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Trust Fund To End Furloughs At New Downtown LA Jail

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A plan to ease staffing shortages at a new detention center in downtown Los Angeles will move some police officers back onto the streets, but the long-term prospects for staffing the city jail remain bleak.

KNX 1070’s John Brooks reports on a plan to shift $639,706 to the Los Angeles Police Department to end the furloughs of detention officers at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

Putting detention officers back to work full-time means 27 police officers who had been tapped to fill in for them at the jail can go back to patrolling the city’s streets from Feb. 28 through the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

Another 61 police officers will have to remain on duty at the jail, because the LAPD cannot afford to hire additional detention officers.

“During this budget crisis, public safety remains the city’s top priority,” said Councilman Greig Smith, who proposed the plan and controls the trust fund because the landfill is in his district.

“Thanks to our police, L.A.’s crime rates are at historic lows, so we need to keep our uniformed police officers out on the streets, doing what they do best, keeping our communities safe,” he said.

The ordinance that created the trust fund requires that it be used only for “community amenities” within five miles of the Sylmar landfill.

Councilman Richard Alarcon said on Tuesday that using the money could put the city in “a very precarious legal position.”

“I believe it’s sticking your finger deep into the eyes of the neighborhoods who have to put up with these negative environmental impacts (from the landfill),” he said. “There’s a reason why these community amenities agreements are crafted — because the communities are getting
damaged.”

But Smith stressed on Tuesday that the money was only being loaned to the city. It must be paid back over the next two fiscal years, unless whoever is elected to succeed Smith in the March election opts for a one-year extension.

Smith added that he recently spoke with a representative of the City Attorney’s Office who initially worried that the fund transfer might be problematic, but then changed his mind.

“He said (the restrictions on how and where the money can be used) really applied to the original donation from Sunshine Canyon, which was $1 million, which has been expended,” Smith said.

“The new money that’s come in from the tax on the facility is less restrictive, in his mind, so he feels (the fund transfer) is probably not going to be a problem.”

Smith added he felt secure about the borrowing the funds because they are currently not attached to any specific projects that are in the pipeline.

The $84 million Metropolitan Detention Center opened at the beginning of this month with a staff that includes 83 police officers taken off the streets to temporarily serve as jailers.

The facility replaced the more-than-half-century-old and severely overcrowded jail next door at Parker Center, where inmates have been known to sabotage the plumbing system to send human waste flowing to the other occupied floors of the former LAPD headquarters building.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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