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Police hiring freeze in next LA budget cuts?

January 6, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
With revenue projections in jeopardy, L.A.'s top financial officer is recommending another round of budget cuts, including the possible suspension of police hiring. City leaders plan to fight any LAPD cutbacks.L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and other city leaders announced the lowest crime rates since the 1950s. At the same time there is a warning that police hiring may have to be suspended.

Beck said whenever the number of police officers drops, crime has increased in Los Angeles.

"If you continue to do the really hard thing -- and I know how hard it is -- and fund the police department at its current levels, we'll deliver crime reduction next year too," said Beck.

The unknowns in the city budget planning involve six city parking garages and plans for the city to lease them to a private company, and whether money from those leases will be enough to balance the budget.

The city's chief financial officer, Miguel Santana, is concerned they will not get enough money if the deal is ever done.

Santana is suggesting the city would need to stop hiring police officers, firefighters would have to take another cut, and city workers would add 10 days to furloughs that already total 26 days.

The mayor and council members at the meeting will fight any cuts in police.

"Once you start cutting back, getting back will be almost impossible, hear me now," said Villaraigosa.

The LAPD has been replacing each officer who leaves. It's called "hiring to attrition."

"If you back away from that commitment, ladies and gentlemen on the council, we will suffer the consequences," said L.A. City Councilman Greig Smith.

City workers who already are furloughed could be forced to not work or get paid for 36 days.

"Employees in the city of Los Angeles agreed to take 2,400 people off of the payroll. We agreed to give back millions of dollars and are now suffering a 10-percent wage cut by way of furlough," said Victor Gordo, a union coalition attorney.

Next week the city council gets its first chance to weigh in on the dismal budget projections and the choices they have to make between keeping the police department at the same strength and cutting city employees and city services.