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One City, One Police Department

Los Angeles: A merger of all city-funded law enforcement agencies would provide the best service and be cost-effective.

January 29, 1998|BERNARD PARKS | Bernard Parks is chief of police for the city of Los Angeles

As chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, it is my job to ensure that the people of this city have the best law enforcement agency that we can create, and that its officers are providing effective, efficient service throughout the city. I believe the best way to achieve this is through the concept of "one city, one police department," which would merge all city-funded law enforcement agencies under the umbrella of the LAPD.

The effort to consolidate municipal policing services is part of a growing national trend. Taxpayers everywhere are demanding more effective and efficient service. The days of unchallenged spending and unbridled waste in public services are long gone.

I have recommended to the Board of Police Commissioners that we begin a comprehensive study of merging or contracting the police and safety services provided by the Department of Recreation and Parks, the Department of General Services Security, the Department of Airports and the port and housing authorities into the LAPD.

Los Angeles took the first step in consolidating public safety forces with the successful merger of the MTA police into the LAPD. This next merger would result in a cost-effective, comprehensive and coordinated police and security service. These agencies are already funded by the city, they cover the same physical area as the LAPD and they often duplicate the efforts of LAPD officers. In their current state, they present problems because they have outgrown their original purpose and represent what is often a confusing presence to the community. Many Angelenos have undoubtedly wondered what the park police do, for instance, that's different from LAPD.

These five policing agencies enjoy full or nearly full peace officer status; that status has encouraged an expansion of duties way beyond what was envisioned when they were created decades ago. They were supposed to serve specialized security needs; no one imagined that they would evolve into what are, in effect, ersatz mini-police forces.

As independent entities, these agencies are a burden on the city budget and resources. They have competing interests, redundant managerial overhead, inconsistent training standards and policies, and poorly coordinated communication and operational efforts. Add it all up and we are looking at not just inefficiency but potential risk management issues.

This consolidation of efforts would do more than just save money. It would make Los Angeles a safer place to live and work.

For example, if those of us whose responsibility it is to make the city safer operated on the same radio communications network (that is not the case now), all officers working a specific area would be instantly aware of a major crime incident. That would translate into a unified and coordinated response.

These non-LAPD, city-funded policing agencies now employ 539 dedicated sworn and non-sworn personnel. Under the merger, they would be eligible to join a department that is among the best-trained in the world. They would also have many more opportunities for advancement.

From the perspective of the LAPD, we would benefit from their expertise and experience. Working together, we would increase our level of policing effectiveness, yet continue to address all specialized security needs.

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