Recently, editorials, public comments and complaints have blamed the increase in crime in Long Beach on the (police) union and its slowdown, officers neglecting their duty, the chief of police, the mayor, the City Council and a myriad of other entities. The truth is, crime is up. There is a dramatic increase in gangs, drugs and violence, not only in Long Beach but throughout the United States. In Los Angeles, crime per thousand is higher than ours. Crime is a problem throughout the nation.
The causes of crime are generally related to jobs, job training, education, reading ability of students and classroom sizes, one-parent families, lack of discipline in the family or the simple matter of parents not paying enough attention to their kids, recreation, the economy and narcotics.
The Long Beach Police Department has been involved in serious labor conflicts for the last 10 to 15 years, but this is no news. The citizens have been able to watch this for over a decade. Currently, it appears as if there is a first real potential of peace with labor in this decade. I am convinced that labor and our management team really want peace and to work toward better policing in the city. Perhaps the negative press could be redirected at some of the positive, hard-working police personnel.
The organization really has been neglected because of years of union-management conflict. Three years ago there was no crime analysis unit or organized analysis of crime to tell police officers where to deploy. There was no planning and research unit or audit unit. SWAT team weapons were obtained from suspects on the streets and not allocated through a budget process. Narcotics officers' vehicles were in a state of disrepair to the extent they would not start or gain speed to pursue suspects. Detectives, traffic, patrol and communications personnel were understaffed. The department manual was last revised in 1977, until the recent 1988 revision. The first weapons inventory in the history of the department disclosed that seven machine guns were missing, in addition to other things. Training was negligible. There was a policy that the organization could not train with the FBI or some of the adjoining agencies. The crime lab was, and still is, approximately 20 years behind contemporary police laboratories. The training academy suffered from a lack of resources and equipment to keep up with contemporary law enforcement technology.
I must say, for the last three years there has been unprecedented support from the city manager, the mayor and the majority of the City Council for unlimited training, the acquisition of state-of-the-art equipment, computers, weapons, car phones, radios, new vehicles for patrol officers, a crime analysis system, shooting simulators to train officers, a doubling of the motorcycle squad, an increase in patrol officers and clerical staff for the organization. In the last two years, the city manager and City Council have supported not only the budget process, but spending for street policing that significantly exceeded our allocated budget. There has been unprecedented support for "uniformed policing" for the streets and calls for service. However, the organization needs more police officers now and more resources.
Most citizens are aware that for the last couple of months, and currently through the first of July, about 10% of our work force is working 16-hour days and on their days off. Recently, detectives have been assigned to work Sundays to try and keep up with crime and violence on the streets. It's very difficult on the officers and their families. They can't continue to do this much longer. The majority of the Long Beach Police Department consists of the finest law enforcement officers anywhere in the nation. They work hard, are conscientious, committed to public service, and they need your support.
We have a hard-working, professional group of law enforcement personnel dedicated to public service. To the press and the authors of negative letters to the editor, get off your rears and replace your criticism with some effort to support and work with the Police Department. Voters have decided not to fund additional police officers by rejecting Proposition E on the June 5 ballot. I regret that the funding for additional police officers has not occurred, as the "light at the end of the tunnel" has been extinguished for now. Our dedicated civilian and sworn personnel will continue to perform to the best of their ability and will provide the most professional service possible.
LAWRENCE L. BINKLEY
Chief of Police
City of Long Beach