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A Novel Idea: Let Williams Be Accountable for LAPD : Staffing: The department needs the 3,000 new officers that Riordan promised. But does anyone really have any idea how much this will cost?

July 18, 1993|David D. Dotson | David D. Dotson, former LAPD assistant chief, retired in June, 1992, after 34 years on the force.

SOUTH PASADENA — As one of his first official acts, Mayor Richard Riordan directed Chief of Police Willie L. Williams to make good on a Riordan campaign promise. The mayor asked the chief to submit a plan to add 3,000 officers to the Los Angeles Police Department in the next four years. To assist in this planning effort, the mayor offered the services of his deputy mayor for public safety, Bill Violante, former president of the police union.

When last seen fulfilling his former responsibilities, Violante was aiding and abetting officers in seeking job opportunities in law enforcement outside Los Angeles. He was also bashing Williams.

Los Angeles needs a substantial increase in its police force. The ratio of police officers to population is currently about 2.2 per 1,000 people. Yet the average ratio in U.S. cities of more than 1 million residents is 3.95 per 1,000. When Los Angeles and San Diego statistics are removed form the mix, the average jumps to 4.6 officers per 1,000 people.

The question then is not whether more officers are needed. The question is, or, more accurately, the questions are: How many? How quickly can they be hired? How much will they cost?

The first question--How many?--has been argued exhaustively.

To date, a scientific method for determining optimum staffing levels has eluded police administrators. It is difficult to identify measures of police effectiveness. Ideally, effectiveness would be determined by the absence of crime and disorder. Since it is impossible to tabulate events that do not take place, this measure of effectiveness must be approached in reverse.

The measurement is usually made by comparing rates of reported incidents of crime within city borders with rates in similar jurisdictions. The science used is questionable at best. In addition, crime reporting parameters differ between jurisdictions and studies indicate a large percentage of crime is never reported.

How soon can more police officers be hired? Police officer selection and entry-level training processes are long and complex. Today's police officer must be self-assured, intelligent, capable of independent and creative thought, able to communicate effectively, flexible in problem solving, morally strong and physically fit. They must have an exemplary background.

Testing practices now in use are inadequate. The best such tests do is eliminate those clearly unqualified. This places a burden on the balance of the process to make the necessary, and often very subjective, determinations of a candidate's qualifications. Investigations of a candidate's background can be the most enlightening in this. These investigations, conducted by police officers, are lengthy and labor-intensive. Add the time necessary for physical, medical and psychological testing. A candidate can expect to be in the selection process for about a year even before entering the Police Academy.

Academy training is also lengthy. In Los Angeles, it now takes 28 weeks. Studies include a state-mandated core curriculum, some locally mandated classes and subjects unique to the LAPD.

Then, post-academy field training requires that each new officer work with a training officer for up to one year. Training officers ensure that their trainees demonstrate at least minimal proficiency in dealing with a broad spectrum of field situations.

So, a candidate applying to be a police officer today will not be functioning independently in the field for more than two years.

Shortening this by assigning more resources to various stages of the process, while desirable, would be expensive and would take officers from other essential duties. Facilities to accommodate increased numbers of trainees are also limited. This was revealed several years ago, when the department was authorized to increase its numbers by 400 in a single year. This was accomplished only by pulling officers from field assignments and straining physical resources to the limit.

Now, suppose Williams submits a plan that addresses all these systemic and logistical problems and meets the mayor's deadlines. How much would it cost?

For just the hiring process, the added yearly costs would be in the millions of dollars. Annual police department costs alone would probably exceed $3 million.

A minimum of an additional 750 recruits would enter the academy yearly. Department figures set training costs at $95,000 for each recruit. Thus additional annual training costs would be more than $71 million. A police officer's yearly salary and benefit package totals approximately $78,000. The first 750 officers, once in the field, will cost $58.5 million annually. When all 3,000 reach the field this will escalate to $234 million.

The initial cost of equipping these field officers would be substantial--$12 million for motor vehicles alone. Replacement costs would be approximately $3 million annually. The price of other equipment and support services would be in the millions of dollars.

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