A plan to merge six security forces in Los Angeles, including park rangers and the library police, was recommended Friday by two City Council panels that concluded it would result in safer parks and city buildings.
Security units currently operated by the Library, Convention Center, Recreation and Parks, Zoo, El Pueblo and General Services departments would be merged into a new Office of Public Safety in the General Services Department.
The merger would involve 293 security officers, guards and park rangers and would be aimed at providing a centralized command so that resources could be better used.
"We are going to have a coordinated response to public safety issues across the city," said Councilwoman Wendy Greuel. "It will decrease response times. We think this is a leap forward toward better safety in our parks, libraries and zoo."
Greuel is chairwoman of the council's Audits and Governmental Efficiency Committee, which joined with the council's General Services Committee on Friday in endorsing the planned merger.
The proposal must still be approved by the full City Council and is subject to negotiations with the departments involved to guarantee each one at least a minimal level of service.
Some park rangers with peace officer status would transfer to the new office, while 19 rangers would remain with the parks department to perform resources management and naturalist functions, said City Administrative Officer Bill Fujioka.
The new office would also work closely with the Los Angeles Police Department when backup was needed.
The city's 29 rangers have complained for years that there are not enough of them to handle the city's 390 parks.
By having a larger pool of security officers to draw from, the new Office of Public Safety would be able to respond faster to emergencies, Fujioka told council members. Currently, the parks department is able to respond to calls for service in 12 to 25 minutes, but the new consolidated agency would be committed to an average response time of 10 minutes.
"This is going to help us tremendously on the security side," said Jon Mukri, general manager of the parks department.