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Blueprint for Future LAPD Is Still on Drawing Board

Police: Facility upgrades, reforms, adding officers fall short. Competing priorities, budget shortfalls are blamed.

December 22, 1996|JIM NEWTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the Los Angeles Police Department of the future, more than 10,000 police officers work out of new stations and report to a new headquarters--one where the floors don't sag and the pipes don't leak.

A modern dispatch center quickly fields emergency calls. Police investigate crimes with computers mounted in their cars and report to satellite stations scattered across the far reaches of the city. A certified crime laboratory analyzes evidence without long delays, and a sophisticated computerized tracking system warns supervisors of officers whose behavior seems to signal potential problems.

In that LAPD, arrests are up, complaints against officers are down and crime--to the extent that police can control it--is held in check by an assertive department that works hand in hand with a community that trusts its police.

That is a vision of the LAPD that combines key recommendations of reformers, rebuilders and others--and that emerges largely from four recent consultants' reports on the state of the Police Department.

Collectively, the four documents--analyzing support services, technology, facilities and the state of LAPD reform--form a blueprint for the police force. So far, the department has done little to put that blueprint to paper, much less into action.

"It is my great frustration that I see a reactive department rather than a proactive one," said Councilwoman Laura Chick, who chairs the City Council's Public Safety Committee. "We need to consolidate all these ideas and develop a plan."

Bill Moran, the LAPD's director of fiscal operations, agreed that the reports have not been pulled together, saying: "This thing has to be melded into one working plan at some point."

For now, LAPD leaders complain that they are overwhelmed by competing priorities and budget shortfalls. They have moved in piecemeal fashion on some recommendations while ignoring others. At the request of Mayor Richard Riordan, department officials recently drafted a short-term list of priorities outlining possible improvements for the coming year, but there has not been any long-term effort to integrate the findings of the consultants into a single plan.

At first glance, that seems understandable. Combined, the four reports make hundreds of recommendations, many of them costly. The support services' study alone--performed by Blue Marble Partners and Decision Management Associates--is about three inches thick and includes 72 recommendations labeled "important," "very important," "critical" or "mission critical."

But while the reports are voluminous and sometimes conflicting, they also have points in common. Suggestions for improving the crime lab and expanding the LAPD run through the documents, and some of the cost estimates overlap as well. In fact, despite the volume of material, a methodical review of the four reports and interviews with the city's top leaders produce a widely agreed upon list of ways to modernize and improve the LAPD.

Among the top suggestions:

* Increase the size of the department to at least 10,000 officers, a net gain of about 750 from the current force. Price tag: roughly $40 million a year, plus about $6 million to pay for cars and equipment for the new officers.

* Replace police headquarters, Parker Center, with a new central complex of buildings that would contain a new crime lab, warehouses and other amenities. Price tag: $273.6 million.

* Rebuild three decaying police stations and build two new ones. Price tag: $119 million.

* Build or lease 10 police satellite stations, scaled-down versions of full stations that would increase the LAPD's presence across the city. Price tag: $40 million.

* Modernize the 911 system. Price tag: Voters have approved a bond measure to pay for these improvements, so there is no immediate cost. If a separate number, 311, is established to handle nonemergency calls, an internal LAPD study estimates the additional annual costs at $275,781.

* Expand and modernize the bomb squad. Price tag: $5.8 million.

* Develop a unit that would be responsible for identifying, controlling and managing at-risk situations and officers--and that would try to hold down lawsuits against the department. Price tag: $0.

* Boost Internal Affairs by 90 to 100 officers, enough to fulfill a long-standing recommendation that the unit have enough staff to handle all citizen complaints--or at least those in which the allegations involve racism, excessive force or extreme discourtesy. About $6 million.

* Upgrade the department's computer tracking system for potentially problem officers. Price tag: No more than $800,000.

* Create an anti-discrimination unit to investigate complaints of harassment and discrimination by LAPD officers. Price tag: Roughly $450,000.

* Add about 200 field training officers to accommodate growth in the department and to improve training for young academy graduates. Price tag: $12 million.

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