Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has said that, in the wake of the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, he’s considering up to a $150 million budget diversion from the police, part of what will constitute a $250 million program that will encompass youth jobs programs and “peace centers,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
It is a curious decision. This isn’t because of political inexpediency. In fact, given that the idea of defunding police is currently having its moment, Garcetti is striking just the kind of tone that tends to get you noticed in flowery prose.
I’m saying this because the LAPD’s budget is so overstretched as it is the city can’t pay its officers for some of the overtime pay that they accrued due to the protests Floyd’s death touched off.
Instead of getting paid for their extra work post-June 7, officers will be given compensation time.
“I recognize that you have worked tirelessly these past couple weeks during the protests and prior to that during the Safer At Home order. Your dedication and commitment have not gone unnoticed,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore wrote in a memorandum June 11.
“During this extraordinary time, including the full mobilization of our sworn members, the Department has expended more than $40 million in overtime expenses. This amount far exceeds any budgetary reserve to address unusual occurrences.
“Additionally, all non-essential overtime is canceled.”
A tweet from Bill Melugin of KTTV-TV in Los Angeles on Monday quoted sources inside the department who said morale was at “rock bottom.”
NEW: LAPD officers racked up $40 million in overtime during the recent protests, but won’t be paid for it, and will instead be given comp time, according to a memo sent out by Chief Moore I obtained. Budget is out of cash. LAPD sources tell me morale is at “rock bottom”. @FOXLA pic.twitter.com/Hs4iZSofaE
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) June 16, 2020
Proof, Melugin said, came from the number of shift cancelations the LAPD was seeing.
According to multiple LAPD sources, LAPD Transit Division/MTA services, which is paid via OT, had 43 officers cancel their shifts today, and they are now averaging 12-18 cancellations per shift. I’ll be live at 6 on @FOXLA
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) June 16, 2020
Since they were mobilized to deal with the protests on March 30, the Los Angeles Times reports that the entire force — almost 10,000 strong — has been working seven days a week to deal with the crisis.
In a statement, the department said it “offers cash overtime to officers when it is available, and when those allotted amounts are depleted that compensation is offered in time.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and full mobilization of the Department depleted that cash reserve before the end of the fiscal year, and we transitioned to comp time last week.”
How this would go over apparently didn’t occur to Garcetti’s administration, which has been touting the budget cuts in the weeks since Floyd’s death — sometimes in language that should have been considered a bit more carefully.
“I got calls from mayors around the country, some of them saying, ‘I’m so excited,’ and other ones saying: ‘What the hell did you do? Now I gotta shift money,’” Garcetti said during a speech earlier this month.
“That’s exactly the point. It starts someplace, and we say we are going to be who we want to be, or we’re going to continue being the killers that we are.”
The LAPD’s union was predictably infuriated by the remarks.
“Eric, do you really believe that Los Angeles police officers are killers?” said Detective Jamie McBride, a member of the board of directors of the Los Angeles Police Protective League Board, according to KTTV-TV.
“The same officers that provide you 24-hour security extra measures at your residence 365 days a year? The same officers that came to your political rescue when crime was out of control? … I don’t think so, Eric.”
The mayor insisted he didn’t mean that his police officers were killers.
“It is so important what we say, but it’s also so important to listen to what we say,” Garcetti said. “But when I talked about killers, I said, our collective burden here in this society is that we let black men and women die in this city.”
That’s not quite what I took from the context (if you want to watch the mayor’s remarks, they’re here), but if Garcetti wants us to believe that’s what he meant, go for it.
The bigger problem is going to end up being the program he’s promoting, particularly given that the shift has come just as the city is most vulnerable.
This annus horribilis doesn’t particularly feel like turning happy anytime soon. When the Netflix miniseries on 2020 eventually comes out — and you know it will, just as surely as any major Democrat can get a development contract with the streaming service if he or she wants it — this is a very unhappy Act Two, and it doesn’t feel like Act Three is going to be unalloyed joy with a placid resolution.
As much as I’m sure Garcetti is aware police are particularly unpopular at the moment, he’s also likely aware that they’re particularly necessary.
Cutting money as the department turns overtime pay into time off isn’t going to play particularly well, especially when that overtime pay was earned during the most explosive spate of protests the city has seen since 1992 and the country has seen since the 1960s.
This isn’t the time for Los Angeles to invest in “peace centers” at the expense of the very people who’ve been maintaining the law.
Nice as it may sound to the ears of progressives, “defund police” shouldn’t be the chant Los Angeles is using at the moment.
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