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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

During the six-month academy, rookie officers get 912 hours of training in areas such as firing weapons, defensive driving and de-escalation techniques. The application process requires a lengthy background check, which adds another challenge to staffing up, officials say.

Department and city leaders have attempted various tactics to woo recruits in recent months.

Last fall, the City Council approved a four-year package of raises and bonuses for officers that boosted the starting salary to $86,000, as well as bigger retention bonuses and other incentives. This came over objections from some councilmembers that the raises and bonuses were too expensive and would do little to address the deeper issues of why fewer people are going into policing.

The LAPD recently hired a new marketing business, using a combination of public and private funding, that is more digitally focused and will help the department “speak to a younger demographic,” officials told the Police Commission. The department is also offering monetary incentives to officers who refer recruits who make it through the academy to graduation.

Other efforts have stalled.

A plan to bring back retired officers on a temporary basis to fill vacancies has had meager success, with only a handful of retirees signing on.

Even as Bass has acknowledged that she wasn’t “super confident” the LAPD could get to 9,500 officers, her office has remained silent about whether she will change her goal. A recent report by the city’s top budget analyst said the LAPD would likely end the year with 8,908 officers — the lowest sworn deployment in more than two decades.

For some elected officials and progressive groups, the staffing shortfall presents an opportunity to put money budgeted for paying officers toward expanding positions for social services workers who could better respond to nonviolent calls involving mental illness, homelessness or substance use. The city has launched several pilot programs in recent years, but proponents say such efforts are undermined by inadequate funding.


“Spending a lot more money on LAPD has not so far yielded more recruits and increases in staffing, and what we need is a holistic alternative response,” said Councilmember Nithya Raman, one of three on the council to vote against pay raises for officers.

Raman recently prevailed in her reelection bid over an opponent who received huge financial support from unions that represent police officers and firefighters, among other groups.

A spokesperson for Bass previously said that while the mayor hasn’t ruled out cutting some of the thousands of unfilled city jobs to balance the city budget, any reductions would not impact police officers.

L.A. is hardly alone in its police recruitment woes. A recent survey by the Police Executive Research Forum found that in most places, hiring hasn’t kept up with attrition, resulting in a nearly 5% drop in total police staffing nationwide.

Lobbying for more officers has become something of an annual ritual at the LAPD, which has historically been among the country’s smallest big-city departments on a per capita basis.

The department’s staffing peaked at 10,072 for a few weeks in January 2019. It originally reached the symbolic 10,000-officer threshold, sought by past city and department leaders, in 2013, near the end of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s tenure.

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