A key committee of the Los Angeles City Council agreed Monday to cut the Police Department’s budget by more than $133 million, slashing police overtime pay in the coming year and taking the size of the force well below 10,000 officers.
The Budget and Finance Committee endorsed the reductions on a 4-to-1 vote, saying such a move would begin the process of reimagining public safety in L.A. while also helping the city cope with a major budget crisis.
Councilman Curren Price cast the only opposing vote, after pushing unsuccessfully for a larger reduction of $150 million. Price, the committee’s only Black member, said more aggressive action is needed, pointing to the recent death of Andres Guardado, an 18-year-old Gardena resident fatally shot by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy.
“He was shot by a sheriff deputy, but as far as the community’s concerned, he was shot by police, by law enforcement,” said Price, who represents a part of South Los Angeles patrolled by the LAPD. “That tragic death just underscores the conversation that’s happening all over this country.”
The committee’s budget-cutting measures will be finalized next week and forwarded to the full 15-member council. Both proposals fall short of the recommendations contained in the “People’s Budget,” an alternative spending plan for the city backed by Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles and other grass-roots groups, which would slash the LAPD budget by about 90%.
Under that plan, the savings would be plowed into housing initiatives, job programs, mental health counselors and other social services.
Backers of the People’s Budget phoned in to the committee’s meeting for nearly two hours, telling council members they viewed any plan to cut spending by $150 million as being too small to have any meaning. The LAPD currently consumes roughly $3 billion per year.
“When we say defund the police, we mean defund the police,” said one caller. “We mean take the money away from them. All of it.”
Monday’s deliberations showed just how much the politics around public safety spending have been upended in recent months.
Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed a 7% increase to the LAPD budget in April, even as he sought cuts at many other agencies. Activists immediately criticized that idea. Their efforts gained momentum after massive citywide protests broke out over police brutality and the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Garcetti changed course, joining City Council President Nury Martinez in calling for reductions of up to $150 million. Still, he and several others at City Hall have remained cool to the more aggressive approach favored by activists.
Paul Krekorian, who heads the budget committee, said he favors “immediate and bold actions” to change the LAPD. But he rejected the idea of passing the People’s Budget, saying it would cause the layoffs of thousands of police officers and leave the city less safe.
Councilman Paul Koretz, who also sits on the budget committee, offered a similar message, saying backers of the People’s Budget don’t remember the years when “the murder rate was much, much higher.”
“If you put an advisory vote on the ballot, supporters of the People’s Budget might be surprised to find that the elimination of law enforcement in Los Angeles would likely not pass in any part of the city,” said Koretz, who represents part of the Westside.
Under the committee’s proposal, the LAPD would fall below a budgeted 10,000 officers for the first time in several years, hiring only half as many officers as are needed to replace those who are on track to resign or retire. By June 2021, the LAPD would have 9,757 officers, according to a report from the city’s policy analysts.
The committee’s plan also would cut tens of millions of dollars in overtime pay from next year’s budget, which begins July 1. And it would use some of the savings from the LAPD cuts to delay Garcetti’s plan for putting nearly 16,000 civilian city workers on furloughs, allowing those employees to avoid pay cuts of 10% for at least three months.
Other savings would be diverted into the city’s emergency reserve fund, which has been depleted as city leaders responded to the crisis sparked by the coronavirus outbreak.
Krekorian said that maneuver is needed to ensure the city has enough money to respond to an earthquake or other major disaster.
But Jerretta Sandoz, vice president of the union that represents LAPD officers, denounced the committee’s actions, saying they would result in fewer patrols and longer response times.
“It’s a bad deal for neighborhood safety and a bad deal for taxpayers,” she said in a statement.
Jessica Craven, a resident of Mount Washington, took the opposite view, calling $133 million a “paltry amount” when compared to the LAPD’s overall budget. Craven said she was disappointed the committee did not go further.
The vote “feels more like showmanship than a commitment to real change,” she said.
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