Councilman pushes to redeploy LAPD officers
By Gary Walker
For more than five years, Westchester and Playa del Rey public safety advocates and members of their business communities have been vociferously advocating for more police patrols.
A plan announced last week by City Councilman Mike Bonin to put more LAPD officers in patrol cars has given them a reason to believe their wishes may soon become reality.
“It’s been something that we’ve been paying attention to and requesting for a very long time,” said David Voss, a Playa del Rey resident and a member of the LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee.
Against the backdrop of a police recruitment training center in Westchester, Bonin laid out a 10-point plan to bolster more community policing in his district and throughout the city by redeploying officers from various other positions to patrol units.
“Community policing is a cornerstone of public safety. Too often I hear from constituents that they rarely see a patrol car in their neighborhood, or that it takes LAPD too long to respond to an emergency call. Our neighborhoods deserve better. We need more patrol officers in Westside neighborhoods and in neighborhoods around the city,” Bonin said at the Jan. 19 press conference.
Both Bonin and Voss noted that since the planned community of Playa Vista was built in 2003, the LAPD’s Pacific Division — which patrols Westchester, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista, Del Rey, Mar Vista, Venice and other Westside neighborhoods — has not deployed any additional patrol officers.
In 2015 there was an uptick in both violent crime and property crime in the Pacific Division’s territory, according to LAPD statistics.
Through data put together during a nearly year-long effort led by council office legislative director John Gregory, Bonin learned that as the LAPD’s number of sworn officers increased from nearly 7,000 in the late 1970s to almost 10,000 today, the number of officers on patrol actually diminished.
In 1978, then-Chief Daryl Gates moved a significant number of the LAPD’s 7,016 officers away from patrol duties in favor of bolstering specialized units, according to Bonin’s office.
“Today, with more officers than at any time in the LAPD’s history, patrol deployment levels do not appear to have increased and response times do not appear to have improved,” the report states.
“The numbers paint a clear picture of where our priorities have been, and it unfortunately hasn’t been in having patrol officers in our neighborhoods,” added Bonin, who is seeking reelection in March. “We have to reevaluate, reemphasize and redeploy our officers to fit our priorities.”
On Jan. 20, Bonin submitted a motion to the City Council to instruct the LAPD and other municipal agencies to report back to the council how daily deployment and patrol staffing are determined and to return with strategies for a “more realistic and robust” patrol staffing level formula.
Elements of Bonin’s plan include redeploying sworn officers from less-essential functions and from specialized units into routine patrol support duties, creating a “constant staffing” mechanism and overtime policy to cover vacancies when officers are on leave or have retired, and prioritized hiring of essential civilian positions so that sworn officers can move to patrol.
Longtime City Hall critic Mark Ryavec, president of the Venice Stakeholders Association and one of two Venice residents running against Bonin for his council seat, accused Bonin of “stealing his proposal” for new patrols.
Ryavec noted that he has been calling on LAPD to change its operational structure for police patrols in Venice for almost four years.
“So, after three and a half years of ignoring residents’ complaints that policing levels are unsafe in Council District 11, Bonin is following my lead to change deployment protocols,” Ryavec wrote in an email.
Steven Barkan, Bonin’s campaign consultant, dismissed Ryavec as “careless with the facts” and called his claims “outlandish and inaccurate.”
Bonin’s other challenger, former Venice Neighborhood Council member Robin Rudisill, supports the proposal but also questioned its timing, calling the press conference “11th-hour posturing.”
“I don’t understand why it took him until almost the end of his term to figure this out,” Rudisill said.