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A budgetary “sleight of hand” proposed by Mayor Eric Garcetti would result in fewer officers out patrolling Los Angeles streets, even as crime is on the rise, the union that represents Los Angeles police officers alleged Thursday.
“The shenanigans that occurred in the mayor’s budget will put neighborhood safety at risk,” Los Angeles Police Protective League Vice President Jeretta Sandoz told the City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee, which is reviewing the mayor’s $9.2 billion budget proposal.
Officials for LAPPL, which represents more than 8,000 rank-and-file police officers, said Garcetti’s proposed $121 million allocation for police overtime is an inflated amount, with $41 million of that funding actually going toward providing security on buses and rail, under a recently approved contract with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, LAPPL officials said.
“The mayor’s budget chooses to keep transit lines safe but not the neighborhoods,” Sandoz said.
Union officials argue the mayor’s sworn overtime proposal represents a 20 percent reduction in the number of hours that could be put toward officers patrolling neighborhoods.
In a letter to the committee urging the City Council to “reject this proposal” by Garcetti, union leaders called the move a “well-orchestrated bait-and-switch,” noting that the police union’s contract requires the city to allot at least $100 million for overtime, but the city is technically putting in $80 million to patrol neighborhood streets.
They say this translates to at least 328,000 fewer hours that could have gone to neighborhood patrols going toward the Metro contracted services, LAPPL officials said.
LAPPL board director Robert Harris said union leaders “were extremely dismayed when we discovered this budgetary sleight of hand.”
But Chief Charlie Beck told the committee Thursday that officer hours may not actually be reduced. He explained that once the overtime funding runs out, officers will still be working, but their hours will be “banked” and they will not see payment until later, under a compensatory time-off program.
The deferred payment program “doesn’t take them off the street,” he said. “It defers the city’s liability, but it doesn’t remove their boots from the ground.”
Beck predicted that under the current proposal, the city may need to put officers on the overtime banking plan beginning in May.
The City Council may need to weigh the financial costs of deferring payment, he said.
Beck also said officers do not like this arrangement, telling the Daily News after his budget presentation that it “defers their (the officers’) payment for overtime.”
But “as you well know, a dollar of overtime banked now is often $2 when it’s paid,” he said.
The addition of the $41 million for Metro security, which will be covered by the transportation agency and not the city, raises the total sworn overtime allocation to $121 million. But some, including Councilman Mitch Englander, questioned whether this meets the “spirit” of the provision in the union contract.
Both Beck and union leaders on Thursday pointed out that the proposed overtime budget for the upcoming year is smaller than this year’s. The city budgeted $90 million for sworn overtime this fiscal year, while out of the proposed $121 million for next year, only $80 million is actually being allotted from the city’s own coffers for officer overtime hours, Beck said.
Mayoral spokesman George Kivork said in a statement their office is “confident we’ll be able to meet the same safety requirements and neighborhood patrols as we’ve had in the past — there will not be a reduction.” The mayor’s deputy chief of staff, Matt Szabo, acknowledged during the committee meeting that the likelihood that $80 million will not be enough to truly cover overtime costs in the upcoming fiscal year is a problem.
But he said the mayor’s office “had to make some significant and difficult choices.” “We fully understand that is not the most ideal situation, but the entire budget presented a less than ideal situation,” Szabo said.