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    L.A. County Sheriff Baca, LBPD Chief Batts & Add'l Area Police Officials Urge Voters To Pass Measure A (Half-Cent L.A. County Sales Tax Increase For Public Safety Purposes)

    Meas A Oct 26/04(October 27, 2004) -- In stark and often personal terms, L.A. County Sheriff Leroy Baca, LBPD Chief Anthony Batts, LAPD First Assistant Chief (and LB resident) Jim McDonnell and Montebello Police Chief Garry Couso-Vasquez urged the public to support L.A. County Measure A, a half-cent sales tax increase for public safety related purposes proposed on the November 2 ballot.

    The law enforcement officials spoke at an October 26 civilian (i.e. after-work hours) reception sponsored by the LB Police Officers Association. The event was held in the early evening on October 26 in a meeting room at LB's Terrace Theater. provides extended portions of the speakers' extemporaneous remarks below in the order delivered.

    Measure A event Batts, 10/26/04LBPD Chief Anthony Batts: ...Some of the things that we're going to talk about are things that we know to be true...The reality is that so many times, the experts, the people that are on the front line, the people that are out there doing the job day to day, people don't listen to us. People seem to ignore our pleas, they seem to ignore that we have concerns, they seem to ignore that there is an air of criticality that's going on.

    You know, I look at some of the news reports, and they talk about crime reduction [nationwide]...but they don't take the time to look at these urban environments that we're dealing with today. They don't take the time to balance the fact that some of those crime stats deal with rural areas that don't have any crime...They also fail to recognize the fact that the COPS grants, the federal grants that we've gotten for years, have stopped, they have slowed up...

    We have a state that is dealing with a lot of financial crises that has an impact on our city, the City of Long Beach, has been impacted at the local level also...

    ...[Discusses rise in drug and gang related crime in LB in the 1980s]...and I remember being a police officer out on the street, I remember being an undercover narcotics officer combating this issue, I remember as our city started to grow, our narcotics unit started to grow, our gang detail started to grow, a number of things to try and keep up with this impact, and at the same time we as police officers up there, I remember crying up to our higher-ups, whether it was the Chief of Police, the Councilpeople, saying we need more police officers out there...

    And I think it's because crime stats were down, people did not recognize the things that we saw, because we were on the front line...[T]hose of us who were on the front line were saying we need help, pay attention.

    The thing that happened in Long Beach is that we went from the 80s, we had that impact, and in about 1990, they basically said you can't keep up with calls for service, you can't do your job, you're not staying on top of things, you're having uses of force that take place out there because you're spread too thin, so we're going to ask to replace you. We're going to ask to bring in another agency [L.A. County Sheriffs for parts of NLB and ELB].

    And if you can devastating that was as a police officer when ten years before we said, you can see this coming. Pay attention and pay attention now, and not have anybody listen, not having anybody say "I hear you and we're going to respond."

    I think that's the same analogous situation that we have here today. We have in L.A. County, a County that is in crisis, and you don't have to believe me, you don't have to take my word for it. Drive up a freeway in L.A. County. Look at the amount of graffiti that's on the freeways up there. Turn on your evening news and see how many lives have been lost. Look at L.A. where they lost a 14 year old kid who was just gunned down. Look at the faces that the Press-Telegram put on the front page not less than two or three weeks ago of gang violence that has taken place in the city of Long Beach...

    I have police officers out there telling me, Chief, pay attention. This is an issue for us. We have a County jail system, as the Sheriff tries to keep them in as long as he possibly can, he's had to shut down jails himself. The system is broken...

    ...I read in the paper where [critics of the measure] said that because commercials [in support of the measure] were on that we're using "scare tactics." I wonder if they find those young lives that were lost in that Press-Telegram [series] scare tactics.

    And then we talk about taxes. I'm not a politician, and I'm not here to talk about if this is politically correct, or it's not politically correct. My function and my job is safety for the citizens of the city of Long Beach. This is crucial.

    Whether I was courageous, or whether I was stupid, a year and a half ago I went before the City Council and I told them [Sept. 2003] that we were short a minimum of 130 that time. That was at that time.

    We're standing out here, much like we did as police officers saying we need more police officers, and we're getting the same response and no one's listening, no one's paying attention.

    I hear people say, "well I don't like this initiative; let's try another way." I wonder if we have the young people who lost their lives, do they have any more time? Do we have the options of going back to the drawing board? I don't think there's any other options that are out there.

    And on November 3, if this does not pass, what are we going to do? What's going to happen? Who's going to have the answer to that?

    And for those who say, "I don't want to pay more taxes," I wonder if at some point in time we have a drunk driver that kills your daughter, or if we have at some point in time some guy driving too fast gong down the street that kills your young child, or that your wife while late at night is raped, or your son is shot, will you stop and say, "I'm sure glad I didn't pay twenty cents a day for that tax"?

    How much is a life worth? How much is our peace of mind worth? Twenty cents a day to make this County safer. Thank you for your time. [applause]

    Measure A McDonnell, 10/26/04LAPD First Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell: ...Sheriff, I want to say a sincere thank you to you for being out front on this one when nobody thought this had a chance, you stood alone. And now all of sudden you've got a whole lot of people behind you and we're very, very hopeful that this will get us to where we need to go but thank you for standing alone for so long on that.

    Thank you to Chief Batts too for all you do each and every day for the City of Long Beach. To come up here and follow a guy like Tony Batts, "Mr. Articulate," is indeed a challenge...

    ...I am a Long Beach resident. This city has been great to me...Safety is paramount to me. Being in the policing know you're probably over-protective with your own kids, as I am with mine...and as a result you take the steps you do. It would be nice to know that you don't have to do that because there's enough cops out there on the street to maintain things they way they should be.

    The push-back I get in talking about Measure A is the general distrust of government. Most people, they don't have a gripe with the cops. They say, you're out there, you're working hard, you're doing a good job. They do have a big problem with government. Where is the money going? Is the money going to go to where you say it's going to go, and how do I know that?...So there is a distrust that we have to overcome, and we're not going to overcome it overnight but I think the reality is that there are systems in place to assure this money goes where it's intended to go, and I think it's incumbent on all of us to make sure that we follow up on that...

    The bottom line here is the cop on the street needs help. You look at any city, Long Beach, L.A., the viability of a city is public safety...

    ...It's not just L.A., it's all of us. You've got officers out there in the field and they're running around they're working real hard. L.A city, we had 219,000 emergency calls for service last year. We had 36,000 violent crimes, we had 132,000 property crimes, and if that's not busy enough...what else do we have on our plate?

    Well policing has gotten more complex in the past couple of years than it's ever been. In L.A., we've identified 650 critical sites for terrorism, and we're certainly a primary terrorist spot. And when the threat level goes from yellow to orange, we have to deploy officers to those 650 sites to monitor them, and where do those cops come from? They come the field, they come from detectives...those 219,000 radio calls, that's where they come from, and the public waits.

    And when you call 9-1-1, and Tony talked about that "scare tactic" video, when that lady is cringing with her kid on the second story of that apartment, there's no cops coming, they're not quick enough for her liking, the reality is it's not a scare tactic, it's reality, and reality in this case is scary.

    ...You've got 416 gangs in the city of L.A., 54,000 active gang members. When you do the math, 54,000 gang members, 9,000 cops, that's not a recipe for success and yet we're doing what we can with what we have...

    Nowhere else in the country are cops assaulted with firearms more than they are in this region. In the city of L.A., we've had 45 cops shot or shot at in the past two years. They're out there putting it on the line, and really the reason I think that we're under assault more so is because there aren't enough cops. The gang members are brazen because they know your backup is not right around the corner like it is in many cities...

    ...[Long Beach and L.A.] are right next door. We're brothers and sisters and we share the same problems, we share the same issues. We're both dreadfully understaffed...

    Measure A event Vasquez, 10/26/04Montebello Police Chief Garry Couso-Vasquez: ...I'm tired of publications coming out, "Gangs outnumber the police."...That's not a scare tactic. As Jim [McDonnell] said, it's a reality. Our men and women are up against better weapons, more suspects. And we're putting billions and billions of dollars in a war, and everyone has their issue on the war, but I'd like to see the billions and billions of dollars coming here to our homeland security, which is the streets in the County of Los Angeles that need the men and women to support the needed resources to do it. And they know their mission, they know how to get there, they just need the resources to do it...

    I'd like people to look at Measure A as not a tax, as an issue of quality of life, as an investment. We invest in our cars, in our homes, in our businesses. And if you invest in Measure A, when you come home to that house or that business or that car in the morning, it's going to be there because your locals are out there protecting you and saving you. And I think if you get away from tax, as an investment, we want to know what we pay, we said about 20 to 25 cents a day, $45 to $60 a year, to get more men and women out there in the cars to protect you, that's an investment in the safety of our community, an economic value will definitely increase in the city...You will see people move to that venue and our kids will be safe going to and from school where today they fear for that walk...

    Measure A event Batts, 10/26/04Montebello Mayor Norma Lopez-Reid: Whether you're a senior citizen or a parent of a small need safety and security. One of the things that is the basis of anything, whether it be the promotion of businesses, or property values or just the safety and security of our youth is basically safety...As someone said earlier, how can you put a price on life? I should hope it's at least worth half a cent...I'm supporting Measure A.

    LBPD Deputy Chief Tim Jackman: [Conducted the event, introduces Sheriff Baca]...The Sheriff has visited this city a number of times when he first started this initiative. We wouldn't have this initiative if it wasn't for Sheriff Baca and your leadership...The Sheriff was so convincing in this city that the Long Beach City Council was the very first City Council to go on record as endorsing the Sheriff's proposal and stands solidly behind this measure, and the Sheriff has been not at all hesitant to come out and thank our City Council for their support of his measure, and your leadership, Sheriff, has been great...

    Measure A event Batts, 10/26/04L.A. Sheriff Leroy Baca: ...There is a storm in Los Angeles County...that has been going on for a long, long time. You know, if this were described as a terrorist attack, Los Angeles County virtually would qualify for a tremendous amount of relief and support from all levels of government, federal, state and of course local.

    Why? Because there's over a thousand murders every year in this County. A thousand murders represents, $1 million per murder, that's a billion dollars right there in human loss and the costs behind it.

    And then when you think about the 2,600 reported rapes every year, that's in itself an understatement of what really happens out there. It's believed by many experts it's about only one out of three are reported...

    When you have 36,000 aggravated assaults every year,..add it all up and we are putting a lot of people into the hospital care system as victims of crime. And this in itself is costing us an inordinate amount of money as a society.

    And then when you kick it up to the over 62,000 burglaries of homes and businesses every year in this County, and 75,000 cars are stolen, this is a huge, huge problem that unfortunately doesn't play out in the minds of all people who live in the County of Los Angeles as strongly as it should.

    It's amazing that all of us will turn on the news every day, those of us that do, on television we'll always have one or two or three reports of crime. And yet, the opponents of Measure A just don't get it. And they'll see ambulances and a body in the street with a blanket over it, and they just pass over that as not really being real. I guess what's happened in this great County of ten million people with only 22,500 cops, that we end up believing that this will never happen to us. That we live in neighborhoods that are unaffected, and so thus we have this lull of thinking that we'll never be victim.

    But yet there's over a million crime victims every year in this County [with] lesser grade crimes including the serious crimes, and all I'm trying to do is waken up those who have been victims, those who have been victims of theft, of assault or any other type of crime, to just go out and vote. You're the best group we have if there's a problem.

    And so I'm hopeful that next Tuesday we'll get this measure passed...

    All cities are at risk when police services start to erode. This is really what Measure A is about. The Sheriffs Dept. has lost 1,100 Deputy Sheriffs -- we're down from 9,400 to 8,200 -- and I've closed two jails. When you start having the arrests [by] Long Beach police officers, or Los Angeles police officers or even Deputy Sheriffs, when those arrests for quality of life crime are rendered meaningless because the prisoners aren't serving any time in jail, then you know the system is broken.

    And yet the plea that we have in Measure A is to awaken people's indifference. One cannot afford to be indifferent to your neighbors' problems in terms of public safety, and cities -- and there's 88 in this county -- cannot afford to be indifferent to other cities that have a greater crime problem because it's only a matter of time before that crime problem will come to those cities and will affect them.

    If we don't add at least 5,000 more cops which Measure A will bring in the County of Los Angeles, predictably the aggressive nature of criminals who see easy opportunities, easy prey, will start to widen their vision.

    And now with this Measure [Proposition] 66 [easing parts of "Three Strikes" law], which the polls indicate the people will vote yes for, in this county alone there will be as many as 8,000 career criminals returning to Los Angeles County. Can you imagine what that alone is going to do for the crime problems in Los Angeles?...

    [W]hen Long Beach signed on in January [a City Council vote backed a County sales tax increase for public safety related purposes] as the first major city to do this, and the great Port of Long Beach...will become safer because money is set aside for some of the homeland security priorities.

    And I know that all of us are looking forward to making sure that terrorists, when they think of Los Angeles, will not come here, not do what they are planning to do...

    So thank you for your time this evening...whether it's from Lancaster to Long Beach, or Palisades to Pomona, this Sheriff is going to everywhere possible to make sure that this measure gets passed.

    And if it doesn't get passed, I've got a backup plan. We're not giving up one way or the other. Thank you. [applause]

    After the event, asked Sheriff Baca if he wished to elaborate on a backup plan; he politely declined and reiterated that he's working to get Measure A passed. Sheriff Baca added that having sufficient resources for public safety will continue to be at the forefront of his efforts.

    In January 2004, the LB City Council went on record in support of a petition initiated measure, backed Sheriff Baca, for a half-cent sales tax increase for public safety related purposes. The LB Council resolution said the measure would bring $21 million to LB City Hall.

    When the number of signatures collected fell short, Sheriff Baca asked the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to put the measure on the Nov. 2004 ballot. The Board made some changes, then voted 4-1 (Antonovich dissenting) to put the proposal -- which would raise L.A. County's sales tax to 8.75%, the highest in CA -- to a vote of the people. Measure A requires a 2/3 vote in support to pass.

    Apart from Sheriff Baca, Montebello Mayor Lopez-Reid and Montebello Councilman Bob Bagwell, we didn't spot any other elected officials at the Oct. 26 event although numerous City Halls, including LB, have endorsed Measure A.

    Measure A's opponents include the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the LB Area Chamber of Commerce.

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