LB Ran Out of Cops. How’d That Happen?

By: 
Bill Pearl

By the 4 p.m. hour on May 31, a day after a large peaceful L.A. demonstration turned into looting, LBPD began seeking “mutual aid” from other nearby jurisdictions. By the 5 p.m. hour, looting began at the Pike and spread northward and eastward. By 8 p.m., Long Beach asked Sacramento to send the National Guard.

It’s unlikely any city could handle the extent of looting that followed without some assistance but numerically Long Beach had been left vulnerable in ways city officialdom had for years tried to downplay.

By the numbers: Long Beach – L.A. County’s second largest city – currently provides its businesses and residents with a budgeted sworn police level so thin that it’s roughly equivalent per capita to cutting over a third of L.A.’s police level.

Long Beach’s Mayor/Council currently budget roughly 1.6 officers per thousand residents. By comparison, L.A.’s Mayor/Council budget closer is to 2.5 officers per thousand residents (not including Airport/Port police.)  Signal Hill budgets over 3.0 sworn officers per thousand residents for its taxpayers.

It wasn’t always like this. Entering the 2008 budget year, Long Beach had roughly 2.0 officers per thousand residents. What happened?

Mayor Bob Foster took office on a pledge to put 100 more officers on the street in his first four years in office ... and was on his way to keeping that promise. But when the economy slowed, the stock market tanked and the “Great Recession” began, Foster responded by recommending, and the council (which included then-Councilman Robert Garcia) voted to approve “proportional budget reductions.”

Over the next five years, the council voted to erase the largest number of police officers for L.B. taxpayers in the more than 100-year history of the City of Long Beach.

Mayor Foster subsequently obtained pension reforms from the city’s public employee unions (including police and fire) but the damages were done. Before the reductions, the city budgeted 944 officers plus a replenishment academy class. After the reductions spanning several years, L.B. taxpayers ended up with 208 fewer budgeted officers (Council funded, not contracted/paid by the Port, LGB, LBUSD, LBCC, L.B. Transit, Carmelitos Housing and Metro.)

Other area cities didn’t cut 20% of their police levels to weather the “Great Recession.”

Since then, with an economy Mayor Garcia said (prior to COVID-19) was “booming,” the Council has restored 22 of the 208 erased officers, leaving L.B. without roughly 186 citywide deployable budgeted officers that L.B. taxpayers had, but no longer have.

After L.B. voters approved the 2016 Measure A sales tax increase, Mayor Garcia proposed and the Council approved a FY17 budget that restored  eight ofthe 208 erased officers. The council approved it. In early 2017, Councilman/then-Vice Mayor Rex Richardson pressed to restore Rescue 12 plus 9 additional officers...and the council did so, restoring a total of 17 officers in FY17.

In FY18. the Mayor/Council restored no additional citywide deployable officers.

For FY19, Mayor Garcia recommended restoring six citywide deployable (bicycle patrol) officers while city management proposed shifting one officer to an Airport-contracted position, producing a net increase of 5 additional citywide deployable budgeted officers. The Mayor didn’t change his recommended figure for FY20 and no Councilmember(s) offered contrary motions. The bottom line: 17 (2017) plus 5 (2018) = 22 budgeted officers restored (as of 2020.)

LB’s FY20 budget included 851 total officers with 97 contracted/paid to handle policing for the Port, LGB, LBCC, LBUSD, L.B. Transit, Carmelitos Housing and Metro’s Blue Line.  While handling the contracted tasks, they’re not available for neighborhood calls for service, effectively leaving L.B. citywide with 754 budgeted citywide deployable officers (851 - 97 = 754.)

Mayor Garcia has defended the current pace of restorations, telling sometimes skeptical audiences that LBPD crime stats show “crime is down.” 

Whether recent events will lead a Council majority to restore further officers, and how many, remains to be seen. COVID-19 is projected to leave City Hall with revenue shortfalls.

City management has previously indicated that restoring 10 LBPD officers (“fully turned out” with equipment) can be roughly estimated for budget planning to cost about $2 million.

Bill Pearl publishes lbreport.com, an online source for news and views since 2000.

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Comments

You are blaming policing problems to the number of officers the city has? instead of what it really is, INCOMPETENCE. That's laughable..A city this size has enough police officers they are just not used in a proper way. Why don't you look at where these cops are assigned and their rank.! it seems that this department has more administrative officers than patrol officers, in other words too many chiefs not enough Indians (no disrespect intended to Native Americans). The amount of Sergeants and other above ranks is ridiculous for a department this size. These admin officers get paid way over 120K a year not including the OT they scam!! recently COP Luna add an Assistance COP (Hebesh) to the ranks, god only knows what he gets paid. WTF!! Luna needs help managing a department our size?! If he does then he can handle the job and needs to be fried!!! His performance these pass few days showed he is right about not being able to do the Job. Who the hell would approve this stupid decision? Let me take a guess, every one in the city LOL!! We don't need more cops that get paid over 100k we need oversight of police spending and better cops that will work and not stand around!! Hello!!! It does not take a rocket scientist to see the obvious. Don't get me wrong am pro police but against incompetence and wasteful spending of our TAX dollars.

Why did Mayor Garcia wait three hours to request help from the National Guard? He should have requested help as soon as he realized the police could not contain the crowd. He is to blame for the damage and looting. He did not protect the residents and businesses. It was a dereliction of duty.

Flatfooted, keystone cops, less than truthful Chief Luna, go slow appeasing Garcia. All come to forefront when hearing how Long Beach was TRASHED while lazy city leaders left the activities to crowd corruption running the streets. Where is law enforcement? Did MAJOR GARCIA believe he could talk the crowd into this council hypnotic nonsense?
LONG BEACH leadership was robbed by major mundane mayor and the police chief while the crowds robbed and pilfered throughout the city!

All this happened because the MAJOR miscreant mayor and LAZY LUNA did not see the obvious threat that most others saw when they boarded up their businesses! Who would want to open a business in this lawless town? LB CITY coddles crowds while ignoring those paying business license fees, property taxes and spending years investing in this city.

LONG BEACH LEADERSHIP has some real explaining to do to the business community and property owners. Once again Long Beach loses by its liberal lazy leadership! We all know that early arrival of the national guard could have prevented this. Instead the ineffective major mayor really thought "talking nice" to a hooligan crowd was the answer.

WHO IS SURPRISED HOW LOONEY THIS CITY LEADERSHIP IS?

Garcia has already defunded the police after getting a tax increase to restore PD.
He's ahead of the curve again!

From 1976 to 1992, the number of Long Beach sworn patrol officers remained steady at approximately 300. The number of sworn patrol officers doubled to 600 between 1993 and 2003 and gradually rose to 750 sworn patrol officers since then. Except for a brief period when former Mayor Foster hired 100 sworn patrol officers and then laid them off, Long Beach has had approximately 750 sworn patrol officers for nearly 20 years.

Long Beach police track the number of phone calls they get asking for their help. These calls for service have remained pretty much constant over the past 40 years at around 200,000 calls per service per year, regardless of how many patrol officers were employed.

As you might expect, Long Beach police also track the number of crimes that occur in Long Beach every year. What you might not expect is LBPD considers something to be a crime ONLY if an officer completes and submits a crime report. If you call LBPD when your car or bike is stolen, LBPD does not count it as a crime unless an officer submits a crime report indicating it was stolen. If a crime report isn’t submitted by the officer, the crime never happened.

Long Beach averaged 50,000 crimes per year from 1976 to 1992 when Long Beach had 300 patrol officers. Then something counter-intuitive happened. The number of crimes reported in Long Beach started dropping as additional patrol officers were hired, settling out today at around 30,000 crimes per year. How does that make any sense? The number of patrol officers increased 100% between 1993 and 2020, but the number of police reports of crime dropped 40%. A sensible person would expect the number of police reports of crime should have increased 100% when the number of patrol officers doubled. But that’s not what happened. Crime, as reported by LBPD dropped nearly in half, all while the number of calls for service remained the same.

Further review of the data indicates 30% of calls for service resulted in a police crime report when Long Beach had 300 patrol officers, but it dropped to 15% when Long Beach expanded to 750 patrol officers. Likewise, each patrol officer submitted an average of 13 crime reports per month when Long Beach had 300 patrol officers. This number has dropped to an average of 4 crime reports per month when Long Beach expanded to 750 patrol officers.

I argue the data suggests crime fighting was best when LBPD had 300 sworn patrol officers and only got worse as more patrol officers were added. I suspect part of this is because LBPD strives to maintain the appearance of low crime in the city by intentionally not submitting crime reports. Remember, its not a crime unless an officer submits a crime report. It’s likely that bicycle you reported to LBPD as stolen was not reported as a crime because the officer you talked to didn't submit a crime report. An argument can certainly be made for defunding LBPD to improve policing.

I agree with with 100%, police officer are not taking report as their job requires. I have personally seen as officer try very hard in convincing my friend the victim of a theft not to file a report. They spend 40 minutes trying to get out of filing a report that would have taken them 10 minutes to file that report, with the advancements in computer systems they have access to. Let's not even bring up the fact about the reports that a person is talked out of by supervisors when a citizens wants to file a complaint against a police officer. They come out pretending to be concerned and horrified by the citizens allegations and then say "ok, i'll have a talk with that officer" never filing a complaint against the officer. That is why we have all this misconduct by police. The reason these cops are so lazy is because they get paid over 100k a year and never have to be held accountable for anything. This is all a failure of the leadership. We need not only to reduce their budget, we need real oversight by a community group and most of all fire the corrupt leadership, starting with the COP LUNA!!!!!!!.

I don't believe its laziness. Like you said, they go out of their way to NOT take a police report. In my opinion, it is a concerted effort on the part of law enforcement to make themselves look good by keeping crime statistics low. The easiest way of doing that is to not report the crime. Remember, it never happened if there isn't a report. Even when an officer does his job and writes up a crime report, nothing prevents the crime report from being discarded before being submitted and entered into the system.

LBPD will never tell you this, but there is one thing every person should do who reports a crime. That one thing is to request the DR# from the reporting officer. The DR# is the reference number for every crime report that is submitted. It is listed at the top of the police crime report form the officer completes at the scene. If you call to LBPD to get an update on the crime investigation, you need to reference the DR#. You will know whether the officer threw away the crime report if the DR# never got into the system. Not asking for the DR# increases the chance the crime report will be thrown away.

I think it is relevant to point out Bill Pearl, the author of this story and the owner of LBReport.com, is part of the problem. Mr. Pearl and I have had many lively conversations over the years and agree on a great many societal issues. One issue we don’t agree on is police brutality and racism. I, for one, think it is a huge problem.

Back when we were friends, back when I would donate to LBReport.com, I frequently asked Mr. Pearl why he wasn’t reporting LBPD misconduct stories that were carried by other Medias. This goes back years. Two years ago, Mr. Pearl banned me from commenting on LBReport.com articles following the below email.

From: Mike Ruehle
Sent: Dec 7, 2018 7:03 PM
To: Bill Pearl <mail@LBReport.com>
Subject: Veteran Long Beach police officer awarded $2.5 million in retaliation suit

The absence of your reporting of this headline which is reported by EVERY other Long Beach media is another glaring example of your continued bias to protect the police at all costs. The police vs public controversy continues to escalate. No wonder the public is abandoning most medias. Can't trust them for unbiased reporting.

Mike Ruehle

Mr. Pearl pretty much publishes an editorial column every week, offering his opinion on a wide range of topics, from government transparency to candlelight vigils. However, increased police staffing is his most common topic by far and is in lock-step with the police union. In contrast, Mr. Pearl’s editorials have been strangely silent on the worldwide topic of police brutality and recent demonstrations on racism. While most editorial staffs around the country have been outspoken in their condemnation of both and are calling to defund police departments, Mr. Pearl uses the moment to stump for more cops. As owner and editor of LBReport.com, Mr. Pearl and his pro-cop reporting is part of the problem.

Thank you for calling out this hypocritical boot licker. I bet his one of those people who goes around showing that look alike police badge the union gives out to people who donate large amounts money to them to help them get out of citations and get special treatment by police officers. Isn't illegal to show fake Badges and to supply them?

Officers on the front line were not allowed to act. They tried and were ordered not to. Luna was not prepared. He said 7-8 businesses were looted? He must have meant in one area. Officers watched looters and had to leave businesses open for more because they were so outnumbered and mismanaged with staffing. At least 50 officers were standing around at a command post waiting for an assignment.
Meanwhile where was the Chief and his staff? Hiding out at the fire station. The officers never even saw them. What an embarrassment for the city and citizens. LBPD knows they let the business owners down to say the least. Bring McDonnell back.

Guess again, I agree but that is exactly what this protest was about " Police Accountability". So where are the honest and hardworking police officers that wanted to enforce the laws but were prevented? Why are these officers not speaking up against this incompetent COP and his incompetent staff!!! Why are they silent on this? Why, because they are covering up more police misconduct but from the top. Am sure they are all saying to one another, stay quite, if we cover up for COP Luna's incompetents, he will cover for our misconduct later..But, wrong he will trow them under the bus as soon as things get hot.

It's called complicity. It's what happens when law enforcement kneels on someone's neck until they are dead an the other officers involved do nothing to prevent it.

The hard working police are there, however they are forced into a code of silence. For example, LBPD officer Alex Lawrence his job Field Training Officer Coordinator. He assures that officers and the department adhere to POST requirements. When he pursued a case when the department was out of policy, he was told by a deputy chief go back to patrol or find another job. He was over looked for promotions even though he was the best qualified. He received no help from the Police Officers Association in which he is a paying member. All of this occurred under Chief Luna. He eventually filed suit for retaliation, of course the city line up a team to testify against him. LBPD does not realize outside of the city their illegal tactics of harassment, bullying, and retaliation will be recognized. Officer Lawrence was awarded 2.5 million for retaliation. Officers don't want to be retaliated against so instead the remain quiet,

If a good, hard working cop turns his head and doesn't say anything when he witnesses another cop commit a crime, is he still good?

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