Mayor says ‘bold’ spending plan includes funds to aggressively recruit hundreds of LAPD officers.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass’ proposed $13 billion budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year includes a historic investment of nearly $1.3 billion to combat the homeless crisis, as well as plans to aggressively recruit new officers to staff up the city’s police force, with a goal of adding about 400 sworn officers by June of next year.
Calling it a “bold” budget, Bass said her goal is to make deep, yet sustainable, changes.
“There is a difference between spending and investing,” the mayor said at a Tuesday, April 18, press conference to discuss her proposed spending plan. “This budget makes investments to bring people inside, and public safety, and in other areas that will net a return in terms of lives saved, in terms of quality of life and better neighborhoods. And it will save the city money in the long run.”
Of the $1.3 billion allocated toward homeless services — an increase of $113.7 million over the current fiscal year — $250 million would be used to scale up Inside Safe, the mayor’s signature initiative to move people from homeless encampments to indoors.
Another $47 million would go toward purchasing motels or hotels to house the homeless, which the Bass administration said would be cheaper over the long term than paying nightly room rental rates to hotel and motel owners, as the city is currently doing.
The proposed budget also includes $150 million in Measure ULA dollars for homeless programs. Voters approved Measure ULA, a tax on the sale of properties worth more than $5 million, in November. It is expected to generate $600 million to $1.1 billion annually for the city.
Due to ongoing litigation that is challenging the ballot measure, Bass said she only included $150 million in ULA funds in next year’s budget so that, should a judge strike down Measure ULA, the city would still have enough money to repay the $150 million due to FEMA reimbursement dollars owed to it by the federal government.
In terms of public safety, Bass, as she noted in her State of the City address on Monday, said her budget provides funding to launch an aggressive campaign to recruit new officers for the Los Angeles Police Department.
According to the mayor’s office, about $4.7 million would be allocated to efforts to recruit police officers. This includes $500,000 each for the personnel department’s public safety recruitment and for LAPD’s sworn officer recruitment; nearly $3.65 million in sworn officer hiring bonuses; and $50,000 for a police officer recruitment incentive program.
Specifically Bass proposed bonuses worth up to $15,000 for new officers and up to $2,000 for city employees who refer people to join the police force. The city also plans to tap recently retired officers to return for up to 12 months while the LAPD works on staffing up through new, permanent hires.
For years, LAPD had about 10,000 sworn officers employed at a time, but that figure has dwindled to just over 9,100, and recruitment has been challenging. Bass has set a goal of 9,504 officers by the end of June 2024.
“This is (an) ambitious goal, but we must be bold to change the downward trend in the size of the LAPD as we work to restore the department to its full size,” Bass said.
At the same time, she highlighted a new Office of Community Safety, which would employ intervention and social workers, clinical psychologists and other experts to handle certain 911 calls when an armed officer may not be needed.
Some councilmembers oppose increasing the LAPD’s budget and, in fact, would like to see money transferred from that department to other areas of the budget.
“It’s clear that the number of sworn officers will continue to decrease regardless of what considerations go into the budget,” Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez said in a statement.
“That continued attrition of LAPD officers has left millions of unspent dollars in the public safety budget,” he added, “and our priority is to invest that money in programs that address some of the most common 911 calls: like homelessness, mental health, and drug treatment — so we can alleviate the burden on police officers and improve public safety for the community.”
Bass acknowledged that not everyone on the council will support her proposal to ramp up the number of sworn officers, and said she’ll focus on their shared goals, like investing in the Office of Community Safety.
“I am really happy and proud of the relationship that I’ve developed with every single member of the City Council, including those who I know are not going to be supportive of that part of the budget (to increase the police force), and I understand that,” she said.
“I don’t expect for them to cheer about an increase in size, but the reality is … our numbers for law enforcement are way down, just like they are around the country, and there is no reason to think that we are not going to drop to a historically low number of police officers.”
The mayor’s plan to increase the LAPD force does not sit well with all Angelenos.
Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles, said she and others have scheduled a meeting with Bass next week to share the findings of a community survey that a coalition led by BLM-LA is conducting regarding how taxpayers want their money spent. Abdullah said she hopes the mayor will be “moved” by the findings, to change her position.
“As violent crime continues to drop … as our children are preparing to be out of school for the summer, and with potholes all over the streets of L.A., there are many ways to be spending dollars, and more money for police isn’t one of them,” Abdullah said.
City Council President Paul Krekorian, meanwhile, said in a statement that the mayor’s proposed spending plan “reflects priorities we share” — namely housing and homelessness, mental health and public safety.
It recognizes, Krekorian said, “our needs for more personnel – police, firefighters, emergency personnel, unarmed mental health responders and civilian staff – to respond to our public safety needs. More paramedics and more 911 operators means shorter response times to emergency calls, and a safer, healthier city.”
Bass’ proposed budget includes funding to hire more firefighters and paramedics; provide additional support for animal services; promote local, small, minority and women-owned businesses; bolster tourism ahead of the 2026 World Cup and 2028 Olympics; and make investments to protect the environment.
The City Council’s budget committee will hold meetings to discuss the proposed budget over the next several weeks. The full council has until June 1 to adopt a budget for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1.