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LB Has Fewer Sworn Cops Than Budgeted and Yr End Retirements Will Thin Police Strength Further

  • New Officers Are In Police Academy Set to Graduate in Spring; Uncertain If They'll Bring LB Police Strength to Near Budgeted Level or Something Less
  • City Mgr. Pledges Add'l Police Academy Class If Needed, Will Present Future Agendized Report on LBPD Staffing and Budget Issues

    (November 28, 2001) -- In an admission won due to the efforts of LB activist John Deats -- whose charges were reported exclusively on for nearly two months -- city management has said LB currently has fewer sworn police officers than the City Council publicly budgeted.

    In addition, a still uncertain number of officers will likely retire by year's end, further thinning LB's police strength.

    City management notes new officers are currently attending a police academy class class set to graduate in spring, 2002. However, it is uncertain whether they will be sufficient to bring LB close to its budgeted officer strength or to some lesser level.

    The admissions came at the November 27 Council meeting and in follow-up facts confirmed by with senior city management today.

    In September, 2001, the City Council adopted a budget that included funding for 913.5 sworn officers. Assistant City Manager Jerry Miller confirmed to that as of yesterday, LB had 872 sworn police officers, plus 51 recruits (not yet sworn and paid less than a sworn officer) now in the current police academy class. That total (sworn officers plus not yet sworn recruits) is 923.

    However, some recruits will inevitably be lost to attrition, and those that survive won't become sworn officers until spring, 2002...and then must operate in tandem field positions for 16 months before going solo.

    Moreover, a number of currently sworn LBPD officers are expected to retire by year end, and it's still uncertain exactly how many will do so.

    Thus, if (random numbers for calculation only) roughly 40 recruits graduate the police academy, and 40 current officers retire, LB taxpayres would still be receiving roughly 873 sworn officers, not 913.5 budgeted by the Council.

    At the November 27 Council meeting, City Manager Henry Taboada publicly pledged to conduct another police academy class (each class takes six months to complete) in the coming year if needed. He also promised a publicly agendized report on LBPD staffing and budget issues at a forthcoming Council meeting.

    At the October 2, 2001 City Council meeting, retired LB Public Safety Advisory Commissioner John Deats used the public comment period for non-agenda items to voice concerns that LB had fewer officers than were budgeted and the gap would worsen with year end retirements.

    Councilmembers Jerry Shultz and Rob Webb requested a city staff report, which management agreed to provide. reported the story exclusively and included a transcript.

    In early November, learned and reported exclusively that city staff intended to send the report to Councilmembers as an "off agenda" item (that would not be agendized for public discussion).

  • At the November 27 Council meeting, Mr. Deats again came to the podium, indicated he'd obtained a copy of the "off-agenda" report (a two page memo, a public record that we post verbatim on a link below) and cited current LBPD staffing numbers (which we confirmed with city management and reported above).

    Mr. Deats told the Council that the first three months of 2002 -- the period after year end retirements but before the current academy class graduates -- "could be a living hell" in LB.

    City Manager Henry Taboada responded:

    "Mr. Deats makes a point that people in the [police] academy are not available for service, but in terms of meeting our budget requirements and meeting our staffing levels and our deployment levels as determined by the chief of police, we believe that they are adequate to do the job that needs doing at this time. But we'll be happy to put that on the agenda at a future meeting."

    Mr. Taboada added:

    "We are at budget strength right now. The question then becomes are they in fact full fledged police officers, and the answer to that question is no they're not. But we are at full strength with regard to the number of officers that are either in training or on the streets.

    So we're consistent with the budget, but the budget is not the document that guides us in terms of our staffing levels. The budget is your authorization to spend funds for a number of officers...The budget is not the guiding principle. The guiding principle is the deployment levels that are necessary to achieve the levels of crime reduction that we've turned in for the last fifteen years."

    Mr. Taboada sought and obtained additional time from the Council to deliver a more detailed report on LBPD budgeting and staffing issues that will be agendized for future public Council discussion.

    LBPD Chief Lance's off-agenda states that over the years, "a general rule has evolved for determining the optimum level of police officers staffing for municipal police departments. The general rule is two police officers per thousand residents."

    This is significant [comment: some would say courageous] since past City Hall management has resisted positive mentions of any specific per capita police levels. Chief Lance's report does not contend a particular police level is a panacea and indicates other factors ("overtime, specialized tasks forces, civlian staffing and technological improvements") are also relevant in determining an appropriate police level.

    Using LB's most recent population figure in the 2000 census (and some contend LB was undercounted), 913.5 budgeted sworn officers amount to 1.98 officers per thousand residents. However, since LB currently has fewer sworn officers than budgeted, the city's thin blue line is actually thinner.

    With 872 actual sworn officers, LB's per capita sworn police strength is roughly 1.89 officers per thousand residents.

    By comparison, L.A. budgets roughly 2.5 officers per thousand residents and Signal Hill budgets roughly 3.0. L.A. regularly has controversies over its police levels, which have frequently been lower than budgeted.

    LB's City Council -- not the City Manager or Police Chief -- decides the city's police strength. The Council can decide to budget more, or fewer, officers than the City Manager or Police Chief recommend. (LB's Police Chief is legally subordinate to the City Manager.)

    The Council determines how many police officers City Hall can provide when Councilmembers adopt (or modify) the city's budget. LBPD can't deploy officers that the Council doesn't vote to employ.

    The last Council budget vote was in September 2001, when the Council voted for a budget that included 913.5 sworn officers, 9.5 officers short of 2.0 officers per thousand residents.

    During the November 27 Council discussion, City Manager Taboada indicated a new, fully equipped police officer costs $70,000-$80,000 per officer (i.e. ten new officers would cost roughly $700,000-$800,000.)

    The off agenda report mentions terrorism only once, noting the "threats of terrorism, the increase in gang violence, and the weakened economy all pose challeneges for the future of law enforcement."

    We post LBPD Chief Lance's report to City Manager Taboada for Councilmembers verbatim in pdf form at: Nov. 5 report on LBPD staffing.

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