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Safer in Baghdad (Iraq Combat Veteran Shot To Death In LB While Visiting Family), Further:
LB Police Chief Told City Council Last Month That LB Needed 130 More Officers
(Oct. 21, 2003, 3:05 p.m.) -- Barely a month before a 22 year old U.S. Marine -- an Iraq combat veteran -- was shot to death on a LB street while visiting his family, Long Beach Chief of Police Anthony Batts told the City Council that the city needed 130 more police officers.
"By our command staff estimates, we're down 90 officers in patrol calls for service, 10 detectives, and we need another thirty officers for new walking and bike beats in our most crime prone neighborhoods and in our growing downtown residential and entertainment center. That's a total of 130 officers, to date, this moment, right now," Chief Batts said at a Sept. 16 Council budget workshop.
Responding to Chief Batts' presentation, the president of the Long Beach Police Officers Association, Steve James, told Councilmembers, "Plain and simple, you have a Chief that finally came down here and finally told you the truth."
The Council responded to Chief Batts' presentation politely...but didn't come up with the cops he wanted:
Councilman Baker: ...You also mentioned 130 new officers. I would love to see that. I wonder if you have any ideas on how we can get there?
Chief Batts: ...I don't have the answer to the question because it goes into policy issues, but I think as a city, we're going to be behind the 8-ball in a couple of years, and I don't know if we'll have the mechanism to catch up at that point in time.
Councilwoman Kell: ...How much growth [in city development] are you talking about [for which add'l officers are needed]?
Chief Batts: Well even today without having the Camden projects on line, without having the Genesis project on line, without having the CityPlace project on line, all this growth that we have in the city. I'm talking about the Boeing project that we have that's pending out there. Those are all things that pull on the organization. Before you open the Pike project, although they have security, and they have security out there much like the Town Center, usually that pulls on our resources also throughout the city. That pulls from your area to go up to Town Center and just stay on top of that issue...
Following the Council exchange with the Chief, Police Officers Association president James told Councilmembers:
Officer James: Ultimately, when the Chief told you he needs 130 more officers, and questions were asked if he has any plans, he very politely told you it's a policy issue. Well what does that mean? That's your problem. That's what it means. That means it's your problem. That's what you ran for office for. He told you he needs 130 more cops. You need to find a way to do that.
The issue of how many police to provide for taxpayers, and how to pay for them, is within the subject matter of the Council's three-member Public Safety Committee. Records of the City Clerk's office indicate that the Public Safety Committee -- chaired by 4th district Councilman Dennis Carroll -- has failed to meet for over a year on an item dealing with the city's level of police staffing, specifically referred to it for an in-depth review by Council in March 2002.
Councilman Carroll was named chair of the Public Safety Committee by LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill in July 2002.
In response to an inquiry by LBReport.com, the City Clerk's office said the last the last time the Public Safety Committee met on its own was on February 19, 2002 under former Committee chair (and now retired) LB Councilmember Jerry Shutlz.
Since Councilman Carroll became chair, there is no record of the Public Safety Committee holding any meetings on its own. It has held two joint meetings with the Tidelands and Harbor Committee, once to discuss the Marine Patrol and Harbor Patrol (Sept. 3, 2002) and a second time to discuss Port Security and receive a Task Force (April 29, 2003).
On March 19, 2002, the City Council voted to send to the Public Safety Committee an item discussing Long Beach Police Department staffing that came about after months of public acrimony over LB's per capita level of police officers.
On motion by (now Vice Mayor) Councilman Frank Colonna (seconded by Councilman Lowenthal), the Council referred a City Auditor analysis of a Police Department Staffing Report to the Public Safety Committee for "an in-depth review on topics including the reserve program, how resources are deployed, definition of terms, and overtime use."
LBReport.com telephoned and sent a follow-up email to the office of Councilman Carroll, inviting his comment on the issue. A staffer indicated the Councilman was in his City Hall office at 11:45 a.m. today. We did not receive a return call or return email by 3 p.m. today.
Referral of the police staffing item to the Public Safety Committee came after protracted wrangling in the period leading up to the April 2002 Mayoral primary election. The City Clerk's minutes indicate that on March 19, 2002 the following took place:
- Webb moved, seconded by Lowenthal, that the communication from the City Auditor transmitting an analysis of the Police Department Staffing Report be received and filed."
- Grabinski made a substitute motion to receive the report and lay the item over for two weeks. Grabinski's substitute motion died for lack of a second.
- Webb withdrew his motion.
- Webb moved to refer the police staffing analysis to the Public Safety Committee and Economic Development and Finance Committee for a joint meeting. The motion died for lack of a second.
- Grabinski moved, seconded by Webb, that the police staffing analysis be received and laid over for two weeks.
- As a substitute motion, Councilman (now Vice Mayor) Colonna moved, seconded by Lowenthal, "that the communication from the City Auditor transmitting an analysis of the Police Department Staffing Report be received and referred to the Public Safety Committee for an in-depth review on topics including the reserve program, how resources are deployed, definition of terms, and overtime use."
The motion carried 7-2 (Yes: Lowenthal, Baker, Colonna, Carroll, Kell, Richardson, Shultz; No: Grabinski, Webb).
The Public Safety Committee doesn't set police levels but its findings or recommendations could influence the full City Council on the subject. The City Council effectively decides how many officers LB has when it votes on City Hall's annual spending budget each September.
During this year's police department budget presentation, Police Chief Batts not only told the Council that LB was short 130 officers, but noted in response to a Council question that a 1994 Police Dept. Strategic Plan -- publicly adopted by City Hall -- recommended reaching 1,023 officers by FY 2000 (i.e. four years ago). "That wish list number comes very close to where we need to be today," Chief Batts said.
Long Beach, a city of 481,000 people (by the latest Jan 03 update of CA's Dept. of Finance) currently provides its taxpayers -- assuming full staffing and including Port and Airport security duties -- with barely two sworn officers per thousand population, considerably thinner than Los Angeles. L.A. Police Chief William Bratton has previously called L.A. the most underpoliced major city in America.
On Sept. 16, 2003 the Long Beach City Council voted to budget 968.25 sworn officers for FY 04, an increase from 950.25 sworn budgeted a year earlier...but these figures include officers detailed to handle new Port and Airport security tasks, not more traditional neighborhood policing duties (when the Council budgeted 913.25 sworn officers).
On October 19, 2003 in the 1200 block of East 7th St. -- roughly a mile and a half from where the Council took its budget vote -- 22 year old Sok Khak Ung, a U.S. Marine on active duty who survived combat in Iraq, was shot in the head and twice in the torso and died in a LB hospital. Ung was stationed at Camp Pendleton and was visiting his family members in LB.
Chief Batts acknowledged that the Council faced budget challenges and competing needs, and as a member of the "city team" he understood the Council's need to strike a balance on allocating resources. "[W]e are fully aware we as a city are not in the position to expand the Department at the needed rate," Chief Batts said.
He later added, "We have staffing shortages, and when the resources are available, we need more police officers."