City Council Votes To Slash LAPD Budget By $150 Million

Los Angeles Police Department officers patrol a light rail car in this file photo. (Courtesy L.A. Metro)

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The L.A. City Council on Wednesday voted to cut $150 million out of the Los Angeles Police Department's $1.8 billion operating budget, with plans to reinvest the funds in marginalized communities.

The move comes in response to recent historic protests that saw hundreds of thousands of Angelenos take to the streets, demanding justice for Black people killed at the hands of police following the death of George Floyd. Four former Minneapolis police officers — all fired — have been charged in Floyd's killing.

A coalition of community groups led by Black Lives Matter-LA has been organizing sustained protests and civic engagement, including:

  • Calling and writing city council members
  • Showing up to demonstrate outside elected officials' offices and homes
  • Developing their own alternative spending plan called The People's Budget.

That budget proposal calls for investing in public safety alternatives, housing and social services instead of armed law enforcement.

"We see this as a step forward that was really made possible by the work of the people in the streets," said Black Lives Matter-LA co-founder Melina Abdullah. "We absolutely celebrate the power of the people. But this is not defunding the police."

Abdullah added the cuts were "mostly symbolism" and "an attempt to quell protest — which it won't."

Councilmember Curren Price presented the final plan at a Budget and Finance Committee hearing on Monday. It amends Mayor Garcetti's fiscal year 2020-21 budget, which took effect today and increased the LAPD's budget by roughly $120 million.

From these cuts, $90 million will be redirected to programs serving marginalized communities like targeted local hiring; $10 million would go to a summer program promoting youth employment and workforce development.

The remaining $50 million will go to reducing city worker furloughs and mid-year budget adjustments.

"The soul of our city has been reignited during these turbulent times," Price said in a statement following the 12-2 vote. (Councilmembers Joe Buscaino and John Lee opposed, and Jose Huizar has been suspended from the council.)

"We seized the opportunity to deliver a more promising future for the people of Los Angeles," Price said.

The cuts come the day after the council passed a slate of measures aimed at expanding the LAPD's accountability or finding alternatives to policing. Yesterday, the council voted to require independent oversight of an investigation into use of force by LAPD officers against protesters in the recent demonstrations. They also voted to go ahead with creating a plan to send unarmed crisis response professionals, like mental health workers, to non-violent 911 calls instead of armed police officers.

In a statement, Council President Nury Martinez called the LAPD spending reductions "the first step toward something much bigger." She added, "This city council is looking at public safety through a very different and more accurate lens."

Last month, LAPD Chief Michel Moore expressed concern about the cuts, but said he would "look at every single dollar spent," to understand how it supported the department's mission.

City council members also introduced a measure on Tuesday to find ways to remove LAPD from traffic enforcement, including exploring automated alternatives like red light cameras and tapping city Department of Transportation personnel to enforce speeding laws.

Abdullah said measures like this were more substantive and "an example of courage and a fundamental reimagining of public safety."

WHAT LAPD CUTS ARE IN STORE?

The process started with a June 3 motion from Martinez and Council Members Herb Wesson, Monica Rodriguez and Price, asking city analysts to come up with $100-$150 million in LAPD budget reductions. That report was presented later in the month.

The City Administrative Officer and Chief Legislative Analyst recommended trimming twelve areas of the LAPD's budget — with over $80 million in sworn officer overtime as the largest cut by far.

At Monday's budget meeting, Price added an additional $16.26 million in cuts to overtime, bringing the total to nearly $97 million.

A table included in the CAO and CLA's report shows the growth of the LAPD since 2000 and overtime spending ballooning in recent years. The 2020-21 column does not include the new changes approved by the council.

Historical data on the LAPD's budget since 2000. (Los Angeles Chief Legislative Analyst and City Administrative Officer)

No layoffs appear to be in store for the LAPD, but the report also proposed chopping new hiring in half — 251 new officers instead of 503 to save nearly $26 million — eliminating a dozen new positions and letting 94 sworn officer jobs go unfilled. It also included smaller reductions in spending on technology, ammunition, field equipment and replacement vehicles.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents sworn police officers, decried the council's vote and suggested major costs would be shifted to future years' budgets — for example, if officers "bank" overtime and cash in the following year.

"Today the city council's action cut hundreds of police officers from neighborhoods, which will only make emergency response times longer, cripple our ability to implement on-going police training and push the city's debt for unpaid overtime past $200 million. They passed a budget by putting everything on the city credit card that will cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars more over the next few years."

The CAO and CLA report also noted that scaling back the LAPD's hiring "may negatively impact response times," and "[m]ay increase sworn overtime expenses if operational mandates remain constant."

The cuts are estimated to take the LAPD from 10,009 officers today to about 9,757 by this time next year, the fewest in over a decade.