A plan to expand the Los Angeles Police Department by adding public safety officers from another city agency would leave 37 fewer officers to patrol the city's libraries, parks, buildings and zoo, officials said Friday.
Under the proposal, which drew objections from several city employee labor unions during a City Council committee meeting, the LAPD would assume control of scores of sworn police and civilian security officers now working for the General Services Department.
About 40 transferred General Services officers would give up their assignments and become full-fledged LAPD officers. An additional 60 officers, along with about 100 security officers, also would be absorbed by the LAPD, but continue to patrol city property.
The proposal to increase the sworn staff and responsibility of the LAPD, which Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa included in his $7.2-billion budget, comes as the mayor is demanding deep cuts to LAPD's civilian support staff. His budget calls for 159 clerks, secretaries and other administrators to be laid off from the Police Department.
Dolores Spears, a leader with the union representing clerical workers, questioned the expansion of the Police Department at the same time cuts are proposed. "How can you lay off clerical folks while absorbing all of this?" she said.
City budget and public safety officials say consolidating the departments makes economic and operational sense. City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said the plan will eliminate redundancies and save the city nearly $3 million per year.
But several speakers at the committee hearing complained that reducing officers dedicated to parks, libraries and public buildings could be dangerous. Roy Stone, president of the Librarians' Guild, said protecting libraries would not be a priority at the LAPD. "We're going to be at the bottom of the list," he said.
Victor Gordo, of the Coalition of L.A. City Unions, said the proposal is political and being driven by Villaraigosa's goal of boosting the LAPD police force to 10,000 officers. "That's what this is about," Gordo said.
The police consolidation would push the number of LAPD officers to 10,023. However, that would not necessarily mean new officers on the street, because the General Services officers would replace an incoming class of LAPD recruits.
Councilman Paul Krekorian said the consolidation makes sense in terms of efficiency, but he was concerned about the potential impact on parks, which have lost specialized rangers in recent years because of layoffs.
He said Police Chief Charlie Beck has promised him that park protection would not suffer under the consolidation. Krekorian chairs the Budget and Finance Committee, which will hear the proposal next as part of its vetting of Villaraigosa's budget.
LAPD Assistant Chief Sandy Jo MacArthur, who is working on the consolidation plan, said the department has not yet decided how the additional officers would be deployed but said the agency doesn't currently have plans to increase patrol resources devoted to parks and buildings now protected by General Services officers.
If the plan is approved by the Los Angeles City Council, the transition would begin on July 1.