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VALLEY ROUNDUP | Valleywide

Officials Announce Cell Phone Donation

May 26, 2000|PATRICK McGREEVY

Mayor Richard Riordan and LAPD Chief Bernard Parks announced the donation Thursday of 233 cellular phones with voicemail to provide neighborhood leaders easier access to police officers who were reassigned last year from full-time community liaison work to patrol duties.

"Your senior lead officer can be out on patrol making the city safer while at the same time responding to your concerns," Riordan said regarding the phones donated by AT&T Wireless, Ericsson Mobile Phones and the Wireless Foundation.

But those favoring the reassignment of full-time community liaison officers said the phones are just window dressing and an attempt to blunt criticism over the reassignments.

"To believe that a cell phone can replace a live human in the community developing trust is absurd, it's an insult," Councilman Joel Wachs said.

Parks said Thursday he has no plans to restore the 168 senior lead officers to the full-time liaison jobs they performed at police stations until a year ago.

Ted Hunt, president of the police union, said he is evaluating a ballot measure that would force Parks to restore the senior lead officers to their former duties if the Police Commission doesn't act. Hunt said the cell-phone plan does not go far enough.

Sandy Munz of the North Hollywood-based group Save Our Senior Leads said the cell phones will not provide meaningful police-community interaction because the 168 senior lead officers will be working patrol, responding to radio calls.

"This is not a compromise," Munz said. "It's a bone thrown to the public at the 11th hour."

Officers who get calls on cell phones concerning quality-of-life problems can ask their watch commander for permission to take time off patrol duties to deal directly with the concern, officials said.

"It allows us to keep well over $20 million in police resources in the field while allowing the community to have better access to the senior lead officers," the chief said of the cell-phone gift.

Wachs and Munz said they look forward to the City Council in the next few weeks taking up a recommendation to ask the Police Commission to restore the 168 senior lead officers to full-time community liaison work.

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