A troubling homicide rate has the Los Angeles Police Department on high alert as the agency grapples with carrying out $150 million in budget cuts approved by the City Council earlier this year.
But LAPD proposed Tuesday expanding its funding for the coming fiscal year by over $100 million.
The Police Commission unanimously approved that measure even as the city itself grapples with a coming budget deficit of at least $400 million. Chief Michel Moore described the expansion to LAPD’s $1.8 billion budget as a “measured and fiscally conservative” attempt to fund law enforcement at a critical time.
Over the weekend, the number of killings in L.A. so far this year surpassed 300 — more than any other year in the past decade. That marks an increase of 25% from last year as well as a 32% rise in the number of shootings in the city.
“Senseless violence & tragic loss of life,” LAPD said in a tweet Sunday. “Our people are doing everything they can to stop the violence, but we need your help. If you have any info, report it.”
During the Police Commission meeting Tuesday, the union representing LAPD officers called on commissioners to come up with a plan to tackle the crime spike. For some, concerns over the violence has been compounded by the funding cuts approved earlier in the year. The meeting became a sounding board for both opponents and supporters of the cuts.
“Really, we need to defund LAPD, as has been called for with the Black Lives Matter movement, and we need to invest in our communities,” one woman said during the meeting.
Another woman told commissioners: “The police defend our communities, and therefore, I believe we need to defend them — not defund them.”
In the week following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, demonstrations in cities nationwide culminated in reckonings with racism, police brutality and thoughts about what it would take to tackle these issues locally. In L.A., Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that same week the city would take $250 million from other public funding “to invest in jobs, in health, in education, and in healing.”
The City Council approved $150 million of this funding would come from LAPD’s budget, something that hasn’t happened in years. The agency’s $1.8 billion budget has been expanded consistently for several years, according to the Los Angeles Times. In April, Garcetti had approved a 7% increase for the next fiscal year, giving LAPD about 53.8% of the money within the city’s general fund.
The $150 million in cuts is intended to help L.A.’s most marginalized communities, funding efforts to solve the very problems justice reform advocates often cite as the source of much violent crime.
During Tuesday’s meeting, LAPD Chief Moore also spoke of the need to address such issues.
“We have a compassion and an empathy to support victims of violent crime,” Moore said, before stating the need to simultaneously address “neighborhood conditions” and other factors in crime.
He described some of the forces driving violent crime in the city as inequities in education, substance abuse issues and lack of support within family units.
In a memo to LAPD personnel earlier this month, which was obtained by KTLA, the agency reveals plans to disband units including one on homeless outreach as well as a special sexual assault unit in the elite Robbery-Homicide division.
“Special assault section has now begun the process of cleaning up their cases that they have now,” retired LAPD Detective Moses Castillo said.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the union representing officers refused to meet with local officials earlier this month to address the city’s financial crisis and projected budget shortfall of $400 million. The organization cited the earlier $150-million cut and other obstacles faced this year.
In a letter, Craig Lally, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, wrote that officers in recent months have been “hit in the head with bricks, had urine thrown at them, attacked with frozen water bottles and even injured with eye-damaging lasers.”
Lally ended the letter: “We wish you luck.”
The Times has reported LAPD will stop responding in-person to traffic crashes and will make cuts to robbery and homicide and gang and narcotics divisions.
“We need to offload a number of responsibilities,” Moore told The Times earlier this month.