Rep. Howard Berman (D-Panorama City) vowed Tuesday to fight for the maximum funding from President Clinton's crime bill so that Los Angeles can hire more police officers and, in particular, increase patrols in the San Fernando Valley.
Speaking to the city Police Commission, Berman urged police and city officials to take advantage of the new $8.8-billion crime bill by submitting an aggressive application to bolster the Los Angeles Police Department's force.
"Putting more cops on the beat in the communities of Los Angeles is the single most effective step we can take to confront the scourge of crime," he said.
The congressman said he that hopes whatever crime bill funding is approved will mean more officers in the Valley.
"There really ought to be 1,000 more officers in the Valley," he said an an interview.
Encouraged by Berman's promise of support, officials said they will consider applying for a waiver of federal funding limits when they submit an application early next year.
"His support is very important because he's a very influential member of Congress," said Michael Thompson, city director of criminal justice planning who is helping draft the city's funding application.
Under the bill that Congress passed in August, cities, towns and counties that wish to share in the $8.8 billion earmarked for hiring police are required to submit plans to the Justice Department explaining how the officers will be used.
However, the bill offers to pay only about $25,000 per officer per year for a three-year period and cities must provide 25% of the cost.
Because it costs Los Angeles as much as $100,000 annually to pay for a new officer's salary, training and equipment, the city would have to pick up most of the costs of each new officer even if an application is approved, Thompson said.
The city's application is likely to seek between $75 million and $100 million, enough to fund at least 500 new officers and equipment, Thompson said. Federal officials are expected to decided on the applications by July.
But Berman said that if the U.S. attorney general grants a waiver for proposed limits, the bill can pay more for each officer. He added that if Los Angeles is willing to exceed its 25% share, the attorney general may also increase the per-officer amount funded by the bill.