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Measure to Create Local Police Force Is Placed on Ballot

August 06, 1992|KEN ELLINGWOOD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

WEST HOLLYWOOD — A proposal urging the creation of a West Hollywood police department won a place on the Nov. 3 ballot Monday despite the city attorney's opinion that the measure is legally flawed.

The West Hollywood City Council voted 4 to 0 to put the measure on the ballot rather than risk angering more than 4,500 residents who signed petitions calling for a referendum vote. Councilman Paul Koretz was absent.

All council members have gone on record as opposing the measure.

The city currently is patrolled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department at a cost of about $8.4 million annually.

City Atty. Michael Jenkins has said that the measure will not stand up in court. In a July 23 opinion, Jenkins said the measure fails a key legal test because it would not result in a new law but merely would direct the council to create a police department. He also said it might be invalid because it does not provide a way to pay the cost of such a move.

The measure is shaping up as the city's hot political issue of the year, with partisans on both sides turning out in unusually large numbers for the council's decision on what to do with the proposal.

Adam Devejian, an activist in the initiative campaign, angrily challenged the accuracy of figures compiled by city officials that estimated it would cost nearly $5 million more annually to run a city police force.

Other supporters stressed the need for local control, citing a recent report by retired Judge James G. Kolts that harshly criticized the Sheriff's Department. Sections of the report echoed longstanding charges by the city's large gay community that the department has shown a pattern of anti-gay bias.

Opponents, who have argued repeatedly that the city cannot afford its own police department, singled out other parts of the Kolts report that praised community policing efforts in West Hollywood. They said the city should stay with the Sheriff's Department and continue trying to reform it.

Even critics of the measure favored putting it on the ballot, saying it is time to find out whether the public supports the idea.

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