Leaders of the Los Angeles Police Protective League are expressing confusion and anger over how overtime spending is allocated in the proposed 2017-18 city budget, arguing it will impact public safety.
The proposed budget calls for $80 million in overtime hours for Los Angeles Police Department officers, $10 million less than the current fiscal year, but also includes $41 million in overtime hours for the department’s new contract to patrol Metro trains and buses within the city’s borders starting July 1.
Officials with the union representing LAPD officers found multiple problems with the overtime proposals, but Mayor Eric Garcetti defended the allocations.
The $369 million, five-year contract the city has with Metro beginning July 1 is paid for by Metro, and union officials said they did not understand why Garcetti would pull resources from regular patrols to fulfill the Metro contract.
The union also said by moving officers off regular patrols and onto Metro, public safety is being put at risk, and that the budget moves were a slight of hand violating the provision of its contract with the city to provide at least $100 million in overtime hours.
“This year’s budget has a $20 million shortfall that has been unlawfully co-mingled with our contractual $100 million,” Elizabeth Silver, general counsel for the union, said to the Budget and Finance Committee.
Union Vice President Jerretta Sandoz said the reduction in overtime for regular patrols “will put neighborhood safety at risk, and break the promise that the MTA security contract for the city that was awarded will not raid patrol officers in Los Angeles neighborhoods.”
Garcetti’s office said more officers will be on the city’s streets.
“More officers on the streets will help us keep driving crime in the right direction — down,” according to a statement issued by Garcetti’s office. “That’s why Mayor Garcetti led the push to secure LAPD’s security services contract with Metro, which will put 150 additional officers on the bus and rail lines in our communities across the city every day, and increased the overtime budget ensuring officers can spend more time protecting Angelenos, deterring and investigating crimes, and providing quicker response times.”
Metro is currently patrolled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, but LAPD officers will take over patrols for Metro within the city limits starting July 1. The contract calls for the Metro patrols to be fulfilled primarily with overtime hours.
Garcetti’s office said the $41 million for Metro in the budget will be reimbursed by Metro, per the contract.
Tom Saggau, a spokesman for the LAPPL, told City News Service that the union was not under the impression that the $41 million would be reimbursed by Metro.
“We are still scratching our heads as to why again is the city’s general fund augmenting the MTA contract,” Saggau said. “We have not been able to get that answer.”
Saggau said he assumed Garcetti’s office will argue that because the budget includes a total of $120 million for overtime it fulfills the contract provision requiring $100 million for overtime.
“I think that is going to be their line, but at the end of the day it is deceitful and disingenuous. At the end of the day, the officers that are patrolling Metro, you are not going to see those officers off the transit line,” Saggau said.
“You are sacrificing neighborhoods and police patrols for transit lines.”
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck also appeared before the committee and said that while the budget has some strengths for the department, the “downside” was the reduction in overtime for the regular patrols.
Beck predicted the regular budget overtime reduction would result in officers next year starting around May having to take their overtime hours on what is called “compensatory time off,” or CTO.
CTO comes in lieu of officers collecting overtime pay in cash, which essentially rolls the cost of the overtime to a future date or, as Beck put it, “putting police services on the city’s credit card.”
“So that’s something the council has to think about whether you are willing to incur that debt,” Beck said.
When the MTA contract was announced in February, Beck had said it would not result in any reduction of officers on regular patrol.
Councilman Paul Krekorian, chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, said that “we were clearly guarantied that it would not happen” and asked Beck if that commitment could still be met.
“Well, I made that commitment to you, and I still make that commitment to you. This changes the way that we fund officers for overtime work, if we stay at the same levels that we have this year,” Beck said.
“So even if we have to go to compensatory overtime towards the end of the year to meet our obligation to officers who work overtime, that doesn’t take them off the street. It defers their payment and the city’s liability, but it doesn’t remove their boots from the ground.”
When asked if the budget proposal violates the contract with the union, Beck told reporters, “That’s not for me to determine.”
The Budget and Finance Committee is holding meetings about the budget over the next two weeks and will make recommended changes and adjustments before it comes to the full council.
Saggau did praise a recommendation put forward by Councilman Mitchell Englander to officially separate the Metro overtime hours in the budget from the regular overtime patrols.
“If they adopt this budget as is, the first thing we are going to do is litigate. We’re suing. We’re going to say this is a breach of contract, and now we are going to have a line that says $80 million,” Saggau said.
–City News Service
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