the 1st Council district. [LBREPORT.com labeled this maneuver our 2019 "Outrage of the Year."]
Under Gonzalez (mid-2014 through mid-2019), the primarily working class 1st Council district regularly had LB's highest number of shootings and homicides. LBPOA PAC endorsed her for re-election in 2018 [she ultimately faced no challenger] and supported her for state Senate. Since then, the 1st district under Zendejas has continued to experience disproportionate levels of shootings and homicides (which LBREPORT.com has called the city's worst chronic ineqity, a "tale of two cities.") (The most recent shooting was this morning (July 26) in the 1700 block of Pacific Ave. It's the 12th shooting crime scene (fatal + non-fatal + casings or other evidence found) since June 1, 2020.
Multiple groups that support defunding/reducing funding for LBPD (including but not limited to Black Lives Matter Long Beach) haven't backed down. They are focused and unfliching in their calls to defund/reduce funding for LBPD and allocate those sums for spending elsewhere.
To date, the LB Police Officers Ass'n PAC hasn't take a position publicly on calls to "defund" (reduce funding for) LBPD.
In an op-ed on LBREPORT.com here, retired 3rd dist. Councilman Doug Drummond (a former LBPD Commander retired after 29 years of service) warned about the consequences for police responses times and young lives
LB's "business community" (despite being victimized in "civil unrest" lootings and robberies) has remained mainly mum on the police funding issue. The LB Area Chamber's periodic Strictly Business dispatches haven't mentioned the issue.
On or about July 31 or Aug. 1 Mayor Garcia will release city management's proposed FY21 budget with his recommendations that will effectively show the extent to which, if at all, he supports defunding/reducing funding for LBPD.
A Council majority will then decide on or before Sept. 15, subject to a Mayoral veto that six Councilmembers can override. .
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