July 27th, 2016
San Pedro -- Whether it’s a devastating terror attack like those experienced in San Bernardino or Orlando, or the surge in crime our neighborhoods currently are suffering through, now, more than ever, community members and law enforcement officers must present a united front and come together to combat crime. Our public safety officers risk their lives every day to protect our neighborhoods and keep our streets safe. These brave men and women are our first line of defense against deadly terrorist plots and gang and criminal activity. They have come to the aide of our communities time and time again, and the least we can do is express our deepest gratitude for their sacrifices and offer our support so that officers have the resources they need to safely do their jobs. I know that if we work together, we can curb gang activity, and make our neighborhoods safer.
Crime numbers don’t lie. In Los Angeles, crime has been on a steep incline since 2014. Violent crime is up 50%, shooting victims are up 23% and property crime is up nearly 18%. And, Los Angeles is not alone. Murders in Compton, for example, have tripled this year.
These numbers should cause alarm in residents and public officials alike. We are not, however, without options and opportunities.
In Los Angeles, Chief Charlie Beck has stated that the LAPD needs 12,500 police officers to safely police the city. With only 9,900 officers, LAPD is nowhere near that goal. While some may shrug and say getting that many more police on the streets isn’t feasible, I personally don’t think the question is whether or not we can afford to hire more law enforcement officers. The question is whether we can afford not to, which could carry a much steeper price than dollars and cents.
Mayor Garcetti, Police Chief Charlie Beck, City Controller Ron Galperin and the Los Angeles Police Protective League have advocated taking several hundred police officers who perform civilian work and putting them back on the streets. This effort must be expedited. The LAPPL and LAPD are working towards fixing a broken worker’s compensation system which currently has delayed over 1,600 police officers from getting the medical care they need to get back on the streets as soon as possible.
Additionally, the LAPPL has proposed an innovative solution to this problem: they suggest using savings on salaries caused by officer vacancies to fund additional police officers on patrol when beats go unfilled due to officers being out sick, in court or transporting suspects they’ve arrested. It’s a cost effective, instant shot in the arm for our neighborhood police patrols.
While more officers on the street will help create a larger presence in neighborhoods and improve police response to emergencies, it’s not a panacea for our crime problems. We need community members to work cooperatively with law enforcement. They must be the eyes and ears of their streets if we ever hope to catch criminals and prevent crime.
Community cooperation takes trust. The vast majority of Los Angeles County residents trust and support our law enforcement officers, and that’s important. However, some still have their doubts. It’s important to understand that we’re asking officers to do more with less. And we’re asking them to do it under incredibly difficult conditions every day.
The face of the department has changed over time too. The LAPD ranks reflect the great diversity of L.A.’s neighborhoods, and we need to do a better job of conveying that information to the public. A majority of LAPD officers are people of color, including 45% who are Hispanic and 11% who are African American. Those are facts that many in our community are not aware of.
No officer wants to use his or her service weapon, but unfortunately, it is sometimes unavoidable. From being the first responders to terrorist threats, to dealing with rising gang activity, we ask our officers to make split-second decisions in dangerous situations. Keeping this in mind, it’s important that the public does not come to any hasty conclusions. We ask our officers to react based on a suspect’s actions and the surrounding environment all while attempting to preserve the lives of the suspect, bystanders, fellow officers and themselves. It’s an incredible challenge that requires split-second calculations and a finely honed instinct.
Local law enforcement has worked hard to earn that trust. For example, LAPD and LA County Sheriff’s quickly adopted a pilot program for bodyworn cameras for its officers. LAPD has led the way nationally for training on using less than lethal force when appropriate and the use of those options is up considerably. Last year, LAPD only 0.13% of contacts with the public resulted in any use of force.
As a former Councilmember, I can attest to the fact that LAPD has one of the most extensive, thorough and rigorous investigative processes in the nation and its overseen by an all civilian Police Commission. These are major cornerstones of police reform that have been long-time constants in our police work here.
Perspective, facts and data must be the guiding forces for how we as a community address our public safety issues. With all the noise in the news, it’s important to look around and see what our law enforcement personnel are doing every day to keep us safe. Look at the concerted effort our departments have put into training and transparency programs to improve community relations. Trust in those things and let’s work together to turn the tide on the crime wave we’re suffering through.