News & Analysis
Lowenthal Campaign Cops Claim Questioned
Mailer Claims To Have "Supported Hiring 200 New Police Officers"
(November 3, 2000) A campaign mailing by the Alan Lowenthal for Assembly committee, claiming he "supported hiring 200 new police officers" while on the LB City Council, does not appear supported by his Council voting record.
The assertion, part of a multi-page color mailing for the LB area incumbent, features a chinese food container labelled "Alan Lowenthal delivers!" and in pertinent part recites:
"On the City Council, Alan created the first Long Beach Community Police Center and supported hiring 200 new police officers."
LBReport.com's review of Alan Lowenthal's Council voting record indicates that during his six and a half year tenure he voted to budget roughly 120 officers above the citywide budgeted officer level he inherited from his predecessor.
The City Council does not actually "hire" police officers; it budgets funds from which the city's LBPD hires them. When the Council votes to adopt the city's budget each year, that budget includes a sum for the LBPD which largely determines how many police officers taxpayers will receive.
Actual day to day police staffing varies as officers retire, go on disability and are replenished by new recruits. Actual police levels are supposed to closely approach, but not exceed, the budgeted amount.
Since the Council's budget votes effectively determine the city's police level, we believe the proper way to measure a Councilmember's record on the city's police level is by his or her budget votes.
These votes take place at the end of the city's fiscal year (although the Council can and sometimes does make budget changes during the year). In 1992, the city's fiscal year ran from July 1 through June 30 and the Council voted on the 1992-93 budget in June, 1992.
In June, 1992, roughly a month before Alan Lowenthal took office, his predecessor, Wallace Edgerton, voted on the city's FY 1992-93 budget (i.e. for the period ending June 1993). Incoming Councilman Lowenthal inherited this budget. It included funding for LBPD officers and LA County Sheriffs officers who, under temporary contract with the city, patrolled the 5th, 9th and part of the 8th Council districts.
In addition, City Manager Hankla included in the FY 92-93 budget 49 police recruits to start in mid-budget year (i.e. January, 1993) who ccould replace the Sheriffs if the Council opted to restore citywide service by the LBPD. (The Council did.) LBPD police "recruits" are hired and begin a paid, six month training period at the Police Academy; upon graduation, they are sworn and begin service.
Thus, Councilman Lowenthal inherited from the previous Council and his predecessor a budget that included LBPD officers (roughly 693) + 45 Sheriffs officers and (starting at midyear) 49 police recruits who could replace the Sheriffs.
Lowenthal Council chronology
Soon after Councilman Lowenthal took office later in July, 1992, the Council voted 5-4 to end Sheriffs service and restore LBPD service to all of LB, effective July 1, 1993. Lowenthal voted with the majority. Ths ensured 45 Sheriffs budgeted deputies would leave and be replaced by the 49 budgeted LBPD officers (hired at midyear in the budget Lowenthal inherited).
In August. 1992, Councilman Lowenthal (and the rest of the Council) voted to put a City Hall initiated measure on the November, 1992 LB city ballot that proposed to raise taxes in exchange a City Hall promise to provide "up to" 100 more officers.
City Hall officials said were needed, in part to implement community based policing. Opponents of the measure variously argued that public safety should be funded first, City Hall shouldn't hold police levels hostage to higher taxes and the measure didn't guarantee 100 more police, only "up to" 100. The measure failed.
In June, 1993, Councilman Lowenthal had the opportunity actually to budget 100 more officers for taxpayers with his own vote, but didn't. This occurred when he cast his first Council vote on the city's budget (i.e. how many police to budget for taxpayers by prioritizing City Hall spending.)
In May, 1993, City Manager Hankla proposed a budget that would essentially maintain citywide officer strength provided by the LBPD and the (now) departing 45 Sheriffs (who'd be replaced by 49 graduating LBPD recruits, previously budgeted).
The Manager's proposed budget included 741 budgeted sworn LBPD officer positions. This amounted to a per capita officer strength for LB of roughly 1.65 sworn officers per thousand residents while LA budgeted over 2.1 officers per thousand and Signal Hill budgeted nearly 3.0.
A number of LB activists (including now LBReport.com publisher Bill Pearl) urged the Council to provide more police, at least L.A.'s per capita officer level, an increase of 300 officers above the budgeted level proposed by the City Manager.
During the Council's June, 1993 budget deliberations, the following City Council votes occurred:
- Motion to budget 100 more officers (841), failed 4-4. (Yes: Drummond, Robbins, Kellogg, Harwood. No: Braude, Lowenthal, Clark, Topsy-Elvord. Absent: Grabinski). This would have given taxpayers 100 more officers (not "up to" 100 offered by the tax increase ballot measure Councilman Lowenthal supported a few months earlier).
- Motion to budget 50 more officers (791), failed 4-4 (Yes: Braude, Lowenthal, Clark, Topsy-Elvord. No: Drummond, Robbins, Kellogg, Harwood. Absent: Grabinski).
- Motion to add 50 officers (791) and ask City Manager to report on options for adding 50 more officers in six months, passed 5-3. (Yes: Braude, Lowenthal, Drummond, Clark, Topsy-Elvord. No: Drummond, Robbins, Harwood. Absent: Grabinski).
[After the votes, Councilman Grabinski arrived, announced he'd been attending his son's graduation, criticized Councilmembers for adding police without addressing "prevention," declined an invitation to re-open the vote, promised to return "within a week" with his own plan and didn't.]
At the February 22, 1994 Council meeting, Councilman Lowenthal cast a deciding vote that kept off the ballot a measure (proposed by now-LBReport.com publisher Bill Pearl) that would have linked city population (i.e. future development and density) to City Hall providing minimum per capita police, fire and paramedic levels to keep pace with growth. (Today, such principles are sometimes termed "sustainable" growth). The measure would have prioritized City Hall spending to fund public safety first.
Pearl had previously collected several thousand petition signatures, the support of numerous neighborhood activists and endorsements of four Council members (Drummond, Robbins, Kellogg & Harwood) for a similar measure but a month earlier lacked a fifth supportive Council vote to put it on the ballot. (Lowenthal publicly opposed the measure, as did the City Manager.)
A few weeks later, when City Hall released its long-awaited (but non binding) LBPD "Strategic Plan," Pearl quickly revised his measure to reflect the police increases indicated in the Plan's preliminary staffing strategy, in effect, making City Hall's non-binding "Strategic Plan" binding. Pearl then self-agendized the item (a right since lost when the Council subsequently amended its rules) and brought it to the Council.
Motion (by Drummond) to place shortened version on ballot, failed 4-4. (Yes: Drummond, Robbins, Kellogg, Harwood. No: Braude, Lowenthal, Clark, Topsy-Elvord. Absent: Grabinski, who was present at the meeting earlier and exited prior to the vote on this item.)
In June, 1994, Councilman Lowenthal voted with the rest of the Council for a Manager-proposed budget that included 839.4 budgeted officers. This exceeded the Strategic Plan's level by 10 budgeted officers. It was the only time Councilman Lowenthal, or any other LB Councilmember, voted to budget police levels that met the 1994 Police Strategic Plan's preliminary staffing strategy for police growth.
In June, 1995, with Mayor O'Neill providing her first budget input, Councilman Lowenthal and all other Councilmembers voted for a budget freezing budgeted police at 1994's budgeted level (839.4) until the final month of a special 15 month FY 95-96 budget. (LB changed its fiscal year to end in September instead of June). This effectively delayed any police increase to September '96 when budgeted police were supposed to rise to 888.4. It didn't happen.
In August '96, the Manager proposed, the Mayor approved, and in September '96 the Council voted to budget, 859.4 sworn officers for FY 96-97, not 888.4. Mayor O'Neill's office portrayed the 859.4 level as an "increase." (It was, if measured from the 839.4 budgeted officers inherited from Mayor Ernie Kell's Council over two years earlier.)
A number of these officers were funded using federal grant money. (When LB City Hall points to police budget increases, these include millions in federal grants and state money.) .
In September, 1997, the Manager proposed, the Mayor approved, and the Council voted to budget another nearly no-growth police level: 859.9 officers.
In September, 1998, City Manager Hankla and then-Police Chief Bob Luman asked the Council to budget roughly half a dozen additional officers, not by prioritizing spending but by cutting the downtown Marina patrol. The new officers, city management said, would handle marina duties and assist in patroling downtown. The proposal understandably enraged downtown Marina boat dwellers.
Councilman Lowenthal and the Council voted to continue funding the Marina patrol (it was Lowenthal's motion). The Council could have, but didn't, fund additional police patrol officers, an option not proposed by management but which the Council had the power to do. The adopted budget included one additional brass plated commander, bringing budgeted police to 860.9.
Less than two months later, in November, 1998, Councilman Lowenthal was elected to the state Assembly.
Based on the citywide budgeted officer level inherited from his predecessor, which city management basically proposed to continue in FY 93-94, the number of additional officers budgeted by Alan Lowenthal's votes during his tenure appears to be roughly 120, not 200. (860.9 - 741.4) These officer increases were also funded in part by state and federal sources.
Lowenthal campaign's response
When contacted by LBReport.com about the Lowenthal mailer's "supported hiring 200 new police officers" claim, campaign staffer John Casey said they'd been advised the number of sworn LBPD officers for FY 92-93 was 693. Measured from that figure, 860.9 (the last budgeted for which Lowenthal voted) minus 693 would be 167, closer to the 200 claimed than the 120 we calculate.
LBReport.com agrees that the 693 figure correlates with LBPD staffing figures appearing in other documents. However, it doesn't include the 45 sworn Sheriffs then providing policing service to much of LB and doesn't include 49 LBPD recruits budgeted to start at midyear, all of whom were budgeted by Lowenthal's predecessor.
Thus, as we calculate the numbers, LB's citywide budgeted sworn officer level inherited by Lowenthal wasn't 693, it was roughly 740 and the number of officers he voted to budget above the budgeted level he inherited was roughly 120.
Mr. Casey noted, correctly, that then-Councilman Lowenthal voted for and strongly supported City Hall's November '92 ballot measure to add "up to" 100 more officers. However, we believe it's substantively wrong and even counter-productive for the Lowenthal campaign to cite this.
City Hall's ballot measure didn't guarantee taxpayers 100 more officers, only an indeterminate number ("up to" 100, which could mean 50, 20 or 10). It didn't prioritize City Hall spending to give taxpayers police levels that City Hall itself told taxpayers were needed.
Moreover, when he had the chance a few months later, in June 1993, Councilman Lowenthal voted against budgeting 100 more officers for taxpayers. Instead, he voted to add 50, and when this failed, voted to add 50 but ask the Manager for options to add 50 more in six months.
Further LB public safety info
During his tenure, Councilan Lowenthal's budget votes brought LB's citywide police level from roughly 1.65 officers per thousand residents to roughly 1.9-2.0 officers per thousand residents (lower if one belives LB was undercounted in the base 1990 census). L.A. budgeted roughly 2.5 officers per thousand and Signal Hill delivered over 3.0.
Reported crime data
LBPD reported crime data show that while crime declined significantly in Lowenthal's Council district (and LB overall) during his Council tenure, in 1998 (the year he was elected to the Assembly) his Council district had the highest number of total serious ("Part 1") reported crimes against property, the fourth highest number of serious ("Part 1") reported crimes against persons and the highest number of total reported crimes overall (Part 1 plus Part 2 crimes) of any LB City Council district.
Postcript: Following Councilman Lowenthal's departure from the Council, city management secured a federal grant to help fund 40 additional officers. With this grant, LB's budgeted officer level is now 900.9 officers.