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You Like Williams? Vote 'Yes' on Prop. 1 : Help the chief succeed--give him 1,000 more cops

April 16, 1993

Los Angeles Police Chief Willie L. Williams is surely the man of the hour as the city and the nation await the verdicts in the Rodney G. King federal civil rights trial. While the world watches and wonders what will happen here, Williams must maintain the peace and encourage calm. So far, most Angelenos believe that the new chief is doing a great job.

Seventy-two percent of the people who responded to a recent KCAL-KFWB poll rated Williams' job performance as excellent or good. An astonishing 83% expressed a favorable impression of the chief in this poll, conducted Monday and Tuesday for the television and radio stations. And 90% had either a lot or some confidence in Williams' ability to maintain law and order. Those are numbers any politician would kill for.

The public endorsement shouldn't stop with praise for Williams. Those who really like the chief should support Proposition 1, a special property tax that would finance the hiring of 1,000 additional police officers. It would increase the average homeowner's annual tax bill by about $73, a small and extremely worthy investment in public safety.

To pass, Prop. 1 must get two-thirds of the vote. That difficult hurdle for a property tax increase sometimes thwarts the will of the majority; a measure identical to Prop. 1 failed in the last election although no less than 63% of the voters supported it. If everyone who admires Williams votes "yes" on Tuesday, the measure will pass easily.

The LAPD is authorized currently at 7,900 officers; early retirements, however, have reduced the force to 7,690. Prop. 1 would increase the LAPD to 8,900 officers, though the City Council would first have to find other monies to bring the force up to the 7,900 level. Even with the increase, at least half a dozen other big cities, including New York and Chicago, would have more police per capita than Los Angeles.

The chief needs additional officers to put more on foot beats and in squad cars. He needs more officers to increase the uniformed visibility of the LAPD: The public's perception of safety must be enhanced.

Williams needs more officers so police can respond in reasonable time to calls from residential areas and business areas, in downtown L.A. and throughout the city. More cops are also key to the chief's community policing plan and preventive police work. Only when there are more cops on the beat, working with residents, can community and police work together to prevent crime.

Although the ballot measure is vitally important, Williams hasn't been able to campaign for it as actively as he would like. His immediate priority is reassuring Los Angeles that the LAPD is ready to protect the city in the event of trouble. That certainly wasn't the case last April 29, when the acquittals were announced in the state case against the four policemen accused of using excessive force against King. On that infamous day, LAPD brass allowed hundreds of officers to go home when their shift ended. Caught shorthanded when chaos broke out, the LAPD initially abandoned most streets to looters and arsonists. As Los Angeles was starting to burn, then-Chief Daryl F. Gates was attending a Westside fund-raiser.

Since a year ago, calls for police service are up. Fears are up. But, confidence is also up, way up, in the new police chief. Voters should give Williams what he needs to make this city safer. Vote "yes" on Proposition 1.

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