By Sergeant Robert Gasior, Los Angeles Police Department
Overview of the Current LAPD
The City of
Los Angeles currently faces a nearly $200 million dollar budget shortfall (Zahniser
& Reston, 2010). The mayor has asked all city departments to review their
operating budgets and make cutbacks to address and rectify the dire financial
situation. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), with its nearly 10,000
officers, has not been spared from financial cutbacks. Being asked to do more
with less has become a recurring theme within the department.
Unlike many large metropolitan
police departments nationwide that are struggling to meet their authorized force
strength, the Los Angeles Police Department is succeeding in its ambitious five
year effort to increase the number of officers by 1,000. On March 2, 2008,
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and then LAPD chief William J. Bratton announced that
the LAPD had reached 9,895 police officersa new record for the department (Lim
et al. 2009).
current financial and budgetary constraints being imposed by the city upon the
police department, and other public agencies, much debate has taken place over
the mayors current position on recruiting new members of the police
department. The mayor of the city of Los Angeles has stood by his commitment to
hire officers to bring, and maintain, the number of sworn police officers with
the police department to over 10,000. Some members of the city council dispute
the mayors logic concerning the hiring of new officers. Bernard Parks and Jan
Perry, both members of the city council, disagree sharply with the mayors
position during this economic downturn. To deal with the downturn, Mayor
Villaraigosa and council members have agreed to slash payroll costs by allowing
2,400 civilian employees to retire up to five years early. But the city's
budget picture is so dire that City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana
predicted 1,000 jobs would need to be eliminated, in addition to the 1,000
mentioned in Villaraigosa's letter, over the next two years to keep the city
afloat. "Our revenues are not going to catch up to the costs of our pension
system and our salaries and benefits. [They're] just not," he said. Deputy
Chief of Staff Matt Szabo said hundreds of layoffs would probably be avoided if
the city allowed additional employees to take early retirement. Or they could
be moved to jobs not paid for by the city's general fund, which covers basic
services including public safety. City leaders would also begin looking at
services that can be done more cheaply by private contractors, he said (Zahniser
& Reston, 2010).
Despite the recession, and
strictly from a management perspective, the LAPDs recruiting effort has been
stellar. The LAPD is meeting its recruiting goal by working closely with a
partner agency, the City of Los Angeles Personnel Department. The personnel
department performs key functions in the process. These functions include
marketing, testing and screening, background investigation, and medical and
psychological examinations. Both agencies have been exemplary in their
implementation of leading best practices in the field of police recruiting.
Even though the LAPD and the personnel department are on track to achieve the
hiring goal, the agencies have been operating close to the margin, often meeting
the quota at the very end of the month (Lim et al, 2009). Clearly the economys
effect on the private sector has influenced applicants choices toward public
service careers, and the perceived stability that goes with them.
While the citys personnel
department works closely with the police department in all aspects of the
application and recruiting process, it should be noted that a particular point
of contention among those in law enforcement is the concession that civilian
employees of the personnel department do not possess adequate knowledge and
experience to perform detailed background checks on police department
applicants. This policy was also adopted as a cost saving measure to avoid
paying police investigators salaries. The lower paid civilian investigators
essentially perform the same job function at a substantially lower pay scale.
The theme of doing more with
less has become a recurring theme within the police department. Oftentimes it
has replaced discussing crime trends at daily briefings. Overtime has been
curtailed and forced days off and pay cuts are discussed not only among the rank
and file, but at command levels as well. The question must be asked: Can a
city be efficiently or effectively policed under this atmosphere?
Despite the recession and
the talks of reducing services, crime across the city is still down. Economists
and criminologists have predicted a rise in crime as the recession worsens. The
theory has been that as people lose their jobs, they will turn to crime to
support themselves and their families. This has not been the case. According
to crime statistics published weekly by the LAPDs Compstat (computer
statistics) unit, overall crime is down nearly 11 percent across the city and
gang crime, those crimes committed either by or involving gang members, is down
30 percent from 2009 levels. A 2-year snapshot reveals a 12 and 29 percent drop
in crime, respectively. While the root causes are easily debatable, the fact
remains that the police department continues to provide essential services while
having less resources to accomplish the tasks.
The city of Los Angeles is
policed by an agency comprised of approximately 9,000 officers. These officers
are divided into 21 geographic areas covering approximately 500 square miles.
According to a report published by the United States Justice Department in 2000,
it is the third largest police department in the country. It pales in
comparison, however to Chicagos 13,000 officers or New Yorks 40,000 officers.
The report also cites that there are only 25 officers for every 1,000 residents
and only 63 percent of the officers actually respond to citizens calls for
services. The rest are assigned to supporting functions. At current staffing
levels, the LAPD has just over 6,100 officers assigned to patrol duties. Once
regular days off, sick days, compelled days off (which will be discussed later),
and vacations are factored in, deployment becomes a monumental task.
Oftentimes, 6 police officers are assigned to police an area of 50 square
miles. In addition to reduced services, safety of the police officers becomes a
In June of 2009, the city
and the police department entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for
its sworn employees holding the ranks of lieutenant and below. One of the
provisions of the MOU involves overtime usage and accumulation. Management is
tasked, and evaluated, on its ability to manage officers use of overtime.
Currently once an officer accumulates 250 hours of compensatory time, he is
forced to take time off to reduce the accumulated hours. One can easily see how
this use of forced days off can adversely affect an areas deployment.
The author of this paper
recently spoke to 2 officers, one a member of a special unit that routinely
responds to requests from officers to provide tactical services, and the other a
lead homicide detective with over 20 years experience investigating murders.
Both of these officers were placed off work for two weeks to reduce their
overtime banks. Neither one is subject to recall, voluntarily or otherwise,
during this period. The author has heard similar accounts across the
In his text, Managing the
Public Sector, Grover Starling defines planning as reasoning about how an
organization will get where it wants to go. He defines strategy as the
pattern that integrates an organizations goals, policies, plans and programs
into a cohesive whole. Recognizing the limited resources of the police
department, management has embraced the partnership with the various
stakeholders within the community to accomplish its goals. Again, Starling
defines a stakeholder as any group within or outside an organization that has a
stake in the organizations performance. In the case of the police department,
stakeholders are comprised of its officers, which sometimes are also residents
of Los Angeles, residents, business owners and members of both public and
non-profit organizations that have a stake in the successful performance of the
Good managers have
understood for a long time that many forces both inside and outside their
organizations can influence their abilities to achieve their goals. The
successful organization monitors its internal and external environments
continuously and systematically. Organizations that have done this have shown
an ability to anticipate future changes and to make adjustments so that
potential problems do not become crises (Starling, 2010).
The partnerships with the
police department and its stakeholders have taken many forms including planning
meetings where all organizations collaborate to effectively reach their
respective goals to the use of donations, which are closely monitored, to help
acquire badly needed equipment to accomplish a mission. This latter concept is
sometimes discouraged by management, but has become somewhat necessary as
financial resources become scarce.
The City has explored many
strategies in its attempt to reduce the ever expanding deficit. Among them is
the use of unpaid furlough days for its civilian employees. This decision has
not been without problems. As can be expected, civilian labor unions vehemently
protested the use of furlough days for its employees. The Citys position
indicated that furlough was a reasonable alternative to mass layoffs. While
this may be true, it appears that layoffs are still necessary to close the
budget gap. One byproduct of the furlough plan is reduced morale and
productivity of the labor force. Can an employee be expected to perform at the
same level when forced to submit to what is substantially a pay cut?
Additionally, the services the employees provide, often in support of another
city entity, are now backlogged and idle.
City council has also
discussed the use of early retirement for tenured employees. While this too
saves money, a wealth of experience is lost as senior employees leave the
workforce. Will that employee return to the city of Los Angeles when this
economic crisis is over? This author argues that the employee will take his
experience to another agency, in another city which will now reap the benefits
of experience garnered at Los Angeles expense.
The rising cost of pensions
continues to plague the city as well. As of this writing, the city is exploring
modifying pension plans with reduced benefits and implementing a new pension
tier for new employees.
The effective manager
working for the LAPD must balance the needs of the city against the needs of the
department while keeping in mind the needs of the employee. Each element of
this pie recognizes their needs to be primary. The manager must sort through
this to reach the ultimate goal of the police department: a society with
The morale of members of the
police department is always a constant concern of the effective manager. Many
of the techniques mentioned by Starling in Managing the Public Sector are
ineffective for use in the police department. While the department has
effectively implemented a compressed work schedule for officers, concepts such
as telecommuting and job sharing are best suited for civilian employees of the
department. The compressed work schedule, which allows officers to work 3-12
hour shifts per week or 4-10 hour shifts per week has been a huge success in
boosting morale and increased retention. Its detractors insist it turns police
service into a part-time job. This author has personally seen the benefits of
this schedule as better rested, happier, more productive officers.
From a management
standpoint, morale cannot be underestimated. The police service is one of a few
professions where success cannot necessarily be measured by productivity. While
quantifying the number of arrests an officer makes or the number of citations he
issues helps to determine success, it is truly the quality of citizen contacts
he makes, and the information they share that help to make the city a better
place. Simply put, a happier officer provides better service. This reduces
complaints and liability and goes a long way to promote the image of the
department and ultimately reduce crime.
It is recognized that a
police officer receives a stable salary for their services to the city. This
salary has enabled officers to live a comfortable lifestyle and provide for
their families. Discussions for reducing the budget deficit currently include
renegotiating the current MOU to obtain reduced salaries for officers as well as
lay-offs for junior employees and unpaid furlough days. The effect this will
have on the officer is not yet measurable but will no doubt produce unique
Currently the Los Angeles
Police Protective League, the union which represents police officers, has
reached an agreement with the police department to increase the number of hours
an officer may engage in off-duty employment. Under the old agreement, officers
were allowed to work 20 hours per week in addition to their regular assignment.
Now officers may work up to 30 hours of off-duty employment. While this author
appreciates the unions effort, he also questions the implications of allowing
officers to engage in 30 extra hours of employment per week. The concept
mentioned above of a better rested officer may be reduced and city liability may
rise if an officer makes a poor decision due to lack of rest.
Recommendations and Conclusion
Clearly the city is
experiencing a budget shortfall the likes of which have not been seen in a
century. By and large, the police department has been spared from many of the
cuts experienced by other city entities. While the city council demands across
the board cuts and concessions, their salaries and perks remain untouched. Not
only does a member of the city council make nearly $180,000 per year, they use
taxpayer money for eight free cars per member and each employs a personal staff
of 19 to 25 people. The combined staff of 320 people for the city council is
not far from the 480 members of the White House Office Staff (Stewart, 2009).
Perhaps a concession from
the very people who are demanding cuts would allow others to be more receptive
to achieving the common goal.
It is also recommended that
hiring of new officers be temporarily halted to reduce expenditures. Current
officers can be paid overtime to compensate for any reduced personnel. The
experience of the tenured officers far outweighs having increased officers for
numbers sake. In any event, the challenges that face the city and its police
department are real and will be present for some time to come. It will require
decisive leadership and belt-tightening measures by all members of the
Can a city the size of Los
Angeles be policed effectively during a recession? Of course it canby using
innovative management techniques, collaborative partnerships and hard work.
About the Author
Sergeant Robert Gasior has over 17 years of law enforcement experience. He has
a BS in Criminal Justice Management and is currently completing his masters
degree in Public Administration. Currently, Sergeant Gasior is a member of the
Los Angeles Police Department where he is a Sergeant II assigned as the Officer
in Charge of the Foothill Area Community Law Enforcement and Recovery Unit
(CLEAR). CLEAR is a multi-agency task force designed to recover communities
from the scourge of gang violence. Among Sergeant Gasiors previous assignments
was the Officer in Charge of the LAPD Mission Area Gang Enforcement Detail.
Sergeant Gasior is a former US Marine, holding the occupational specialties of
Infantry and Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defense (NBC) Specialist. His
last assignment was with the 2nd Battalion 23rd Marines
where he served as the NBC Chief for the Battalion. Among his awards are the
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the Combat Action Ribbon with Gold
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