Mayor Richard Riordan submitted a city budget Friday of nearly $5 billion for the 2001-2002 fiscal year that boosts spending for the embattled LAPD by 6 percent to $949 million. However, the proposal contains provisions for $12 million to hire 360 officers, while 730 officers plan to retire next year.
The drop in personnel would put the LAPD at around 8,700 officers, the lowest level in six years.
"None of us is satisfied with the number of officers we have on the force right now," City Councilman Mike Feuer, chairman of the Budget Committee, told the Los Angeles Times. "A [decrease] in the force satisfies no one."
Riordan did not go into any specific detail about the LAPD in a statement released Friday, preferring to call his final spending package a continuation of improvements in city services that began when he took office in 1993.
"My new budget builds on those successes and charts a course toward continued fiscal responsibility," he said.
Although Riordan, who leaves office this summer, had pledged to make increasing the LAPD ranks a priority during his tenure in office, the city has been forced to shift resources to pay for the fallout from the Rampart scandal.
Revelations by a former rogue cop that he and other officers in the Rampart Division routinely framed gang members and other suspects by planting evidence, falsifying reports and lying in court led to the dismissal of dozens of criminal charges and brought a slew of lawsuits and liability claims that could cost an estimated $40 million in the coming year.
A federal judge ruled on Thursday that the civil Racketeering and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) statute could be applied in the lawsuits, a move that could substantially increase the city's financial exposure.
Rampart also prompted the U.S. Justice Department to seek court-ordered reforms of the LAPD. Negotiations between the Justice Department and the city produced a consent decree that Riordan was forced to earmark $26 million to pay for, including $12 million for a computer system to track problem officers and $4 million for hand-held computers officers will use to log traffic stops and field interrogations to prevent racial profiling.
Efforts to tighten discipline in the wake of Rampart have been blamed by many officers for lower moral and increased difficulties in recruiting officers. Riordan's budget anticipates a 4.5 percent pay raise for police and firefighters, and offers a $2,000 bonus for recruits who complete the police academy and increases the "finder's fee" paid to city employees who recruit an officer from $200 to $500.
Officer Joe Ferreira, an LAPD recruiter, told the Times that other factors cutting into the number of prospective officers included the healthy civilian economy, competition from other area police forces, and rigorous new background checks.
"A year from now, if a recession hits, will we have a recruiting crisis? Probably not," he said, because people will still need jobs.
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