Los Angeles city officials said Friday that the cost for police protection during the Democratic National Convention could exceed $10 million--more than double the original estimates--if the LAPD has to respond in full force to quell protesters.
The revised estimates have prompted alarmed City Council members to call a special emergency meeting next week. The costly scenario takes into account full LAPD deployment--with the entire force working 12-hour shifts--during next month's four-day convention.
Earlier this year, officials estimated it would cost about $3.5 million to police the event, but planners are now bracing for up to 50,000 protesters on the streets. Such a surge of people could require more police response, officials said.
"There's a possibility that the actual public safety cost will be millions more than originally anticipated," said one City Hall official. "Unfortunately, there's not a lot of discretion here."
However, Councilman Alex Padilla--who heads the council's convention oversight committee--urged his colleagues not to overreact.
"It's disingenuous to be talking about specific figures based on what might or might not happen," Padilla said. "People are ringing the fire alarm before the fire even starts. If nothing happens, all the concern and commotion is going to be for naught."
According to LAPD figures, the department would have to spend $1.7 million a day to fully deploy its force, on top of the $3.5 million already set aside. Officials are expecting between 10,000 and 50,000 protesters to take to the streets, with a small group engaging in the sort of civil disobedience seen recently in Seattle and Washington, D.C.
Councilman Joel Wachs said he believes it will cost millions more than the $10-million figure floated by city budget analysts.
"I'm really deeply concerned about it," Wachs said. "I don't think the city has been level with people."
Councilman Mike Feuer said he is calling for a special meeting of his Budget and Finance Committee on Wednesday.
"It's important for us to have as much discussion as possible about the police readiness and the fiscal implications," Feuer said.
Meanwhile Friday, a federal court rejected an effort to block the city from giving $4 million to the convention.
The city paid $2 million to the convention host committee on July 3, according to court records. The second $2 million payment is not due until after the convention, city lawyers said Friday, and will be made only if the convention shows a deficit.
Attorney Stephen Yagman went to federal court Friday afternoon and asked for an injunction to force the return of all payments to the convention. In a class-action lawsuit on behalf of "all Los Angeles taxpayers, who have been sold out by their representatives," he said the $4 million payment is an illegal gift that violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
But after a 25-minute hearing, U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder disagreed. The judge questioned whether the federal courts have jurisdiction in the case and said she saw no emergency that required her to issue an injunction now, if ever.
"The plaintiff has not shown a high probability of success," Snyder said.
Yagman said he brought the lawsuit at the urging of Richard Abcarian, a retired English professor and leader of the Honest Government Coalition, described in court papers as "a voluntary group who favors honest government and who opposes dishonest government." Abcarian said the coalition consists of about two dozen of his neighbors in Venice who are "outraged" that the council broke its promise not to pay taxpayer money toward the convention.
"They reversed so quickly I had no chance to call my council person," Abcarian said. "This lawsuit is one way that citizens can express themselves."
Yagman, who said he expected to lose at Friday's hearing, immediately drove to Pasadena to ask the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for a temporary restraining order. A decision was expected late Friday night. Yagman also will get another chance to ask for an order at a scheduled hearing Aug. 11, three days before the convention.