Long Beach Had But No Longer Has An LBPD Field Anti-Gang Unit. How'd That Happen?
|Large portions of the text below were reported by LBREPORT.com in October 2014. We've updated our report below with subsequent developments.
(May 18, 2019, 5:45 p.m.) -- The Long Beach Police Department previously had but no longer has a field anti-gang unit. It consisted of 20 officers + 2 sergeants specifically deployed in gang-impacted neighborhoods, collecting intelligence, gathering information, working contacts.
LBPD does continue to have a gang unit, which responds to shootings, handles investigations, follow-ups, arrests, court testimony and more. In addition, each of LBPD's main geographic divisions (North, South, East, West) has a Directed Enforcement Team (DET) that each division's Commander can assign to specific tasks as needed (including anti-gang tasks.) However the bottom line is LBPD no longer has a field anti-gang unit, with experienced anti-gang officers consistently deployed at street level, interacting with and learning the latest from residents and businesses.
And despite June 2016 LB voter approval of the City Hall-written Measure A General Fund ("blank check") sales increase (that now brings City Hall over $50+ million annually), LB taxpayers no longer have 186 citywide deployable officers that they had prior to Measure A.
So...how'd LBPD's field anti-gang unit disappear?
[Scroll down for further.]
Background: Mayor Bob Foster sought election in June 2006 with a pledge to put 100 more police on the street within his first four years in office . His endorsers included City Hall's three major public employee unions representing police officers (LBPOA), firefighters (LBFFA) and non-public safety workers (IAM.) Mayor Foster made good on his pledge in his first two years in office, bringing LBPD to its highest staff level ever: for FY08: 961 budgeted citywide deployable positions (includes 17 police academy recruits.) (That year's budget also included 59 additional officers not citywide deployable, contracted to and paid for by the Port/Airport/LBUSD/LBCC/LBTransit/L.A. County-Carmelitos).
At the same time, Foster supported, and the Council approved, raises for the three major public employee unions that had endorsed him. In 2007, Foster supported reopening LBPOA's contract to provide raises, portrayed as a way to retain senior officers. In 2008, Foster supported and Council majorities approved new contracts with raises for IAM (7-2, Gabelich and DeLong dissenting) and LBFFA (8-1, Gabelich dissenting.) These three contracts all failed to include pension reforms that grassroots taxpayer advocates had sought for years.
When the economic recession began in fall 2008, the failure to include those pension reforms made the three major contracts financially unsustainable. Foster belatedly called for re-opening the contracts to include pension reforms for the future and dealt with the present by recommending "proportional budget reductions" that as a practical matter fell hardest on LBPD (which accounts for the largest proportion of General Fund spending.)
Starting in FY 09 (with Garcia elected as a Councilman in March 2009) and heading into FY10, Mayor Foster recommended and the Council approved budget reductions that ultimately erased 208 citywide deployable police officers, over 20% of the 961 citywide budgeted officers LB taxpayers previously had. By August 2012, annual budget reductions had erased over 150 budgeted police positions when Foster recommended his FY13 budget (chronology begins below.)
What's happened since then?
The bottom line for taxpayers: LB doesn't have 186 citywide deployable budgeted officers that it previously had and those include LBPD's former field anti-gang unit.
Chart below displays LB's FY 20 budgeted police level. In Sept. 2020, the City Council voted to defund 48 officers in FY21, leaing LB with a FY21 budgeted sworn police level for routine citywide deployment of roughly 1.5 officers per thousand residents. (The ratio reflects citywide deployable officers, doesn't include officers limited to and paid by Port/Airport/LBCC/LBUSC/LBTransit/Metro; if contracted officers are included, ratio would still be only 1.79 officers per thousand.) By comparison, Los Angeles provies its taxpayers with 2.47 per thousand, and Signal Hill delivers 3.15 sworn officers per thousand residents for its taxpayers.
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