Los Angeles Commits Another $1 Billion to LAPD Despite Falling Violent Crime

Police say they need pay raises to help with hiring and retention. But crime has been falling in LA, even as the department reports having its lowest number of officers in decades.

Los Angeles Commits Another $1 Billion to LAPD Despite Falling Violent Crime

Police say they need pay raises to help with hiring and retention. But crime has been falling in LA, even as the department reports having its lowest number of officers in decades.

The Los Angeles City Council approved a contract with the Los Angeles Police Department’s union on Wednesday containing salary increases, increased healthcare pay, and bonuses that will cost the city an additional $994 million over the next four years.

The 12-3 vote followed an outpouring of opposition from Angelenos, who argued during public comment that the police have more than enough funding. Many pleaded with councilmembers to instead invest in other city services, like housing and infrastructure. Councilmembers who voted against the proposal voiced agreement with their constituents.

“When we allocate so much of our city money to just one department, we starve all of our other departments of the money, personnel, and resources that they need to serve Angelenos,” said councilmember Eunisses Hernandez at a press conference before the hearing. Hernandez voted no on the proposal, alongside councilmembers Hugo Soto-Martinez and Nithya Raman.

“It is unclear exactly how the city will pay for nearly $1 billion in salary increases over the next four years, despite the fact that we already allocated a quarter of our city’s general fund to the LAPD,” Hernandez added.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) says the raises are necessary to improve officer recruitment and retention. The union states that the LAPD’s starting pay is lower than departments in surrounding jurisdictions, a disparity they claim has made it harder to hire and retain officers. In a survey of officers who left the force in recent years, however, only a fraction said they were doing so to join another agency.

The department recently stated that it has less than 9,000 officers, the fewest since the 1990s when violent crime was around three times its current level. According to data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, nearly 90,000 violent crimes were reported to the LAPD in 1991. In 2021, that number was below 30,000.

Though crime generally increased across the country during the pandemic, recent data from Los Angeles shows that homicides, gun violence, aggravated assaults, and other violent crimes decreased in 2022, a downward trend that has continued over the first eight months of this year, according to LAPD data.

“Those calling for more police funding have conveniently ignored the fact that the City of LA is safer today than it was when there were more law enforcement officers on our streets,” said Ivette Alé-Ferlito, executive director and co-founder of La Defensa, in a statement shared with The Appeal. “This is not a resource problem—LAPD’s failure to recruit is a clear message that LA residents do not want to be part of a failed institution that exercises violence with impunity.”

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The new police contract includes a nearly 13 percent raise for new recruits and a yearly 3 percent salary increase to officers’ base wages—totaling more than 12 percent by the end of the fourth year. The contract also increases officer retention pay (a lump sum payment offered to incentivize employees to stay on the job), health insurance benefits, and provides officers with other bonuses. One such bonus, for “marksmanship,” rewards officers with additional money in their paychecks for developing their “shooting expertise.”

The pay bumps come amid controversy over the LAPD’s continued use of deadly force. The department’s officers have shot and killed more people than any other agency in the country in the past ten years, according to the Mapping Police Violence database. The percentage of police shootings that turned deadly increased last year, the Los Angeles Times reported. So far this year, LAPD officers have shot people 21 times, striking 18 and killing 11, according to a review of LAPD critical incident reports. Three additional people have died in LAPD custody this year.

LAPD officers have also been involved in a number of scandals this past summer. On June 19, the family of Keenan Anderson filed a $100 million lawsuit against the LAPD for killing Anderson. On June 21, an LAPD officer was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon at a bar. On June 28, an email from an LAPD officer stating that the department would arrest everyone at a homeless encampment and seize their belongings sparked backlash. On July 7, an LAPD officer was ordered to stand trial for adding innocent people to the LAPD’s gang database. On August 8, an LAPD officer was arrested for allegedly stealing a woman’s debit card. And on August 10, a former LAPD officer was sentenced to six years in prison for raping a woman.

The massive LAPD budget does not include the millions of dollars the city spends annually to settle lawsuits brought against officers for misconduct. Over a five and a half year period, the city of Los Angeles paid over $245 million to settle legal claims involving the LAPD, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In addition to salary increases and other bonuses, the contract provides standby pay for homicide and sexual assault investigators, which is meant to compensate employees for hours they are on call, even if they do not work. According to FBI data, the LAPD “cleared” about half of the murder and rape cases reported to the department in 2020. Clearance rates measure cases closed through arrest or exceptional means, like the death of a suspect or when a survivor stops cooperating with law enforcement.

During a public comment period before the vote, dozens of Angelenos spoke out against the union contract, with many expressing frustration over the lack of investment in other city services.

“Every single dollar you give to the police is a dollar you take away from crucial city services,” Nico Gardner, an organizer with the Sunrise Movement Los Angeles, said during the public comment portion of a subcommittee hearing in the lead-up to Wednesday’s vote. “How could we justify a billion-dollar increase to a department that is already overfunded while roads can’t be fixed, while healthcare is underfunded, and other city employees have to fight for a living wage?”

Gardner went on to call for additional investment in unarmed, non-police response, restorative justice programs, green infrastructure, and health care.

“Fund what makes our communities thrive. Fund what makes us safe,” he said. “Do not give any more money to the LAPD.”

Even before the approval of the new police contract, the LAPD’s $1.86 billion annual budget was already far and away the city’s largest single expenditure. Thousands of city workers, including sanitation workers and engineers, went on a one-day strike earlier this month to protest their working conditions and wages. At a press conference before Wednesday’s vote, council members pointed out that many city departments also struggled with employee retention.

“There are 22 departments that have higher vacancy rates than the LAPD, including critical departments like sanitation, street services, youth development, workforce development,” said councilmember Soto-Martinez. “Attrition is happening there; vacancies are happening there.”

Community members also expressed opposition to the additional police spending, calling it a reflection of the city’s misplaced priorities.

“In the neighborhood of Watts, there are kids who do not have clean drinking water,” said a community member who identified himself only as Josiah. “Instead of putting money towards those kids we’re putting more money toward the LAPD. There are city services that are not being met in the neighborhood of Watts because of a strike that’s ongoing because y’all can’t fix y’all faces to actually pay the city workers who actually deserve to be paid.”

The new contract increases the starting salary of LAPD officers to $86,193. By comparison, the starting salary for a social worker in Los Angeles is $66,000.

“We are not taking care of the people within the city of Los Angeles,” said Verneen Mincey during the council hearing. We do have a crisis in this city, and it’s those that are homeless that cannot get up and speak here. We have people that work for the city that are living in their cars.”

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