Mayor Tom Bradley on Wednesday vetoed the City Council's decision to give Los Angeles 100 more police officers, declaring that the best way to enlarge the department is voter approval of Proposition 1 on the June 4 ballot, which would add 1,000 officers to the force by raising property taxes.
Saying the $2.125-billion budget sent him by the council does not contain enough money to finance the 100 extra officers, Bradley said he favors the ballot measure, which would raise property taxes enough to increase authorized strength of the force from 7,000 officers to 8,000 over five years.
"I hope the people understand there is no such thing as a free lunch," Bradley said at a City Hall news conference.
Just a day after receiving the budget, the mayor announced that he had vetoed several council changes in the $2.13-billion spending program he had submitted but had approved most of the document. Bradley foes will have to muster 10 votes on the 15-member council to override the mayor. The mayor also vetoed the council's decision to cut back on the number of new Fire Department vehicles.
But, as he conceded, his most controversial decision was to veto the council's $2.6-million addition to his budget to raise the size of the Police Department to 7,100.
The council's move had been supported by police brass.
Earlier this year, Bradley backed a move, approved by the council, to boost the department from 6,900 officers to 7,000 and he said that authorized boost should remain.
He said the $2.6 million would provide only half a year's financing for the police officers and, with federal revenue-sharing aid to the city likely to be substantially reduced, Los Angeles should not "commit (itself) to future expenditures which we might not be able to meet. The officers we hire today would have to be laid off next year."
He said Proposition 1, which must be approved by a two-thirds vote, "will give us 1,000 additional officers with assured continuing funding."
Backers said the measure would authorize a property tax increase of $58 a year for the typical homeowner.
Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, chairman of the council's Finance and Revenue Committee, had disagreed with the mayor, saying that the city could find the money in its general budget for the extra officers in the future. Yaroslavsky, however, also backs Proposition 1.
Bradley was especially critical of the council's decision to pay for the officers partially by reducing purchases of unmarked police cars. Recalling his own 20 years as a police officer, Bradley said that driving cars that have gone beyond the department's 90,000-mile replacement standard is bad for morale.
Referring to the choice between more new cars or more new officers, he said: "Ask any officer who has to drive one of those ratty old automobiles . . . and they will say without question they want the (new) automobiles."
The council, like Bradley, authorized 138 new black-and-whites, but it reduced by 176 the mayor's request for unmarked cars.
Bradley, reminded that the Police Department supported the council version, was asked if he thought he knew more about running the department than Police Chief Daryl F. Gates and his assistants.
"I didn't say that," he said, "but I know enough about the Police Department to know that my actions here are well founded."