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Civics & Democracy

Mixed Reviews for Mayor Bass’s LAPD Budget, While The Wait Goes On For Measure ULA Money

A steel and glass building with Los Angeles Police Department in block letters above the entrance
The Los Angeles Police Department headquarters in downtown LA.
(Andrew Cullen
for LAist)
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Mayor Karen Bass’s proposed $3.24 billion LAPD budget received mixed reviews Thursday as the city council’s budget and finance committee began reviewing her spending plan.

The mayor wants to add $87 million to the police budget from the current fiscal year. That would bring the LAPD's share of the total city budget to nearly 25%; it would represent 44% of all discretionary funds.

The committee also discussed the proposed housing department budget, and much of the conversation focused on plans — delayed indefinitely by legal challenges — for expected annual tax revenue of $670 million from Measure ULA.

'We have to be the best recruiters'

Addressing the mayor's police budget, committee Chair Bob Blumenfield offered his “full support" to the LAPD "in restoring not only the number of officers but building back this department.” The LAPD has shrunk by nearly 1,000 officers since before the start of the pandemic, to about 9,100.

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At the heart of the mayor’s plan is to conduct 13 police academy classes with 60 recruits each over the next fiscal year. Counting for attrition, she hopes to add 400 police officers to the department.

Councilmember Tim McOsker asked LAPD Chief Michel Moore for a “reality check on that.”

“When was the last time we had a 60-person class?” he asked. Moore said it hasn’t happened since before COVID-19 hit, citing a smaller pool of people who want to go into law enforcement.

“We have to be the best recruiters in America because we are in a scarce market,” the chief said.

Bass’s budget would include a $15,000 hiring bonus for each new officer. Moore said he also hopes to speed the hiring process for potential new recruits as well as to hire back recently retired officers—- something allocated for in the mayor’s blueprint.

Moore also told the committee that he wants money for about 220,000 more overtime hours than what was in the mayor’s budget, arguing he needs it for crime suppression efforts.

The mayor's LAPD budget is expected to run into greater opposition on the full city council, where several members are critics of more police funding.

The budget calls for doubling the number of Systemwide Mental Assessment Response Teams (SMART) to 24. These teams include an LAPD officer and a county social worker who can respond to people experiencing a mental health crisis.

Last year’s budget also set aside money for increasing the number of SMART units, but Moore said the county was unable to provide enough mental health workers to carry out the expansion.

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“The county continues to struggle to hire mental health counselors,” he said.

Melina Abdullah, who heads the L.A. Chapter of Black Lives Matter, said Bass’ police budget is “completely out of line with what Angelinos want.” She cited a survey conducted by BLM that found people want more money invested in social services and the built environment, including libraries.

“She knows that there’s a public health response that’s needed in our community,” Abdullah said of Bass, who is a one-time physician assistant in South L.A.

Bass was scheduled to meet with leaders from Black Lives Matter, United Teachers LA and The Reverence Project in Leimert Park later Thursday to discuss what BLM is calling “The People's Budget.”

Abdullah said the mayor told her there is still plenty of time to influence the budget. “We’re hoping she hears the voice of the people and the city council hears the voice of the people and shifts those funds.”

Hoping for more housing money

Measure ULA, passed by L.A. voters last November, funds housing and homelessness efforts in the city by taxing property sales of $5 million or more.

The measure is on hold as it faces lawsuits. If it survives legal challenges, the tax revenue it generates will be overseen primarily by the city’s housing department.

“ULA will be transformational,” Housing Department General Manager Ann Sewill said during the hearing, “if and when we get to the end of the lawsuit.”

The city needs to produce 23,000 affordable homes every year to meet state-mandated housing goals. ULA money could help the city subsidize much more affordable housing, Sewill said, but still falls short of the $1.9 billion the city would need every year to directly subsidize all those new homes. Instead, Sewill said the city will need to offer other incentives to encourage developers to build more low-income housing.

L.A. is a majority-renter city where many struggle to afford housing. The authors of Measure ULA set aside $20 million per year in short-term assistance for tenants who’ve fallen behind on their rent, and $25 million in ongoing help for low-income seniors and disabled tenants.

Sewill said there’s a great need for that kind of help in L.A., but her department isn’t counting on the money being available for years to come until the legal challenges are resolved.

“I think it might not in this particular year be something that we would think about as long-term,” she said, “It might be something that we think about as a short-term thing.”

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