LOS ANGELES (CBS) — At least 237 police officers are spending all or part of their time performing the work of civilians — including data entry and answering phones — because the Los Angeles Police Department’s civilian workforce has been depleted by budget cuts, a report showed Tuesday.
In response, the Los Angeles City Council debated suspending the recruitment of new officers in favor of hiring civilians — but postponed a decision until the LAPD can estimate the optimum mix of police officers and civilians it needs to function efficiently.
A report signed by LAPD Assistant Chief Sandy Jo MacArthur showed that 154 “sworn personnel” — police officers — have been assigned to perform the duties of 120 vacant civilian positions. The report was based on a recent survey of certain LAPD divisions and offices.
LAPD Personnel Director Francois Gardere said that number does not include the 83 police officers being pulled off patrol duty to become jailers at the Metropolitan Detention Center, which is opening in February.
“This is unacceptable,” Councilman Bill Rosendahl said. “We want sworn officers out protecting and serving. we don’t need them to do clerical (work).”
Of the 154 officers listed in the report, 29 work as “clerk typists” — six of them on a full-time basis. Another five officers are working as “maintenance laborers” — one of them full-time, and the rest of them for half of each shift.
The report added that one officer is designated as an “equine keeper” 75 percent of the time; and another is a “principal photographer” 33 percent of the time. Three officers spend a portion of their time as “audio-visual technicians.”
Most of the rest work as crime and intelligence analysts, police service representatives, and community police aides.
MacArthur said the survey showed that the equivalent of 47 officers spend 100 percent of their time performing civilian duties. That number does not include any of the officers currently undergoing training to become jailers at the new lockup downtown.
Councilman Bernard Parks — a former LAPD chief — said civilian hiring has been undermined by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s policy of maintaining the ranks of the LAPD at 9,963 police officers.
He recommended suspending the recruitment of new cadets and using the savings to hire civilians.
“It’s within your purview to do it,” Parks told his council colleagues. “If you choose to alter the current budget, it takes eight votes or 10 votes, depending on whether the mayor vetoes it. You can do that today.”
“The key is whether you have the will to do it,” Parks added.
He said neither the police nor fire departments can afford to have their civilian workforce shrunk even further by an ongoing hiring freeze.
“Firefighters do not fix trucks,” Parks said. “Pretty soon that equipment will wear down and the mechanics are not there. It’s going to come to a screeching halt, and you’re going to have the full level of sworn personnel but not enough civilian support to cause them to be effective.”
Councilman Paul Koretz said the size of the sworn workforce should be allowed to shrink from the current level of 9,963 by attrition — meaning new officers would not be recruited to replace retiring officers.
“I know the department will scream and yell, but (maintaining 9,963 police officers) is only a P.R. issue, it’s not a real enforcement issue,” Koretz said. “We’re not getting any enforcement out of those 300 people doing desk jobs.”
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