There have been calls recently to “Abolish the Police”. I realize this is very energizing to some, but I don’t imagine anyone wants no one to come to their assistance in a violent experience, nor when they are being robbed. So getting rid of law enforcement entirely is obviously not a very pragmatic idea. Instead, City Council must reduce the LBPD’s share of the general fund in order to force the department to restructure itself and cut the waste. Almost 50% of the general fund goes to the Police Department, and I think that this moment in our history provides us with a good opportunity to redistribute your tax dollars elsewhere where it is more desperately needed such as social services, or small business development.
We are in problems right now, because our original concept has been bent out of shape. What originally were to be securers of freedom have become feared forces on the streets. This is never a healthy thing for a democracy. Without the support of the people, police forces invariably become enforcers of dictatorship (whether political or financial) It is incumbent upon us to keep our police within the parameters of our civil discourse.
When reviewing our situation in Long Beach, it became quite obvious to me that one of the solutions to reforming the police was to integrate our police force into the general population. I would change the dynamic to have officers get out of their patrol cars and interact with our people. Becoming familiar with our neighbors would be a game-changer. Community Policing is sorely needed and needed right now.
I also discovered that we have a management branch in the Police Department that has grown exponentially and become bloated.
It is the nature of all bureaucracies to expand from within. We once had clearly defined roles for our Police Management. The purpose of that structure was to facilitate communication between the citizens and the police and the police with their upper command. Somewhere along the line and with the years, the Police Department decided they needed more management. Instead of direct communication we now have a series of ricocheting communications before anything gets down to the officers themselves.
This past week, and a 1 hour and 45 minute one-on-one discussion with Chief Luna, I was told that the lack of response from the police department came from the supervisors on the ground. Then we found out that several of those supervisors and their officers who were “thrown under the bus” by the Chief have decided to come out and testify to what actually happened. The order to “Stand Down” was from the TOP. I kept asking the questions of the Chief, redirecting some questions which overlaid previous statements to get to the essence of the truth. Eventually, Chief Luna proclaimed that the lack of police response was due to a “breakdown in communication”. I would suggest this is a tidy summation for those officers who have been so defamed.
I bring this meeting up as it illustrates the deeply engrained problem with our LBPD. It is not merely a “lack of communication” it is a penchant to disassemble, to lie, and to fabricate regardless of whom it harms. This lack of ethical conduct is unbecoming an officer or a gentleman/woman. We simply cannot survive if the LBPD management is in the business of telling falsehoods and not taking responsibility.
Frankly, I am amazed that I am the only person either running for an office or in City Council that demanded and got a person to person meeting with the Chief of Police. That tells you a lot about what a mess we are in. The only person in City Council to question the Chief of Police was Suzie Price of the Third District, and she summarily stopped her questioning when confronted with the Chief’s bald-faced lies. I understand her frustration, but that is the responsibility of City Council to delve deep, especially in times of trouble to get at the root of an issue and a problem.
To his point, however, the claim that there was a breakdown in communication sounds plausible because we have added so many positions to the upper management of the LBPD. We were not content it seems with a direct line of communication. Chief to Division Commanders to Watch Commanders. Now we have all sorts of middle management, assistant, this that and the other thing, communications officers… Really” Way to go!. Assistants to Commanders, Chiefs, even deputy chiefs all filling roles so that nobody has to take responsibility to tell the truth to anyone. We have hired policy consultants, community “outreach” officers, officers in charge of almost every contingency.
The pièce de résistance is hiring 8 officers for the homeless, and their job is to only talk with the homeless. Since our City has not certified the number of beds for the homeless count (an undercounted 1895 this year) these officers (2 per Division) go out and have lovely conversations with homeless people. We cannot take them to the Multi-Service Center for the Homeless, as we haven’t certified the beds, yet we pay full wages and full benefits for 8 officers who have nothing really to do but wander around, make “housecalls” for service in response to citizens’ complaints, and in the end drive away to the chagrin of all involved. Until we have a “Things to do” for these officers we should not put them in these unwarranted positions which are a waste of taxpayer dollars. It is not as if there were no shootings, murders, and strong-armed robberies in this City of late.
I must inform you, however, that the LBPD apparently doesn’t care about wasting your tax dollars as the POA has generously donated to every tax increase in the past decade to fund such waste and keep you in the dark.
I propose a positive solution.
Have the City Council hire a person of worth to discover the management structure of a well-provisioned and structured Police Department elsewhere in the USA. We don’t always have to re-invent the wheel. Others have figured out about waste. At the very least we will have a report back telling us what is endemically wrong with all departments and where they overlap, the consistency of mismanagement is in all departments, and a clear directive about how to restructure the command here locally.
I do not profess to know every single position in our Police Department, but I know several, and many of these officers and management staff are nice people. In the end, although I may like you, I may ask that a better system be formulated to create a more efficient and communicative LBPD.
We need desperately to decommission some of these management staff and bring our LBPD back down to earth and community conversations. Only then will be able to get a handle on violence in our communities. A separation between citizens and police can only breed hostility and mistrust.