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LAPD Grows, but Has Fewer Patrol Officers : Police: Despite mayor's pledge to increase ranks on the street, confidential report shows attrition and promotions have had opposite effect. Situation causes consternation at City Hall.

October 07, 1995|JODI WILGOREN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Despite his promise to put thousands more police officers on the street before the end of his first term, the Los Angeles Police Department has 27 fewer patrol officers now than when Mayor Richard Riordan took office, according to documents obtained by The Times.

Despite aggressive recruiting, attrition and promotions to the ranks of sergeant and detective have left the patrol force short-staffed. Representatives of the mayor and the LAPD say their mutual goal of expanding the department has proved to be more complicated than expected.

Overall, the confidential report shows that the number of deployed sworn officers grew by just 135. LAPD brass said Friday that the entire sworn staff has actually swelled by 773--but either number is a far cry from the 1,805 additional officers called for by this summer, according to Riordan's Public Safety Plan.

During his 1993 campaign, Riordan vowed not to run for reelection if the LAPD did not expand by 3,000 officers in his first term. He offered a road map for meeting that with the Public Safety Plan after he was elected.

"I cannot understand those figures at all," Riordan said Friday, referring to the confidential personnel report. "When we first got them, we were upset."

"The impression that we gave the public was that they would see more officers in patrol. I understand that sergeants and detectives are part of the system, but I do have a very big concern that we don't have the numbers out in patrol that we need," added Police Commissioner Art Mattox. "I certainly had the impression that the number of officers on patrol would increase, and that's certainly what I want to see, and I want to see it sooner rather than later."

Upon seeing the numbers, Nate Holden, who sits on the City Council's Public Safety Committee, said: "We're going . . . backwards."

LAPD Cmdr. Tim McBride and Assistant Chief Bayan Lewis said the large number of promotions--746 to sergeant and detective in the past two years--came after a years-long hiring freeze that had left gaping holes in the higher ranks. Unexpected attrition has also hampered the implementation of the Public Safety Plan; 900 officers have left the department since July 1993, the document shows.

McBride and Lewis said the tide will soon turn, as the Police Academy is now graduating classes of 80 or 90 recruits each month. In addition, McBride said that some of the newly promoted sergeants are already patrolling in black-and-white cars. He said that in May, 1995, the department had 987 cars per shift in the field--105 more than in January, 1993.

"You can't wave a wand and have 3,000 more people on the street," McBride said.

"If you have all patrol officers, it doesn't function. You can't rob Peter to pay Paul and have a strong department," Lewis added. "If you put a lot of people in the field and you don't have sergeants, you don't have supervision. If you put a lot of people on the street and don't have detectives, you have no one to do the filings. You have to have a very good marriage of the patrol officers and the people that do the follow-up."

But Cliff Ruff, president of the Police Protective League, said the problems may soon worsen, as officers with little experience wind up training the new academy graduates, because veterans continue to flee the LAPD for other departments.

"My question would be of the mayor, who's spending all these vast sums [on police], who's overseeing the implementation of the Public Safety Plan? These phantom bodies are nonexistent," Ruff said Friday. "People want to see officers on the street, not in some mysterious other fashion in the police entity. I don't think Dick Riordan is directly responsible, but somebody in his office is not measuring the people on the street."

According to the personnel memo, the department has 56 more sergeants and 177 more detectives than it did in July, 1993. At the same time, the ranks of the patrol, metro, motor and accident investigation divisions have all thinned, by a total of 98 officers, the memo shows.

Upon reviewing similar numbers several weeks ago, Deputy Mayor William C. Violante wrote to Police Commission President Deirdre Hill to ask for a more detailed report on the implementation of the Public Safety Plan, describing the data as "astonishing."

"If in fact these figures are accurate, I am shocked," Violante wrote. In an earlier memo to Violante, Riordan senior aide Mike Keeley described the patrol officer deployment situation as "obviously unacceptable."

"What is going on?" Riordan spokeswoman Noelia Rodriguez asked Friday. "You're getting a record budget. You're getting $15 million in support from the Mayor's Alliance for Public Safety. You're getting [federal] crime bill support.

"We have not forgotten, nor are we ever allowed to forget, that it's a priority for us," Rodriguez added. "But it certainly is something that is going to take more than the mayor's office pushing for progress. We can't micromanage. We can only be part of the team."

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