Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called Wednesday for an 8.5% increase in the Police Department’s operating budget, providing a major boost to overtime pay while also seeking to fill hundreds of vacant positions.
Garcetti released his $11.8-billion budget for the coming year, which would increase the Los Angeles Police Department’s operating budget by $149 million and take its staffing up to 9,735 police officers by mid-2023, an increase of 29 positions compared with this year’s budget.
Reaching that target may be a heavy lift. The LAPD has been steadily losing officers due to retirement and resignations, and now has 9,371 officers. The department has struggled to replace those departing officers, in part because of a backlog of applicants within the personnel department.
To reach the mayor’s goal while also accounting for attrition in police ranks, the city would need to hire 780 officers during the next budget year, which begins July 1. Garcetti said he is confident the city can reach that target, in part by beefing up staff in the personnel department, which oversees hiring.
“I’ve personally been very involved in the weeds between our personnel department and our Police Department to look at what are the hiccups and the road bumps that caused it to take so long to do background checks and other things,” he said.
The spending plan now heads to the City Council, which must approve the budget by the end of next month.
The push for more money at the LAPD could easily become an issue in the June 7 primary city election, which features a number of council candidates who are looking to rein in law enforcement spending.
Los Angeles had 397 homicides last year — the most since 2006, and a change driven almost entirely by increased gun violence.
City Administrative Officer Matt Szabo, the high-level budget analyst, said the spending plan would increase overtime pay for officers by about 37% compared with the current budget year. Overall police spending, he said, would reach $3.2 billion once employee pensions, healthcare, utilities and building costs are factored in — an increase of about 4%.
Nearly $40 million of the proposed increase at the LAPD can be attributed to pay increases for department staff, some of which were delayed during the pandemic, Szabo said.
Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, which supports defunding the police, called Garcetti’s proposed increase to the LAPD’s budget “ridiculous.” Police shootings are up significantly, she said, and households are still recovering from the pandemic — and need services other than those provided by police.
“We hope that City Council will be courageous and cut what he’s proposed,” she said.
Garcetti’s budget proposal would also allocate nearly $1.2 billion for initiatives to address homelessness, with the largest share going toward the Project Homekey program. Those funds would allow the city to purchase buildings and convert them into 928 units of housing for homeless Angelenos, Szabo said.
Another major share would come from the proceeds of Proposition HHH, the 2016 bond measure that also pays for housing for homeless residents.
Garcetti’s budget team said the spending plan provides $54 million for alternatives to policing, such as gang intervention workers and mental health teams. And it would allow for the hiring of hundreds of sanitation workers, including new positions to address illegal dumping and “bulky item pickup” of couches, mattresses and other objects on the city’s sidewalks and parkways.
Under Garcetti’s proposal, several agencies — including those responsible for transportation, technology and cultural programming — would see decreases in spending. Szabo said those departments saw higher than normal spending this year, in part because many of their employees received separation packages of up to $80,000.
Those agencies also received more money this year as a result of the Biden rescue package, which delivered more than $1.2 billion to city coffers, Szabo said. That money is now exhausted.
The budget plan sets aside $658 million in reserve for a crisis — the largest amount in city history and one aimed at ensuring the city’s next mayoral administration is “prepared for an emergency,” Garcetti said.
The mayor’s budget proposal offers less than the 12.5% increase — or $213 million — that was requested for the LAPD last fall by the Board of Police Commissioners, which is made up of mayoral appointees.
The spending plan provides $7.3 million to pay for reform measures that were proposed in the wake of the LAPD’s mishandled response to the mass protests and unrest that erupted in 2020 following George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Police Chief Michel Moore did not immediately comment on the mayor’s budget. But he has voiced exasperation in recent months over the city’s struggle to recruit officers, saying applicants have had to wait months to clear background checks.
The bottleneck has been so severe that the Police Academy has been graduating recruit classes of fewer than 40 recruits at a time, down from an average of 50 to 60, Moore said last month. At that pace, he said, the department would barely be able to keep up with attrition, let alone build back its force.
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The issue has spurred high-level discussions in recent months between Moore and Dana Brown, the new general manager of the personnel department, and several recommendations for hiring officers more quickly.
In a March 8 email to Moore, obtained by The Times through a public records request, Brown suggested that city officials streamline the background check process for police applicants, including a portion of the process in which applicants detail their personal history.
Brown also noted in her email that “background standards” had already recently been changed, without official approval, regarding marijuana use, finances, and “bias/extremism.”
The department would not say what those changes were. Some city officials have expressed concerns that hiring standards might be relaxed given the recent decline in officers and the focus, by Garcetti and others, on increasing the ranks more rapidly.
Times staff writer Dakota Smith contributed to this report.