LONG BEACH — Police patrol officers have steadily cut down the number of traffic and parking tickets they are writing, possibly to protest cuts in overtime pay, Patrol Deputy Chief Gene Brizzolara charged last week.
"It appears that what they (officers) are trying to do is cause the city some financial problems," Brizzolara said.
Only some of the officers appear to be involved in the slowdown, which has not affected officers' response time for emergency and other police calls, according to Brizzolara.
"Citizens should not feel their safety is in jeopardy," Brizzolara said. The officers are "taking care of all other police business" in a routine manner, he said.
To counter the alleged slowdown, supervisors will be paying closer attention to the productivity of uniformed patrol officers, Brizzolara said. Top police officials also hope that a new police union president--expected to be elected next month--will help them bring the number of citations back to its typical monthly average, Brizzolara said.
While not accusing the police union of conducting the alleged slowdown, Brizzolara said the Police Officers Assn. is giving officers its "tacit approval" by not discouraging it. The union, he said, is not "assisting management in any way."
But Jim Olds, president of the Police Officers Assn., denied there was a slowdown. The union, he added, does not sanction such tactics. Olds contended that police officials plan to make the alleged slowdown a bargaining issue when the two sides meet early next year to discuss a new police contract.
Brizzolara replied: "It's entirely untrue because we are backing this on hard numbers."
Department statistics show that patrol officers wrote 1,358 parking tickets in October, compared to 2,903 in February. The number of traffic tickets also dropped, from 3,546 in January to 1,466 in October.
Fewer parking and traffic tickets are being written, Olds acknowledged, but that is because there are fewer officers on patrol. He also noted that Police Chief Lawrence Binkley has transferred many of the patrol officers to other task forces. Those who remain in the Patrol Bureau are also dealing with an increase in more serious crimes, he said.
Notes Rise in Crime
"You can't write a parking ticket when you are writing a burglary report," Olds said, noting that Long Beach experienced a 17.5% jump in crime between July and September, compared to the same period last year.
But Brizzolara said that the number of officers in the Patrol Bureau has been about the same all year.
Saying the statistics are not evidence of a slowdown, Olds criticized Binkley's use of special task forces to focus on various crime problems because they take away the "bread and butter of the police force, the cops (on the streets.)" Long Beach has about 1.5 officers per 1,000 residents. In comparison, Los Angeles has about 2.5, he noted.
"You can only stretch the rubber band so far," Olds said. "Everybody is running around and pointing a finger. I think the bottom line is that we need more police officers."