By Dominique Franklin / Staff Writer
By Dominique Franklin / Staff Writer
Crime rates slowly on the rise, theft going up, and people afraid to leave their homes. Safety declines in Los Angeles as a limited amount police officers exhaust themselves trying to protect the city.
Don’t get scared. This scenario is completely hypothetical, though recent news would show that it’s not entirely impossible.
In an attempt to combat the growing budget crisis that the city of Los Angeles is facing, the city council has decided to place a hiring freeze on the Los Angeles police department.
Though it is against the wishes of Mayor Villaraigosa, on March 23 a hiring freeze that will last three months was voted on and passed.
The plan will reduce the amount of officers to a level of 9,890 until July 1. The number of officers for the three month period is lower than Villaraigosa’s campaign promise to keep at least a force of 10,000 cops.
It is also lower than the proposed necessary minimum of 9,963 officers that Chief Charlie Beck said was necessary to keep the public safe.
Even with the risk of threatening public safety, hiring of more police officers will not resume until after July 1, which will make the April class of police recruits to be the last to enter law enforcement until summer.
The freeze is the city council’s attempt to reduce the Los Angeles budget gap for the fiscal year from $48.1 million to $4.1 million.
This sizeable reduction comes from across the board cuts, now including the police department, and pulling $41 million from city reserves.
Once in effect, the freeze will save the city $725,000 for the fiscal year. In the next year, it will save Los Angeles $3.6 million, according to the LA Times blog.
Though the mayor does oppose the freeze, he does not oppose the council’s decision because they have approved the April class of recruits to be hired. According to the Mayor’s spokeswoman, he does not plan to veto the freeze, even though it does dip just slightly below his campaign promise.
In defense of the freeze, Councilman Tony Cardenas said it was only fair. According to him, up until now, the LAPD has been protected from the vast amount of reduction in spending.
More support for the freeze comes from the president of the police union, who said a day before the council voted to enact the hiring freeze that the city shouldn’t hire officers that they can’t pay.
California residents are becoming more familiar with the idea of funding reductions on state and local programs in an effort to balance a tedious budget.
The city of Los Angeles is of no exception. As is every other city in California, Los Angeles will be facing major budget problems if drastic measures are not taken.
Unfortunately, trying to balance the bill will mean reductions in city paid jobs, which now include police officers.
The idea of having less law enforcement in a city that has notoriously dangerous areas is of course frightening.
However, to make it through the fiscal crisis, Los Angeles should cut funding from every possible area, which means to give no exception to the police department.
In the long run, a city going bankrupt because of an unbalanced budget will be even more dangerous to its residents than crime itself.
The police department, up until now, has been able to escape the idea of budget cuts while other sectors of the budget, such as funding for parks and recreation, and education receive massive cuts.
As stated before by Cardenas, it’s true that it is only fair for the police department to begin to plan for reduction in funding for more officers.
However fair it may or may not be the cut in funding for more officers should be only temporary.
Safety for Los Angeles residents has to remain a top priority for the city council.
If it’s been suggested that at least a hundred more officers would be needed to provide safety, then the council should consider the possibility of adding more officers in the next couple months.
Less officers than the proposed necessary amount may also prove to be more destructive for Los Angeles than an unbalanced budget.
While the plan will be temporarily beneficial to the city, after three months, the council needs to keep its promise of ending the hiring freeze.
After three months, Mayor Villaraigosa should pressure the city council into reaching his campaign promise of having at least ten thousand officers on the ground.
By July 1, Los Angeles residents should fully expect to hear about more officers being hired, and until then continue to remind the city council that was also a part of their commitment.
If public safety is going to be compromised, it’s imperative that the city council keeps that length of time as short as possible.
The scenario of crime rates rising is unfortunately a possibility that will inevitably happen if the freeze is prolonged for an unnecessary length of time
Though the freeze is a very necessary temporary fix to a huge budget crisis, it should remain exactly that, temporary.