Can We Defund the LBPD?

By: 
Gerrie Schipske

During these turbulent times, many slogans and catchy memes are being bantered back and forth on social media. Turning a political slogan into a public policy is not always wise, so it is important that we educate ourselves with facts on the pro and con of how to proceed. That is what I hope to do with this column.

The cry to “defund the police” without a precise definition of the “how much” and “how to” do it, provides endless scenarios.

For the sake of discussion, let’s narrow the options: 1) Totally defund and disband the Long Beach Police Department; 2) Cut the funding of certain activities of the LBPD and allocate the funding to other city departments to help with other needs of the community; 3) Ask for voter approval of a number of reform initiatives to improve how the police respond to all of the community.

Q. What would happen if the City Council totally defunded and disbanded the Long Beach Police Department?

A. A municipal government is legally required to provide public safety for its residents. Defunding and dismantling of the Long Beach Police Department would not relieve the city of its obligations to provide public safety and could not take place overnight. The City Council would need to transition police services to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and negotiate a contract for those services. The LBPD also provides safety services for the Long Beach Airport, Long Beach City College campuses and Long Beach Transit. These contracts would have to be cancelled and transferred to the LA County Sheriff.

Because Long Beach has current employer agreements negotiated with the Long Beach Police Officers Association, it would have to “meet and to confer” about the process of dismantling the department. The city would continue to have obligations for the retirement benefits with the CalPers system of those officers currently employed with LBPD. Police facilities and equipment would have to be sold or leased.

Q. Could the City Council cut the LBPD budget and allocate the money to another city department?

A. The LBPD has five divisions: Patrol, Investigations, Administration, Support (jail and Port) and Financial. Most of its budget is spent on patrol functions.

The council has cut the LBPD budget before; severely in 2008 when city revenues fell. The consequences were less police on the street, an elimination of police youth programs and an increase in police overtime because calls for service still needed to be answered. (In 2018, the police received 208,000 calls for service.) The cuts were made so that other departments did not have to take a higher “proportional” reduction in revenues.

The programs that are being suggested to be funded instead of police (as mentioned by proponents of “defund the police”) include dispatching social workers or community aides to respond to domestic violence calls or calls involving mental illness or homelessness problems.

For everyone’s information, last year, the LBPD consolidated the efforts of its Mental Evaluation Team (MET) and the Quality of Life (QoL) team into a combined collaborative unit to respond to these types of problems. LBPD made this change to access trained mental health clinicians that could help officers with additional options for de-escalating volatile situations and connecting people in crisis with valuable services and assistance.

Q. The cry to “defund the police” is really based on the need to make meaningful reforms in police departments around the issues of accountability and community sensitivity. What can be done in Long Beach to address these problems?

A. One way is to change how oversight of the police department is done. Currently, the police chief is hired by the city manager and only the city manager can discipline or fire a city employee. The city does utilize a Citizens Police Complaint Commission (since 1990), but its authority is limited to making recommendations to the City Manager regarding the discipline of a police officer. In our City Manager-Council form of government, only the city manager can discipline and fire an employee. The CPCC can make recommendations for discipline but they are only recommendations. Additionally, the city utilizes a Civil Service system that allows an employee to have a hearing before the Civil Service Commission which can overturn discipline and firing. Finally, city employees who are members of a collective bargaining unit – aka union – have protections in their contracts concerning discipline.

The truth is that the relationship between political candidates (who become elected officials) and police unions has become too close. If political candidates and elected officials continue to seek the endorsements and financial assistance of police unions, meaningful reforms will be difficult. It is this close relationship that has also prevented the contents of union contracts from being released to the public in the process of negotiations. Unlike school districts which are required to disclose what is being negotiated, cities have no mandates unless they adopt them.

There are several actions that Long Beach voters could take to bring about reform that require voting to approve several changes to the city’s charter:

Prohibit a candidate or elected official from accepting any type of financial assistance from any group, organization or business having contracts with the City.

Establish a Long Beach City Independent Inspector General with powers to receive and investigate complaints and to initiate investigations of mismanagement, misconduct, nonfeasance, misfeasance, malfeasance concerning all elected members of council and their employees, contractors, lobbyists, or others doing business with City of Long Beach.

Require that the City Council “sunshine” all negotiations with labor unions before a contract is agreed to.

gerrie@beachcomber.news

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Comments

The problem with this city is that they are all in bed with each other, they work together to hide their misconduct. This has been proven time and time again. Yes, we need police services but we don't need corrupted services of any kind. We need independent oversight not these clowns investigating each other.

The police department is the biggest problem they are being run by incompetent and corrupt people. They hide and protect bad officers because they are lead by bad people. We need change and the way to get it is firing LUNA and his boys. Look at what they get paid! we can save money just on that.

Luna has shown that he can't handle the job, that is why he promoted an assistant Chief of police. If he cant handle the job of a department this size, which he has proven he can not, then he needs to go. We need complete transparency of the police department because right now the City manager, attorney, city council, Mayor and PD work to hide information from us. Just look at the run a round they give this paper when they put in a FOIA request. They just talking out their A__when they say they want change. Vote all these corrupt people out of our LBC

Instead of defunding the police dept. make the police officer accountable for their actions by firing the rotten apples who are serving as police officers.

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