The influential union that represents Los Angeles’ rank-and-file police officers took an unexpected position in the debate over hiring more police during the financial crisis, reports the city’s Times. The L.A. Police Protective League’s president, Paul M. Weber, called on the city’s leaders to suspend their current policy of hiring new officers to replace those who resign or retire. Instead, Weber said, the department should shrink itself in order to use its scarce funds to restore overtime pay that has been cut because of the city’s budget woes and to fill some of the hundreds of civilian posts at the LAPD that have gone vacant.
Police Chief Charlie Beck said the union’s plan would jeopardize public safety. “We’d all like to return to a time where officers are paid for the overtime hours they work,” he said. “But it is not in the interest of public safety to do that” by thinning the ranks of officers. And a spokesman for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa added, “It’s hard to imagine how the union is motivated here by the public’s safety.” The union’s announcement irritated Beck and Villaraigosa and complicated matters for them as they try to convince City Council members to keep police hiring intact despite the city’s ongoing budget crisis. Villaraigosa has staked much of his administration’s reputation on his ability to boost the size of the LAPD, while Beck has warned that a drop in the number of officers would badly hamper his ability to maintain recent declines in crime.