Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates told inner-city community leaders Monday that his department has revised a controversial formula it uses to deploy police officers, but declined to say how.
"I came out of the meeting frustrated," said Lou Negrete, treasurer of the United Neighborhoods Organization, which has been critical of the formula. "I don't like public officials who withhold information from the public. We think the public has a right to know what the police deployment formula is."
However, Negrete said he also felt his organization had scored "a victory because the chief of police informed us that the police deployment formula that we so heavily criticized has been dropped and is no longer in effect."
The deployment formula, which is used to assign about one-third of the department's 3,747 patrol officers in the 18 police divisions, is based on seven criteria, including percentage of citywide crime, number of calls for service and total number of hours during which officers are too busy to respond to other calls.
Controversy over the formula developed in 1984, when UNO and the South-Central Organizing Committee charged that the formula resulted in more officers being assigned to wealthier areas of the city, such as the Westside and the San Fernando Valley, than in poorer areas such as Watts and the Eastside.
Negrete was one of seven members of UNO and SCOC who called a news conference outside police headquarters Monday to say that they had met with Gates for more than an hour.
They said Gates told them he would discuss the new formula when he appears at a Police Commission meeting March 8.
Gates' office declined comment, but released a videotape played at police roll calls Friday in which Gates addressed the deployment controversy.
"We . . . distribute our resources fairly," Gates says in the videotape, responding to charges that the department favors affluent areas.
"We distribute our resources according to the problem. We've always done that. Now, perhaps our formula was not the best formula in the world to do that, and we didn't think it was. And that's one of the reasons we asked for the study."
Gates was referring to a 10-month, $183,000 study by a Virginia consulting firm that concluded recently that the deployment formula should be revised to allow for swifter responses to emergencies throughout the city, and more time for routine patrols in some areas.
Gates said the study was a good one and may have "come up with a plan that will assist us in dividing up the resources in a way that will perhaps give us better response time."
But he also said, "It is not going to change things very, very much."
He said, "I've been saying for 10 years our response time is lousy" because there are not enough police officers.