Police/Firefighter Levels Agendized As Mayor & Councilmembers Expected Tonight (Nov. 27) At ELB's Marshall Middle School, 6 p.m., To Discuss Possible City Charter Changes
(Nov. 27, 2007) -- LB Bob Foster and many of LB's City Councilmembers are expected to be at ELB's Marshall Middle School tonight -- Nov. 27, 5970 E. Wardlow Rd. at 6:00 p.m. -- for a special meeting (one of several being held citywide) of City Hall's "Charter Amendment Committee" [comprised of the Mayor and full Council] to discuss and hear public comment on changes to the city's de facto constitution, the City Charter.
The City Charter controls the way LB city government operates -- who has power and how it's wielded. While a majority of Council incumbents (five) have the power to place Charter Amendments on the ballot, a majority of LB voters have the power to accept or reject the ballot proposals). [The public also has the power to collect 20,000+ petition signatures of registered voters on proposed Charter Amendments that a majority of Council incumbents may not want.]
Among the subjects for City Hall agendized discussion tonight is an item by newly elected 5th district Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske to "deliberate on the topic of the Budget Process relative to setting a mandatory minimum staffing ratio based on population for public safety personnel."
In February 1994, the City Council came within one vote of placing an item on the ballot that would have required City Hall to provide LB taxpayers with minimum increased levels of police, fire and paramedic services, budgeted first before other discretionary Council spending, using ratios (numbers of officers per population of the city) based on staffing levels recommended by City Hall itself.
The measure, proposed by then-LB activist (now LBReport.com publisher) Bill Pearl, sought to ensure police staffing increases indicated as part of a City Management-City Auditor written non-binding Police Dept. "Strategic Plan." Making those police levels a legal guarantee, instead of a non-binding City Hall promise, was opposed at the time by then-city management, then-City Auditor Gary Burroughs, then-Mayor candidate Beverly O'Neill and the Long Beach Press-Telegran.
The measure failed on a 4-4 vote (Yes: Drummond, Robbins, Kellogg, Harwood; No: Braud, A. Lowenthal, Clark, Topsy-Elvord; Absent on vote: Grabinski).
Subsequent management proposed, Mayor forwarded, Council approved budgets failed to deliver police staffing increases as indicated in City Hall's non-binding "plan." Today entering FY 07, LB taxpayers receive fewer budgeted sworn officers than City Hall's "plan" recommended be reached by FY 2000 [seven years ago]. [City Hall's Police Strategic Plan "preliminary staffing strategy" recommended 1,023 officers by FY 00; LB's City Council currently budgets roughly 945-950 sworn officers for general city use (not including officers tasked and paid for by the Port, Airport, LBCC, LBUSD)...and the actual street level number is almost certainly less).
As a starting point for discussion, Councilwoman Schipse recommends a Charter Amendment "that would require the establishment of adequate public safety staffing consistent with the City’s population to be determined by the establishment of a Public Safety Commission that shall be comprised of the Mayor, the Council, the City Manager, the Chief of Police, the Fire Chief and the City Prosecutor."
We post her background memo in full below.
Consideration of a Charter Amendment To Require Establishment of Staffing Ratios for Police and Fire Departments
Amending the Long Beach City Charter to require the City Council to establish a staffing ratio for police that is consistent with the City’s population has been raised a number of times in recent years due to the frustration and concern of citizens regarding public safety.
Most recently, the number of police officers was a major issue in the campaigns of candidates for Mayor and City Council. Proposals ranged from 100 to 300 more police. Following the elections, a budget was enacted without the addition of any new police officers. Later, the City Council was met with the news that a critical situation had developed with the announced departure of a dozen or more experience police officers due to the City’s lack of longevity pay. The City Council approved a financial incentive package for the police officers to help stem the tide of departures.
Overlaying the issue of adding additional police officers is the fact that recruitment to law enforcement positions throughout the State is difficult. There are not enough men and women interested in law enforcement jobs. Therefore, most, if not all, police departments in California are experiencing high vacancy rates which translate into lower staffing ratios per 1000 citizens.
Recent violent crimes in Long Beach have grabbed headlines and raise the issue of whether or not Long Beach has an adequate ratio of public safety staff in relation to our growing population. There is no consensus on staffing levels for local police departments. The ratio of both officers and total police employees per 1000 is significantly related to crime rates. Crime rates are also related to crime prevention efforts which address conditions of poverty, drug dependency and which promote strong neighborhoods, job and educational opportunity and community design. Cities of the same population size may differ widely in staffing needs because of the differences in demographics, socio-economic characteristics, climate or other unique conditions.
According to the International City Management Association (ICMA), the Pacific Coast has lower police employee staffing levels at 2.32/1000 than all but one other region in the country. Staffing levels are often the product of political climate, finances, city leadership, crime, calls for service and community expectations.
An analysis of police departments with populations between 350,000 - 500,000 persons is included in the Police Departments in Large Cities: 1990-2000, as published by the United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Fifteen cities (including Long Beach). For these cities, the median total staffing rates per population were 2.76/1000 and for sworn staff the figure was 1.92/1000. The figures for the “average” was 3.20/1000 for total staff and 2.32 for "sworn" staff only. Long Beach’s figures are: 2.95/1000 "total staff" per 1000; 1.91/1000 "sworn staff" (which places Long Beach tied for 8th out of 15 cities compared). It should also be noted that Long Beach only has 65% sworn staff compared with an average of 72% for other departments, making Long Beach the 13th lowest in percentage of sworn staff versus non-sworn and the 3rd highest in a ratio of non-sworn per 1000 population: 1.04. (Average for all cities compared is: 0.84.)
Police Operating Budgets: The City of North Las Vegas recently conducted a study of police operations for cities of comparable sizes -- which included Long Beach. This study analyzed the "operating budgets" for police departments. The median budget per citizen amounts to $210; the average, $229. Long Beach spends $294 per citizen on police services (which is 4th highest out of 15 cities compared).
Comparison of Uniform Crime Reporting Index Offenses Per Capita and Police Staff Per Index Offenses: The same North Las Vegas study compared the crime indexes for cities of comparable sizes and an "offense per sworn staff" ratio for both violent and property crimes. The median index for number of violent crimes per 1000 residents was 11.0; and 60.3 for property crimes. The average was 11.2 for violent crimes and 44.1 for property crimes. Long Beach’s figures are: 7.0 violent crimes per 1000; 31.3 property crimes per 1000 (which is 3rd safest out of 15 cities compared for violent crime and the #1 safest out of 15 cities for property crimes).
Offenses per sworn staff median figures for violent crime: 4.88; property crimes: 29.77. Offenses per sworn staff average figures for violent crimes: 4.84; property crimes: 27.92.
Long Beach’s figures for offenses per sworn staff for violent crimes: 3.65; property crimes: 16.40 (which is 14th out of 15 cities compared).
Overview of City of Long Beach Police Staffing Compared with 14 Other Cities of Comparable Size:
When compared to 14 other cities of comparable size, Long Beach:
Spends more per citizen on police services than 11 other cities ($294 per citizen versus an average of $229 per citizen).
Employs a higher ratio of non-sworn staff per citizen than 12 other cities (1.04 per 1000 versus an average of 0.84 per 1000).
Staffs the total number of sworn police staff at a lower level than 7 other cities (1.91 per 1000 versus an average of 2.32 per 1000).
Is safer than 12 other cities in terms of violent crimes per 1000 residents (7.0 per 1000 versus an average of 11.2 per 1000).
Is the safest out of all cities in terms of property crimes per 1000 residents (31.3 per 1000 versus an average of 44.1 per 1000)
The International Association of Chiefs of Police Perspective on Staffing Rations:
The International Association of Chiefs of Police strongly discourages the use of staffing to population ratios to determine whether or not a city has sufficient police:
Ready-made, universally applicable patrol staffing standards do not exist. Ratios, such as officers-per-thousand population, are totally inappropriate as a basis for staffing decisions. Accordingly, they have no place in the IACP methodology. Defining patrol staffing allocation and deployment requirements is a complex endeavor which requires consideration of an extensive series of factors and a sizable body of reliable, current data. In defining patrol staffing requirements, we consider the following factors, the mix of which is absolutely unique to each locality and agency:
Police policies and practices
Number of calls for service
Population size and density
Composition of population, particularly age structure
Stability and transiency of population
Climate, especially seasonality
Policies of prosecutorial, judicial, correctional, and probation agencies
Citizen demands for crime control and non-crime control services
Crime reporting practices of citizenry
Trends in the foregoing areas.
To prescribe patrol requirements properly, a series of professional guidelines and departmental policy preferences must be explicitly considered and deliberately applied. These concern policing philosophy, service philosophy, response time standards, and supervision philosophy.
Long Beach, at 76.2 square miles including waterways, has 23 fire stations, or 3.3. square miles per fire station, and serves a population of 491,000. The City of San Francisco has 49 square miles with 42 fire stations, or 1.2 square miles per fire station, and serves a population of 791,600.
A number of national organizations concerned with fire fighting including the National Fire Protection Association, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Insurance Services Office, International Cities Management Association and the Commission on Fire Accreditation International publish staffing and response data which cities use as a guide for determining staffing, equipment and budget.
The International City Management Association indicates fire staffing data by population range and number of cities reporting in each population range. The per capita staffing listed in the ICMA Municipal Year Book, 2003 for 2002 staffing indicates that 17 cities with population range of 250,000 to 500,000 have 1.42 sworn firefighters per 1000 residents.
The Long Beach Fire Department currently employs 134 on-duty staff. Total Department staff sworn and non-sworn: 586.
Long Beach Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) budgeted expenditures are at $257 and $236 per capita for San Francisco and Oakland respectively. Long Beach budgeted expenditures are at $160 per capita.
Serious Issues Facing the Long Beach Fire Department:
In 2002, the City of Long Beach retained the consultant services of Tri-Data and Public Financial Management to review the operations of the Long Beach Fire Department at a cost to the City of over $170,000. This study produced 126 "recommendations" and 15 "initiatives."
Significant findings of the study indicate that the calls for service demand on the Department are increasing at a rapid growth rate, especially in the number of calls for medical services. Additionally, the study concluded that the response time of the Department indicated that "call processing and turnout need improvement." The study showed that in FY 02-03 the average for response time was 06:25 for all calls; 09:25 for 90th percentile. The National Fire Protection Association Standard 1710 -- Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Operations and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments sets initial arrival of deployed engine company within 4 minutes and/or the initial full alarm assignment within an 8 minute response time to 90% of all incidents.
The study also outlined the critical need for replacement/refurbishing of several fire stations
To date, the City Council has not acted upon the recommendations related to response time and the condition of the fire station facilities.
Should the City Council Charter Committee recommend to the voters an amendment to the City’s Charter that would require the establishment of a public safety staffing ratio consistent with the City’s population?
It is recommended that the City Council Charter Committee recommend to the voters an amendment to the City’s Charter that would require the establishment of adequate public safety staffing consistent with the City’s population to be determined by the establishment of a Public Safety Commission that shall be comprised of the Mayor, the Council, the City Manager, the Chief of Police, the Fire Chief and the City Prosecutor.
Other items on the meeting's agenda include a presentation from Professor Raphael Sonenshein (CSUF, who played a role in L.A.'s "Charter Reform"), an item regarding an "Ethics Commission" and correspondence from Councilmember Schipske related to charter provisions to maintain parks in perpetuity and to "provide the City Council with power to conduct investigations."
Prof. Sonenshein headed an L.A. City Hall-chosen "Charter Reform Commission," which alongside a separate elected Charter Reform Commission, put a measure on that city's ballot that ultimately boosted's the L.A. Mayor's powers and created so-called "neighborhood councils" and area planning entities.
Public comment on non-agendized items will also be taken.
Mayor Foster has emphasized in previous Charter Amendment committee meetings that agendizing items for discussion doesn't imply that they will be ultimately be placed on the ballot by the Council for a vote of the people (required for a Charter Amendment to become law). The Mayor has indicated that the hearings (being held at locations across the city) are meant to invite an open public and Council discussion of possible changes to LB's government structure as suggested by Councilmembers and members of the public.
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