The police permitting process to operate a business in Los Angeles is outdated, cumbersome and inconsistently followed, according to an audit released Wednesday by City Controller Ron Galperin.

Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin. Photo via lacontroller.org

The city has 59 different categories for commercial police permits which require background checks, fingerprints and an annual fee. All but 10 of the categories were created before 1970 and there has been no systematic process to review them, according to the audit, which also found a low level of compliance for many of the categories.

“We need to better align our permitting requirements with the realities of today’s businesses and with 21st century policing — which will mean getting rid of some categories while considering some new ones,” Galperin said. “The goal should be to focus our attention and resources on the businesses that pose the most risk to their customers and to the public, in order to promote public safety.”

Galperin called on the Police Commission and the City Council to review the permitting process and also to streamline it by making it possible for business owners to apply for police permits as they register for business taxes.

Milt Moritz, president and CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners of CA/NV, said: “For too long, our members have struggled with complying with the city’s onerous regulations in obtaining the necessary permits.

“We’re pleased that Controller Ron Galperin is looking into the issue and hopeful that his audit produces reforms that will relieve businesses from the bureaucratic maze our members have to endure in order to comply.”

Businesses of all types, such as bowling alleys, skating rinks, antique stores and gun stores, require police permits, which allow the Los Angeles Police Department to inspect them without a warrant. If the LAPD finds that a business is a nuisance, the Police Commission may call the owners before a review panel that can result in the business being closed.

Police Commission Executive Director Richard Tefank said he would report to the City Council on the permitting process and also evaluate whether to eliminate the permit requirement for some categories of businesses.

“Police Commission and Commission Investigation Division staff are undertaking a review of how to make the permitting process as efficient as possible for businesses and individuals we regulate, while at the same time determining whether we need to require all of the current 59 categories of permits,” Tefank said.

“We’re looking at how best to meet our goal of public safety without unduly burdening businesses and individuals,” he said. “We appreciate Controller Ron Galperin’s review of this issue and look forward to working with him on meeting this goal.”

Galperin’s audit found low compliance among secondhand dealers, pawn shops, antique shops, movie theaters and massage businesses, and zero compliance for cyber cafes and escort bureaus.

Only 16 movie theaters in Los Angeles had valid permits in 2015, the audit found, down from 41 in 2005. As of this month, 21 movie theaters had permits.

— City News Service

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