January 16, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

L.A. council panel seeks to scale back potential LAPD job cuts

A key committee of the Los Angeles City Council narrowly approved a proposal on Monday for scaling back the number of Police Department employees whose jobs could be targeted for elimination amid a growing financial crisis.

The council’s Budget and Finance Committee took up a proposal from the city’s top financial analysts to begin preparations for the layoff of as many as 1,900 employees, the vast majority of them at the LAPD.

Councilman Paul Krekorian called for his colleagues to scale back that list by nearly two-thirds, and seek to find savings elsewhere — possibly from other city agencies. Krekorian, who heads the committee, recommended taking the number of sworn officers whose positions were targeted for elimination from 951 down to 355, and the number civilian positions in the Police Department from 728 down to 273.

Krekorian’s proposal passed on a 3 to 2 vote, with Councilmen Curren Price and Mike Bonin opposed.

Price argued that every city agency needed to take a 3% cut, saying the LAPD should not be provided a “different kind of standard” on balancing the budget.

Bonin favored the move to reduce the number of potential layoffs — but only if it was accomplished by making other reductions at the LAPD, and not cutting other agencies, a spokesman said.

The full council will meet Tuesday to take up the cost-cutting proposals, along with a request to drain much of the city’s reserve and borrow $150 million to cover the cost of ongoing operations.

The committee’s deliberations followed more than an hour of testimony from members of the public, several of whom pleaded with the committee to shield workers at the LAPD and the city’s animal service department from job cuts.

Some said the city is already experiencing a spike in homicides and shooting victims. If 950 police officers are cut from the force, “we’ll have anarchy,” said Martin Beck, a resident of Hancock Park.

“We’ll have such a dangerous city that people will take the law into their own hands, and we don’t want that. We need the police to keep our city safe and secure,” he said.

Other callers into Monday’s virtual meeting said the cuts to the LAPD should be even deeper.

One told the committee that supporters of the police department simply want “security for themselves because they are of a certain class, a certain race.”

Another said flatly that police officers “do not keep us safe.”

“They’re called after a crime is committed,” said Gina Viola, who owns a temporary employment agency and lives in Hollywood. “They don’t even prevent crimes. They can’t even solve crimes without the financial assistance of the public.”

City Administrative Officer Rich Llewellyn, the city’s top budget analyst, had advised the council members to approve all of his budget-cutting proposals as a single package to ensure they would close a deficit projected to reach $675 million by June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

“We know each of these employees provides important service that our residents need … and we also understand that the lives of each and every employee will be turned upside down,” he said.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing roughly 9,800 LAPD officers, issued a letter calling Llewellyn’s proposal for the LAPD “reckless and unnecessary.” The union asked council members to tap unspent coronavirus relief funding provided by the federal government earlier this year.

In a letter to the committee, union president Craig Lally said the cuts would “decimate the LAPD for at least a decade.”

The threatened layoffs are viewed by many as part of an effort to pressure city employee unions to return to the bargaining table and offer concessions on pay and other expenses. The city is already pursuing an array of other strategies for closing the budget gap.

Llewellyn called for the council to tap as much as $259 million from the city’s reserve funds, which are set up to help the city weather a major emergency, such as an earthquake. It also includes a proposal for borrowing $150 million — money that would be used to cover ongoing costs.

In addition to the job cuts, Llewellyn is hoping secure another $49 million in additional givebacks from the city’s employee unions, possibly by increasing the number of furlough days taken by civilian city workers between January and June.

City budget analysts are also seeking to tap unspent money from the federal CARES Act, which was provided to Los Angeles and other cities to help them weather the pandemic.