Huge increases should be included in the next city budget for enforcement of illegal pot shops and to upgrade the Los Angeles Police Department’s outdated computer technology, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday.
“Getting both the illegal market, and the illegal operators who aren’t the black market but the illegal places that open up in a strip mall or something, to get those under control has to be job No. 1. So we’re looking in this year’s budget in putting a serious amount of money into the enforcement side because we have to reward the good actors,” Garcetti said during a City Hall news conference where he took questions on a variety of topics.
Garcetti said he wasn’t sure of the exact numbers, but estimated the increase for illegal cannabis enforcement would go from around $3 million this fiscal year to around $30 million.
For the LAPD’s tech needs, Garcetti said the budget would begin to address an $80 million need that may take up to three years to complete and also include a matching fund system with the Los Angeles Police Protective League that will be raising money privately.
“We are one of the most backwards departments when it comes to technology,” Garcetti said. “Some people say we need 12,000 officers. I say, `What would you rather have, 12,000 officers or 10,000 officers with 20 percent more time out on the streets?’ To me, it’s a no-brainer. It’s the same pay with the same number of hours instead of more pay for extra hours.”
The cannabis budget announcement comes as the City Council and Cannabis Regulation Commission have been exploring numerous ways at combating the illegal shops.
Earlier this month, the City Council signed off on a proposed ordinance aimed at cracking down on the businesses by shutting off utilities.
The Cannabis Regulation Commission has also expressed support for the idea, along with a number of other aggressive methods to crack down on the dispensaries, including the formation of a special task force.
“I’m frustrated, as many of you are,” Commission President Robert Ahn said in February during a meeting of the commission. “I would have to say of all of the cannabis questions that I get or inquiries, at the top of the list is enforcement, and it’s really the one issue that, whether you are in the industry, part of the industry or in the community, (is) something that everyone agrees on. It’s just common sense. If you create laws, what good are the laws if they cannot be enforced?”
The commission unanimously voted in February to send a letter to the Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee asking the city to immediately establish a task force on unlicensed cannabis businesses to include members of the Department of Cannabis Regulation, the Los Angeles Police and Fire departments, the Department of Building and Safety, Department of Water and Power, and the city attorney’s and mayor’s offices.
The commission also recommend that the task force consider shutting off utilities of illegal pot shops, padlocking or barricading illegal businesses, prosecuting the operators and the landlords, and assessing fines and penalties to property owners that allow unlicensed dispensaries to use their property.
Garcetti has yet to release his formal budget proposals for the upcoming fiscal year that begins in July, and the City Council would also have to approve of any new funds, but he said much of the money for cannabis enforcement would go toward overtime.
“It really comes down to how much overtime and how many officers we can have, and the other agencies that have that enforcement power,” Garcetti said.
Although marijuana has been legal for recreational sales in California since Jan. 1 of last year, a license from both the state and city is required to legally operate a dispensary in Los Angeles. Hundreds of illegal businesses are believed to be operating in breach of the regulations, according to LAPD Chief Chief Michel Moore.
The LAPD’s outdated computers have been a long-term problem and were the focus of a Public Safety Committee meeting last November, where then-Councilman Mitchell Englander complained that the issue has been brushed aside for years.
“We push for this every year to be included in the budget. And every year, without fail, it’s not,” said Englander, who resigned his seat at the end of the year to take a job in the private sector.
He added, “Every year we have this conversation and we end up in the same place. We’ll note and file this, we’ll move on. The budget will come out the first quarter of next year, and it won’t be included.”
An Information Technology Agency report discussed at the meeting said the LAPD maintains some 8,000 workstations, and about 3,000 are over seven years old. Over the years additional software has been installed that places more demands on the computers, which has resulted in reduced performance and slower response from the computers, the report said.
“When you arrest somebody, you spend half your day on paperwork,” Garcetti said. “That should be a quick turnaround, that should be technology and tablets and better computers. Computers take at some stations 20 minutes to boot up. I want an officer out on the street for those 20 minutes.”
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