At a time when the Los Angeles Police Department is under pressure to streamline its operations to pay for thousands of additional officers, internal police documents reveal that 16 different consultants are simultaneously advising the department--at a cost of more than $3 million.
The documents are contained in a report prepared by Police Chief Willie L. Williams at the request of the city's civilian Police Commission, which expects to schedule a public review of them in the coming weeks.
Most of the consultants were hired by the mayor or City Council, not the LAPD. According to the report, they are tackling an array of issues, from drafting suggestions on how to expand the Police Department's computer operations to assessing the effectiveness of department organization and leadership.
Moreover, the list produced by the LAPD includes only those consultants who were still at work at the end of 1995. Many others did projects during the year but had finished by year's end and were not included in the report. A few on the list are also looking at other city departments, not just the LAPD.
The abundance of outside advisors in some cases reflects the distrust other city officials have of the LAPD's ability to examine itself, and some department leaders say the parade of consultants has been distracting.
In addition, some commissioners and council members are alarmed at the amount of money being spent on projects and question the value of some of the consulting work, particularly a few of the smaller studies.
"We need to be careful not to overwhelm the department with all these studies; it can make people feel under siege," said Councilwoman Laura Chick, who heads the Public Safety Committee. "I look at this list right now and say: Enough."
Raymond C. Fisher, a member of the Police Commission, received the list this week and said he was determined to follow up on it with questions about how the consultants are being overseen. Similarly, commission Vice President Art Mattox said the list had raised a number of questions and concerns for him.
"Quite frankly, I was surprised that we have so many groups doing consultant work," Mattox said. "I'm concerned that we need to manage these groups. We need to remember that the time they spend with police officers is time that takes them out of the field."
Several top-level LAPD officials echoed that sentiment, complaining that the bevy of management analyses ordered by City Hall has distracted the department from its core mission: protecting city residents from crime.
"Generally speaking, all our people's plates are full," said Cmdr. Tim McBride, a spokesman for the department. "It is extremely distracting from their day-to-day work to have all these consultants at work."
McBride and Mattox emphasized that some of the projects have been fruitful. But each study requires time to brief new consultants on LAPD operations, to schedule meetings with officials and to answer questions that arise in the course of the consultants' work.
At City Hall, officials criticized some of the consulting projects and defended others. Two of the largest, for instance, were requested by Chick, who wanted outsiders to look at the LAPD and develop plans for expanding its facilities and retooling some of its operations.
Combined, those two studies are expected to cost more than $1 million. Nevertheless, observers inside and outside the department credit those projects with helping refocus some LAPD operations. The observers also praise those studies for incorporating aggressive follow-up plans.
Edith R. Perez, a member of the Police Commission, is helping oversee one of those studies, a $638,720 look at the LAPD's facilities and expansion plans. She said the group has bolstered the expertise of LAPD personnel, few of whom have real estate or construction backgrounds.
"I was a little astounded that detectives are the point people on real estate matters," said Perez, a lawyer who is used to handling major real estate deals.
But some of the smaller projects have drawn scorn and ridicule.
Why, some observers ask, did the LAPD spend $10,000 on a consultant to assist with examinations for deputy chief slots--a process that the department has gone through for decades? And why did Williams turn to another consultant to help him evaluate his own organization?
Mattox defends the first of those projects, saying that he believes the department needed to revise the way it measures the leadership skills of its deputy chief candidates. An organizational development group headed by Dennis A. Joiner was hired to oversee a new method for administering the latest deputy chiefs' exam, which was given late last year.