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LAPD's recruiting woes laid bare: Only 31 officers per class in last 10 classes, analysis shows

Libor Jany, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

A U.S. Department of Justice study published last fall suggested that the reasons for the “historic crisis” in police staffing include an increase in public scrutiny of police conduct, high officer burnout rates and a tightening labor market since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The LAPD’s staffing struggles come at a time when cities across the country, faced with similar manpower issues, are rethinking the role that police should play.

Even with fewer officers, crime rates have declined nationwide over the past several years. So far this year, however, the number of homicides in L.A. has increased compared with the first four months of 2023, bucking a trend seen in other big cities. Other types of crime are down in Los Angeles, and Choi pointed out during his weekly briefing to the Police Commission that the rate of homicides has slowed in recent weeks.

With the Olympics and the World Cup looming as security challenges in coming years, whoever is named as the next LAPD chief— a nationwide search is underway — will be asked to shore up staffing.

Attrition numbers are down from the 2020-21 budget year, when the department lost 577 officers as hiring of police slowed amid the protests that followed the killing of George Floyd. But the academy classes have since failed to keep up with the number of officers leaving.

Commission President Erroll Southers told The Times that the department’s informational sessions for prospective recruits are always well attended. If anything, he said, the half-filled classes are more a sign of the department’s high standards than a waning interest in people wanting to join the LAPD.


“The reason we don’t have 60 recruits is because we’re not just taking anybody, so I’m OK with that,” he said. “I’m very proud of that, because that means our standards are still the same.”

At the same time, Southers said, the reality of a “slimmed-down LAPD means we’ve got to lean into these alternatives to police response.”

“There are a number of things that officers respond to that civilians could respond to, that clinicians or social workers could respond to, trained medical professionals could respond to,” he said.

The Times’ review found that the largest class to graduate from the LAPD academy since July had 36 officers; the smallest, 25. Latino recruits were over-represented compared with the city’s population makeup, while Asian American and white officers were under-represented, according to the analysis. Class sizes are up slightly from the preceding 10-month period, when the department graduated about 29 officers, the analysis showed.


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