Report: Plan to Rebuild LAPD's Staffing Falling Short of Goal

Feb. 20, 2024
By the end of its fiscal year in June, the LAPD is expected to have only 8,908 officers, missing the mayor's target goal and marking the agency's lowest sworn staffing levels in over two decades

When Mayor Karen Bass laid out her budget proposal for the Los Angeles Police Department last year, she had big plans for rebuilding the size of that agency's workforce.

The mayor's budget called for the LAPD to end the 2023-24 budget year with about 9,500 police officers — a target that would require the hiring of nearly 1,000 officers over a 12-month period.

Now, a new assessment from City Administrative Officer Matt Szabo — the city's top budget analyst — shows the department is falling well short of its staffing goal. By June 30, the end of the fiscal year, the department is expected to have 8,908 officers, according to Szabo's projections.

That would leave the LAPD with its lowest sworn staffing levels in over two decades.

Szabo's report, issued Tuesday, is likely to fuel calls for the council to scale back the LAPD's hiring goal. Even before it was released, some at City Hall had begun arguing that the annual budget calls for hundreds of officer positions that have little to no chance of being filled.

"I do not think 9,500 is realistic," Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martínez said Wednesday. "We can't be in denial about this. It is not realistic. And the reason it's not realistic is because ... people who are entering the workforce do not want to be police officers."

Soto-Martínez has long argued for the idea of shifting certain duties out of the LAPD and into agencies with unarmed responders. He asked for the LAPD's 12-month hiring projections last month, just as the council began the process of cutting an as-yet-unknown number of civilian city positions — part of a larger effort at reining in a budget shortfall.

Meanwhile, police staffing is continuing its year-to-year slide.

The LAPD had about 10,000 officers in 2019, the last full year before COVID-19. In June 2020, not long after the murder of George Floyd, the City Council voted to scale back the deployment to about 9,750.

Bass took office in 2022. By the time her first budget went into effect, the number of officers had fallen to 9,027. In an attempt to reverse those trends, she negotiated a four-year package of pay increases and higher starting salaries.

That deal, approved in August, is now a major contributor to the city's budget shortfall, which could reach as much as $400 million in the coming fiscal year.

De'Marcus Finnell, a spokesperson for Bass, said Wednesday that the salary agreement with the police officers' union is producing results, helping to spur recruitment and lower attrition.

"According to conversations with LAPD, retirement rates could've been much higher if we hadn't taken the action we did," Finnell said in an email.

Councilmember Nithya Raman, who voted against the salary agreement last year, has been offering a different assessment, calling the police contract financially irresponsible. Raman, now running for reelection with support from the mayor, has repeatedly warned that the police raises will leave the city with insufficient funds for other government programs.

"I thought that the size of the raise would be so much that it would create significant budget deficits going forward," she told an audience last month, adding: "So far, the data has proven me correct."

Others on the council say they still support the police raises.

Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky, in an interview, said attrition has "slowed significantly" at the LAPD since the contract was approved. The contract, she said, is "doing what we needed it to do."

Bass, as part of her budget, had been hoping to hire 780 new officers during the current fiscal year. She also had been looking to bring 200 retirees back to the department.

So far, only 15 retirees have come back, Szabo said.

The decrease in LAPD staffing is producing at least one benefit — cutting costs in the city budget.

The city's financial analysts are currently projecting an $82-million shortfall in the LAPD's sworn salary account this year. Had the department been successful in reaching the mayor's hiring goals, that number would have grown to more than $118 million, Szabo said in his report.

Meanwhile, some categories of crime continue to fall.

Homicides have decreased by nearly 6% compared with the prior year, according to LAPD figures covering the period ending Jan. 27. Burglaries decreased by nearly 7% over the same time frame.

Other types of crime are on the rise. Assaults have gone up by 12% compared to the same period last year, according to LAPD figures. The number of shooting victims is up 29% so far this year.

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