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Friday, February 3, 2012

Tell the Council to Fund a Police and Fire Academy NOW

The public relations mill is working overtime touting how the Council Public Safety Committee (on which I serve as Vice Chair) recommended to City Council to develop a multi year police academy (no mention of a Fire Academy-- I am sure that will come later).

This is another example of the "Emperor has no clothes****" syndrome that has developed in Long Beach. "Oh my, how beautiful and wonderful" people are encouraged to say whenever one more report is asked of City Manager. And usually, I go along with the effort. But not this time.

Why? Because the two council members who recommended that we ask City Management for yet another report on funding a police academy (we have received 4 reports over the past 4 years) voted against funding a police academy last budget cycle even when the City had $18 million in excess oil revenue -- instead they voted for a new website for the City. Also the money is to be spent on cameras and software that spots where a shot is fired...but guess what? The Police Department hasn't been able to use the money and that money doesn't replace the 39 police officers who retired last and this year.

When I brought up the fact that the council rejected funding a police academy, my two colleagues responded -- "We wanted to make sure we had the money to keep the new officers once they were hired."

Well, folks, we had the money and we have the money so what is the problem now?

During the committee meeting, I asked (again) the Police Department how much it would cost to fund a police academy to replace the officers who are gone. The answer: $2.1 million. And because the 17 recruits are replacing 39 highly paid, highly experienced officers who retired (and the recruits will be coming in at a lower pension formula) the City will be able to keep them employed -- especially when council was just told we have an additional $5 million surplus from last year.

$23 million total more in revenues than projected and we ask for another report instead of getting the police academy scheduled and 17 police officers hired.

I pointed out that in the east side of Long Beach we are experiencing a 14 - 25% increase in residential burglaries (depending on which Police memo you look at) and this week an armed gunman broke into a house in Belmont Park and fired two shots at the homeowner. Meanwhile, almost every day the council receives alerts from the Police about yet another shooting or murder in other parts of the city. The lecture I received was to tell residents they need to lock their windows and doors.

Readers: Contact the City Council and the Mayor who promised 100 more police on the streets (and now we are down by over 200) and tell them to fund the police academy now. Because no matter how you look at it when it comes to public safety in Long Beach we have to stop pretending everything is okay.

*****Most frequently, the story is a metaphor that involves a situation wherein the overwhelming (usually unempowered) majority of observers willingly share in a collective ignorance of an obvious fact, despite individually recognizing the absurdity.

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