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Criminal Justice

LA Taxpayers Spent $400,000 On City Council Security During 3-Month Period

A man wearing a white hoodie holds a brown poster that reads "KDL is Anti-Poor, KDL is Anti-Black, KDL is Anti-Native, VETO 41.18. He's holding his hand to his mouth as he shouts. Next two him a white woman holds up an out of focus white sign. On the right of the frame other diverse members of the public are standing, some holding signs up.
Protesters demand Kevin De León's resignation at the Dec. 13, 2022 L.A. City Council meeting.
(Brian Feinzimer
for LAist)
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The LAPD spent more than $400,000 on security at City Council meetings during a recent three-month period that included angry demonstrations against council members who were heard on secret audio recording making racist, homophobic and anti-Indigenous remarks, according to the Los Angeles City Controller.

From Oct. 11 through Jan. 13, the LAPD showed up in force with 30 to 95 officers at meetings, according to figures compiled by Controller Kenneth Mejia’s office. In the past, there have been as few as three visible at meetings. The controller said the city spent nearly $17,000 dollars on security per meeting during that period.

“We wanted to understand the extent of the resources that were committed to city council meetings and their related costs,” said Sergio Perez, Mejia’s chief of accountability and oversight. The controller released the information in a tweet Monday night.

“People were really, really upset at the time,” said Rob Quan, an organizer with Unrig LA who attended some of the meetings. “You could understand why they might feel like they needed to have some backup there.”

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But he called the number of officers, which sometimes equaled the number of protesters, “absolutely excessive.” The public area of the council chambers has capacity for 160 people.

‘There were exceptional security issues’

Hugh Esten, a spokesperson for City Council President Paul Krekorian, defended the security measures and their cost.

“In autumn of 2022, there were exceptional security issues in the city council chamber,” Esten said, adding that the security was not only for members of the council. “The fact that members of the public were engaged in violence altercations with one another — that required greater police presence."

The LAPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The controller’s revelation of the expenditures was designed to prompt public debate about the justification for the expenditures “and whether there are alternative, less expensive and just as effective ways” to address city council security, said Dinah Manning, director of public safety for Mejia’s office.

Quan recalled police officers in full riot gear at times armed with rifles that fire 40mm foam rounds.

“If the intention was to get people calmed, it did not have that effect,” he said.

There were only a handful of arrests during the demonstrations. Esten argued the police were a deterrent and that there may have been more arrests if there had been fewer officers present.

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He noted that one of the days when there were nearly 100 officers was when City Councilmember Keven de León returned to take a seat in the chambers. De León continues to be the focus of blistering attacks and protests calling for him to step down for his racist comments heard on the secret audio recordings.

The recordings and subsequent protests led to the resignations of former City Council President Nury Martinez and the former head of the L.A. County Federation of Labor, Ron Herrera.

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