Solving LAPD budget woes get trickier after officer pay raises kick in

Pay raises for Los Angeles police officers went into effect Sunday, despite threats from city officials that refusal to delay the pay spike could result in hundreds more layoffs for a department that already was downsized in 2020.

Rank-and-file LAPD officers will see a 3.25% pay increase starting with their next paychecks, according to their union, the Los Angeles Police Protective League. The increase this month stacks on top of 1.5% increase they received in July.

According to budget analysts, the pay raises could add more than $17 million to LAPD’s budget at a time when the city is staring at $675 million deficit, the result of a shattered economy struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some city officials took veiled shots at the union for holding out for months over the raises, including after Los Angeles’ other public employee unions hashed out deals to delay their own raises. On Thursday, the union representing the city’s firefighters agreed to put off a 4.5% pay raise for a year and a half.

Shortly after the deal, Councilman Mike Bonin, a longtime LAPPL critic, praised firefighters and the city’s other unions.

“Our great firefighters always step up for LA!,” Bonin said. “Our firefighters union has agreed to defer raises during this fiscal crisis. Civilians unions have, too. But the police union still refuses, forcing LAPD to prepare for laying off hundreds of their members.”

Union officials said LAPD already made sacrifices in 2020 when the City Council approved a $150 million cut to its police budget after the George Floyd protests over the summer. That resulted in LAPD shuffling more than 300 positions, with some specialized detectives being reassigned to community stations and other neighborhood patrols being eliminated entirely. Roughly 30 officers were allowed to retire without their jobs being filled.

LAPPL President Craig Lally said the cut, in effect, meant pay decreases for officers. He said a decrease in overtime meant an average 7.5% pay cut for officers across the board. In a statement, Lally said the raises on Sunday “finally bring us to parity with our public safety counterparts.”

So what happens next? LAPD and city leaders already have given hints.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore and city budget officials have said that without delaying the pay raises, the department likely faces losing an additional 355 officers and around 270 civilian employees through layoffs.

During the City Council’s most recent Public Safety Committee meeting, Moore said that many layoffs would mean closing three police stations and eliminating at least one of the department’s three regional jails.

Additionally he said services like forensic analysis of crimes, record keeping, administrative services and internal oversight could be reduced.

“In terms of ongoing reforms, we simply will not have the staffing to do a number of these police audits and police inspections,” Moore said.

Even amid the financial tumult, it’s still not guaranteed that the city will eliminate that many police jobs. Moore still must submit his new plan for reorganizing the department to meet the next round of cuts to the City Council for approval.

Additional financial help for the city also could be on the way: The incoming Joe Biden administration last week unveiled a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan to prop up the ailing U.S. economy. About $350 billion of those funds would be dedicated to helping struggling states and cities, but the bill first must pass both houses of Congress.

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