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Los Angeles’ citywide hiring freeze is causing staffing problems in the police department. The Los Angeles Police Department cannot hire enough non-officers for support jobs. Instead, officers are being taken off the streets to do jobs formerly held by civilians, including everything from typing reports to maintaining vehicles.
Since police officers earn higher salaries than civilians, this ends up costing the city more. It would seem like an obvious solution to stop the freeze and hire more non-officers. But in city politics, nothing is that simple.
As council president Eric Garcetti explains, unfreezing those jobs means hiring fewer police officers.
“If you’re saying one is cheaper than the other, you have to get rid of the ones that are more expensive,” Garcetti said. “So that means reducing the overall police department force in order to hire those civilians.”
Cutting police officers goes against one of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s top priorities, maintaining Los Angeles’ police force at 9,963 members. But council member Tony Cardenas questions whether the focus on that number was hurting the department.
“To just claim a particular number of sworn officers is one thing,” Cardenas said. “And perhaps for the campaign trail, that’s something appropriate. But when it comes to budgeting, we’re going to be lying to the public by saying we have 10,000 officers, but the public doesn’t have 10,000 officers on the streets of Los Angeles.”
“The reality is, we have to deal with the sacred number of 9,963,” Rosendahl said. “If it’s so sacred, why are we putting full-time able-bodied officers into civilian jobs? So let’s deal with reality where the rubber is now hitting the road.”
For council members, that could mean unpopular steps like voting against new police officers.
“The key is, whether you have the will to do it, and we’ve ignored it each and every time it comes up,” said council member Bernard Parks. “Every time there’s a class to be hired, we hire it and we go blindly through and we keep cutting civilians and you’re going to have the full level of sworn personnel, but not enough civilian support to cause them to be effective.”
The council voted unanimously to refer the issue to the public safety and budget committees.