The complaints that Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin fields from his constituents often revolve around one of three topics: traffic, homelessness or the need for more police officers.
On Thursday, Bonin unveiled a plan to address the policing problem that would shift officers to neighborhoods from desk jobs and other non-patrol assignments.
Bonin is campaigning to keep his seat in a district that includes coastal neighborhoods such as Venice and Pacific Palisades. He plans to introduce a motion to the City Council Friday asking for a study of how to better deploy the LAPD’s more than 9,800 sworn officers.
The development of Playa Vista has added thousands of residents to his district, but LAPD staffing has not kept pace, Bonin said.
“Not a day goes by when I don’t hear from a constituent that it has been weeks since they’ve seen a black-and-white unit driving through their neighborhood,” Bonin said at a news conference. “Not a week goes by when I don’t hear a complaint from someone that they called LAPD, and it took forever for a unit to come, and in some cases, a unit never came.”
Bonin said he is not criticizing the work of individual police officers — he just wants to see more of them on the streets.
An LAPD spokesman said deployment decisions are difficult in a large city like Los Angeles. The department must continue to staff specialized units to combat issues such as gang violence, narcotics trafficking and domestic violence, spokesman Josh Rubenstein said in a written statement.
“It is LAPD’s top priority to ensure that all of our communities get the law enforcement they need and deserve, and that requires careful data-driven decisions on how to employ those resources to be as effective as possible,” the statement said.
Bonin’s proposal, which also involves paying overtime to ensure that there is a minimum number of officers on the streets, mirrors similar proposals by the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents rank-and-file LAPD officers.
In a recent survey of union members, 87% said their stations did not have enough officers to respond to 911 calls in a timely manner.
Craig Lally, president of the union, said that when he was a young officer more than 35 years ago, roll calls at police stations were “jam packed.” Now, he said, the meetings are virtually empty.
Another union officer, vice president Jerretta Sandoz, said patrol staffing is at a “crisis level.”
“Police officers literally run from call to call,” Sandoz said. “Community policing suffers. Response time suffers, and neighborhoods suffer.”
According to statistics obtained from the LAPD by Bonin’s office, there were about 180 patrol cars on city streets on an average day in 1969, compared with about 160 in 2016, even though the city’s population has grown by more than 1 million people.
The issue of LAPD patrol staffing is a longstanding one. Bonin cited reports dating from the 1980s that critiqued the department’s deployment strategies.
Early last year, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said the department needs to add 2,500 more officers to fight crime and respond to large-scale emergencies. But he cautioned that adding so many officers in the next few years might not be realistic.
After decades of decline, crime has risen in the city for the last three years.
In the LAPD’s Pacific Division, which includes Playa Vista, Venice, Westchester and other Westside communities, robberies were up 29% and aggravated assaults were up 14% in 2016, compared with the previous year. Over the same time period, the West Los Angeles Division saw a 17% increase in robberies and a 10% increase in aggravated assaults.
Former Venice Neighborhood Council board member Robin Rudisill, who is one of Bonin’s two opponents in the March 7 election, said she supports putting more police officers on city streets. But she questioned why Bonin has not already fixed the problem, terming his new proposal “11th-hour political posturing.”
“I don’t understand why it took him until almost the end of his term to figure this out,” Rudisill said.
Bonin’s other challenger, Venice Stakeholders Assn. President Mark Ryavec, said he has also called for more police officers. He pointed to a statement on his campaign website that urges the city to include emails as well as phone calls from the public when tallying reported incidents and determining deployment.