LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles City Council's Budget and Finance Committee agreed today to cut $133 million from the police department budget next fiscal year, with the money expected to be used in part to replenish the city's reserve fund and limit furloughs of municipal employees.
The committee was considering up to $150 million in police cuts, but reduced that number by about $17 million to fund costs related to technology improvements and to maintain the Los Angeles Police Department's civilian employee numbers.
If the plan is approved by the full City Council, some of the money cut from the LAPD would be used to replenish the city's general fund reserve, while some would be used in hopes of avoiding three months of planned citywide furloughs due to shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The original intent of the LAPD cuts was to fund programs and services to assist historically underserved areas and communities of color, but the committee voted to have the remaining money put into an unassigned balance.
The move came in response to a growing movement to “defund'' police agencies. Some community groups have called for a major slashing of the LAPD budget, by as much as 90%, in favor of a complete rethinking of law enforcement.
During Monday's committee meeting, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said he was encouraged by the movement to alter the way police or other unarmed authorities respond to select incidents, but he said there needs to be an operational response team before the city makes significant cuts to law enforcement.
The committee voted 4-1 in favor of having the City Administrative Officer's staff come back with further recommendations on how the money from LAPD should be spent. The Budget and Finance Committee is scheduled to meet again next Monday, and the funding proposals must be approved by the full 15-member council.
With the city taking a major revenue hit due to the coronavirus pandemic, demand for funding his high throughout City Hall.
“We're facing imminent cuts in the very areas that we're talking about investing more, and I think our first goal needs to be to prevent that from happening,'' said Councilman Paul Krekorian, the committee chairman. “The people of Los Angeles have united around a historic nationwide demand for fundamental changes in law enforcement for violence reduction and for dismantling structural racism and inequity.
“I believe every member of this council is fully committed to those goals, even when we may not agree about every proposed solution to get us to those goals,'' Krekorian said.
Moore said proposed furloughs and budget cuts to his department would significantly affect the levels of service it can provide.
“...We must remind ourselves that this is not a zero-based budget,'' Moore said. “This budget has been built over the past two decades and it's reflective of core values and strategies that, frankly ... (have created) one of the safest times in our history.''
Moore said some of the proposed reductions could have “significant and severe impact on our ability to achieve the safety that we've seen so far.''
Councilman Curren Price made a motion to cut the full $150 million that was originally proposed and to put it directly toward helping communities of color, although he agreed that halting municipal furloughs would ensure city services continue for all communities.
“We are in the need of immediate action now. This is an opportunity for us to take a bold step in a policy shift that we know is necessary,'' Price said.
As for funding allocations, he said he would be in favor of “broad-based input from the community and all stakeholders, but we've got to act now.''
Price's motion was defeated on a 3-2 vote.
Councilman Paul Koretz said he opposed making drastic cuts in police funding until alternative public safety plans are in place. Protesters for weeks have been urging Los Angeles to have mental health experts and unarmed officials respond to certain non-violent calls instead of armed police officers.
“I do think that there are other ways to deal with a lot of 911 calls and a lot of the other services, and ... right now, we're on the cusp of reimagining all of that in a productive way,'' Koretz said.
The Budget and Finance Committee also discussed the possible furloughs of civilian LAPD employees, which Moore said would also affect the department's duties. Because civilian employees are able to take care of administrative work, they allow sworn officers to spend more time in the field, Moore said.
LAPD is slated to furlough 1,950 civilian employees for one day each pay period in a “staggered fashion'' to minimize service disruptions, which Moore said equates to a loss of about 190 employees.
The police chief said a hiring freeze would reduce a net of 130 civilian positions that will not be backfilled, for a total loss of 320 full-time civilian positions, more than 10% of the department's civilian staff.
Moore said he can't have sworn officers do some of the jobs of its civilian workforce, like working an operating board, as specific training is involved.
The police chief also suggested closing certain jails that are staffed by LAPD, as they don't have the same inmate population as the county's jails or other LAPD facilities.
“In the absence of civilian officers, I cannot see those jails continuing,'' Moore said.