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Oct 2010
The MDC staffing decision: LA residents deserve better<br>The further hollowing of the LAPD

In 2002, Los Angeles voters approved Proposition Q, a citywide public safety bond measure to fund the construction of 11 new police facilities and the renovation of 12 police stations. One of the facilities, constructed at a cost of $74 million, is the five-floor, 172,000-square-foot Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC). Voters who approved Prop Q had a reasonable expectation that upon completion, this state-of-the-art jail would be fully utilized for its intended purpose.

Four years later, the City enacted higher trash fees in order to add 1,000 officers to the LAPD and bring the force’s numbers to 10,000. Again, residents had a reasonable expectation that the money would go toward its intended purpose, the hiring of police officers to provide increased community protection.

So in 2010, where do we stand? The $74 million MDC sits vacant—unused because there simply aren’t enough civilian detention officers in the ranks to staff it. In the meantime, to avoid overtime pay, hundreds of police officers are placed on forced days off instead of filling vacancies in patrols. This happens on a daily basis. At the same time, a drastic reduction in the civilian workforce has resulted in hundreds of sworn officers being taken off the streets and put into offices where they perform administrative and support functions at nearly twice the cost of a civilian employee.

As we said in April, the LAPD is becoming a “hollow” police force.

For every 100 officers who get pulled from field work to backfill vacant civilian positions, we lose the equivalent of about 30 police cars citywide, which dramatically and detrimentally impacts our ability to respond to calls and keep crime down. We are receiving daily reports from our officers telling us that they are spending increasing amounts of time in the station performing administrative tasks instead of fighting crime on the streets. This threatens to reverse the LAPD's historic rates of crime reduction in recent years.

Now we’ve learned that 87 more LAPD officers will be pulled off the streets and put to work running the Metropolitan Detention Center. LAPD officials say the reassignments will allow the jail to open by early February, ending months of debate on how to operate the MDC and finally shutter the rundown detention center at Parker Center.

Although we agree that the closure of the Parker Center facility is long overdue, we don’t agree that it is prudent or fiscally responsible for sworn police officers to work as jailers. It isn’t the job they were hired to do. Moreover, it represents a poor return on the significant investment that city taxpayers have made in training the men and women of the LAPD.

LAPD officials and City leaders need to rethink how they are deploying the precious resource they have in LAPD officers. The residents of Los Angeles placed their trust in City leaders to do the right thing when they agreed to pay higher trash fees in return for expanded police service. They also trusted their City officials to be good stewards of the general fund by using City employees in accordance with the job classifications they were hired for.

It takes a long time to build trust. Keeping it requires a commitment to do what’s promised and make the right choices when faced with dilemmas. If LAPD officials and City leaders don’t revisit the jail staffing decision and find a better solution, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to regain the trust of Los Angeles voters.



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