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Los Angeles cuts LAPD spending, taking police staffing to its lowest level in 12 years

David Zahniser, Dakota Smith and Emily Alpert Reyes, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to cut hiring at the Police Department, pushing the number of sworn officers well below 10,000 and abandoning a budget priority once seen as untouchable by city leaders.

Faced with a grim budget outlook and deluged by demands for reductions in police spending, the council voted 12-2 to take the Los Angeles Police Department down to 9,757 officers by next summer -- a level of staffing not seen in the city since 2008.

Overall, the council's decision delivered a $150 million hit to the LAPD budget, much of it coming from funds earmarked for police overtime pay. Councilman Curren Price, who pushed for the cuts, said two-thirds of the savings would ultimately be funneled into services for Black, Latino and disenfranchised communities, such as hiring programs and summer youth jobs.

"This is a step forward, supporting minority communities in ways in which they deserve -- with respect, dignity and an even playing field," said Price, the only Black member on the council's budget committee.

Council members Joe Buscaino and John Lee cast the two opposing votes. Buscaino said afterward that the city should have approved more money for a community policing program, not "a reactive, feel-good budget cut."

Wednesday's actions showed just how much spending policies and views on public safety have shifted at City Hall following mass protests over police brutality. As recently as April, Mayor Eric Garcetti had been pushing for a 7% increase to the LAPD budget, a move he no longer favors.

 

Reaching and maintaining a 10,000-officer force had been a longtime priority for city leaders. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa celebrated in 2013 when the LAPD reached that number for the first time. That year, while running for mayor, Garcetti vowed to preserve that staffing level.

The council's decision Wednesday will allow the LAPD to hire only half the number of officers needed to replace those who resign or retire in the coming year.

The $150 million cut to the LAPD fell far short of demands from Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles and its allies, who had pushed for a "People's Budget" that would effectively eliminate police spending and redirect the savings to housing, mental health services and other needs.

"That is literally pocket change," said Rebecca Kessler, a resident of Van Nuys who called in to the council this week. "It's a slap in the face. You need to defund the police, take way more money, put way more money into these programs."

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