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LAPD's new $74-million jail sits empty

The department is still using its dilapidated, overcrowded downtown jail that the new one is meant to replace because it doesn't have the money to hire enough jailers for the labor-intensive facility.

June 20, 2010|By Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times

"We're potentially waiting for something significantly bad to happen if we don't solve the problem. And that's very clear to anyone who takes a look at it," Saltzman said at the recent committee meeting.

Such was the thinking when taxpayers approved $600 million to fund improvements to police buildings in 2002. A large chunk of those funds were dedicated to building a new jail.

Constructed beside the existing jail, the new, $74-million facility also will house the department's property division, which maintains evidence from cases.

Unlike the old jail, where cells line long hallways, the new jail consists of four pods, or wings. Each pod holds about 125 inmates. The new design, which calls for three jailers to work in each pod and many more working at centralized posts in the facility, requires about 22 people to fill one of each day's two shifts — a significant increase over the roughly 14 needed in the old jail, Farrell said.

At the City Council Public Safety Committee's meeting, police officials outlined two other options for opening the new jail. They call for closing more existing jails, which would cut the number of needed hires but exacerbate transportation delays.

At the briefing, Councilman Dennis Zine voiced support for the department's preferred plan, but was adamant that the department needed to find a way to transport suspects without using police officers, who would otherwise be responding to radio calls. He raised the possibilities of using a private transport service, using officers from the city's Office of Public Safety, or hiring certified civilians for the job.

"We're going to end up shortchanging the people calling for service and frustrating the officers," he said at the committee hearing. "We'll really be doing a disservice."

Kroeber and Beck responded that they were looking into such options, but that money remained an obstacle.

The committee members instructed the city's chief administrative officer to report back at the end of the month with an assessment of the costs involved in the proposed hires and transportation options.

It will then be up to the committee members to decide whether to approve the plan and forward it on to the full council for a vote.

joel.rubin@latimes.com

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