Officials are moving forward with a plan that would expand the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department by adding public safety employees from another city department.
Under the proposal, the LAPD would assume control of scores of sworn police and civilian security officers who protect libraries, parks and city buildings, including City Hall. Those officers are currently employees of the General Services Department.
The shift would allow more efficient policing and could cut costs, according to the city's top budget analyst, who said he plans to release a report Monday recommending the change.
"It's not going to cost us anything more and there are some modest savings," Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said. "Mostly it's about strengthening law enforcement activities throughout the city."
A merger would also allow Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to get closer to, and possibly reach, his goal of adding 1,000 officers to the Police Department. He is more than three-fourths of the way toward meeting that goal, which he announced on the campaign trail in 2005.
Villaraigosa proposed the consolidation of the departments in 2010. Since then, a working group made up of officials from each department and from the mayor's office has been studying the issue.
Councilman Dennis Zine, who met with mayoral aides two years ago to discuss the plan, said he believes Villaraigosa will call for it in his proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which he is set to release Friday.
Matt Szabo, the mayor's deputy chief of staff, wouldn't say whether the proposal will be included in the budget, adding that he hadn't yet reviewed a final version of Santana's report.
"I'm not going to comment until we've seen the report and discussed it with the affected employees," Szabo said.
Any changes would have to be approved by the City Council. Councilman Paul Koretz voiced doubts about the proposal, saying he worries that the duties of the General Service police force could get lost once those employees are absorbed by the Police Department.
He also noted that retirement benefits for LAPD officers are typically more costly than those provided to General Services employees. The proposal "is supposed to save money at the end of the day," Koretz said. "But I'm not sure that it does."
Koretz said he assumes the proposal is designed to help Villaraigosa and the City Council reach a long-sought objective of having more than 10,000 sworn officers within the LAPD. The department has about 9,963 officers.
A consolidation could add about 250 officers from General Services to the LAPD, about 100 of whom are sworn. But Santana said not all of the sworn officers would necessarily become LAPD officers.
Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council member Jack Humphreville, who closely follows city government, said he wondered whether the two departments were compatible.
"Organizationally, they're very different entities," he said. "The LAPD goes after drug dealers, and the GSD officers make sure everyone who enters City Hall has the right kind of pass."
Julie Butcher, an official with Service Employees International Union Local 721, which represents non-sworn General Services officers, said her group is "for anything that provides quality service in a cost-effective way."
"The only thing we're really concerned about is making sure that the service gets provided and that when there's a problem in a city park or library, that we have the resources," she said.