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|(June 25, 2020, 5:25 a.m.) -- Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna has publicly cautioned LB's Public Safety Committee (Price, Supernaw, Austin) that calls by some to "defund" (reduce funding for) LBPD -- on top of previous reductions that reduced LBPD sworn and civilian staff by roughly 20% -- could jeopardize current officer training that has reduced LBPD use of force incidents including officer involved shootings.
During a June 23 Public Safety Committee item agendized to discuss LBPD use of force policies, Committee chair Councilwoman Suzie Price invited LBPD Assistant Chief Wally Hebeish to comment on discussions locally and nationally to defund (reduce funding for) the police, and asked "our investment in the police department and whether or not that investment in your opinion, has resulted less use of force incidents and less confrontational situations that lead to violence." Assistant Chief Hebeish replied: "I absolutely believe that the investments that Council has made into this Police department have impacted uses of force as well as officer involved shootings" and cited data consistent with numbers in a June 18 memo sent by Police Chief Luna to City Manager Tom Modica for distribution to the Mayor and entire City Council. The memo indicated that LBPD officers-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.
Chair Price then gave the floor to Committee member Al Austin and a lengthy discussion ensued. LBREPORT.com provides on-demand AUDIO of that discussion at this link.
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Near the conclusion of the colloquy, Councilman Austin (whom Mayor Garcia recently named to chair the Council's "Budget Oversight Committee" and is currently seeking a third Council term in a November 2020 runoff) noted that a constituent had reminded him that LBPD is currently down about 200 officers from what it previously had. Councilman Austin then commented that dealing with this would be a challenge and stated
"I want to continue to ensure our police department is working smarter and more efficient with the resources that you have but also quality of life and peace officers as opposed to enforcement officers, And that's just a philosophy I'd like to see us employ as we move forward, it's my personal editorial."
Chief Luna responded:
Chief Luna: You're correct that in 2009, this police department was significantly defunded. We lost about 20% of our sworn and civilian staffing. We really never recovered from that.
Chair Price acknowledged Councilman Austin's comment and indicated she believes it's likely LBPD budget (like other city departments) will face reductions in FY21. Councilman Supernaw, citing time constraints (a scheduled Council closed session) indicated he'd like to comment on the issue at the Committee's next meeting (tentatively scheduled in mid-July.)
The City Charter requires the Mayor, no later than Aug. 1, to publicly release the City Manager's proposed FY21 budget with recommendations by the Mayor to the Council, if any. (Nothing legally prevents the City Manager and the Mayor from advancing their budget proposals earlier.) The Council will then have until mid-September to discuss, tweak or amend, and ultimately enact a FY21 budget (subject to possible Mayoral-item vetoes that the Council can override with 2/3 votes.)
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