Los Angeles Police Department officers work civilian jobs

Listen to the audio story:


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.”

Rosendahl agrees.

“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.

New jail will be staffed by police, not civilian detention officers

Listen to the audio story:


Civilian workers from the Los Angeles Police Department and their union representatives gathered in front of the new Metropolitan Detention Center downtown Thursday morning. The group hoped to draw attention to a problematic matter of staffing that has resulted from the current civilian-hiring freeze.

The new jail, which sat empty for more than a year, will finally open in February 2011. But it will not be staffed by civilian detention officers. Instead, the LAPD is pulling 100 current police officers off of their current posts to staff the facility.

David Yuen, an LAPD principal detention officer, sees the situation as a public safety issue.

“It makes no sense,” Yuen said. “During this budget crunch, we should be saving money and getting more cops out on the streets, not putting them in jobs done by civilians elsewhere.”

Police officers receive higher salaries than civilian detention officers. Public Safety First, a coalition of Los Angeles city unions, believes staffing the jail with police officers rather than civilians will cost the city an extra $7.6 million every year.

Adam Bartels is also a detention officer, but he spoke at the news conference as a concerned citizen. He was happy to pay an increased trash fee to add more officers to the police force. But he had envisioned those officers would be out on the streets, helping to keep his community safe. It makes him angry to think they will now be taking jobs that could be covered by civilians.

Unless the city allows a temporary lift on the hiring freeze for detention officers, there is little hope the situation will change between now and the opening of the facility.

The training session for the first set of 100 police officers working in the jail begins Nov. 8.

Fourth anniversary of the Safer Cities Initiative sparks protest

Listen to the audio story here:

The 2006 initiative added 50 extra officers to Skid Row, a presence some residents resent.