U.S. Rep. Karen Bass unveiled her public safety plan on Tuesday, saying that as mayor she would move 250 Los Angeles police officers out of desk jobs and into patrols, while ensuring that the department returns to its authorized strength of 9,700 officers.
Bass said she would push to hire hundreds of additional civilian employees at the LAPD, in a bid to free up officers from performing clerical duties. She also called for the department to add more detectives and investigators, noting that the LAPD solved slightly just over half of the city’s murders in 2020.
In a letter accompanying her plan, Bass concluded that residents of Los Angeles “don’t feel safe today.”
“Whether you’ve had your car broken into, your backpack stolen, your property damaged — or you’ve seen news coverage of home robberies, or violent assaults — more and more Angelenos I speak with tell me crime has touched them personally, and they feel scared,” said Bass, a Democrat who has been in Congress for more than a decade.
The proposal could put Bass at odds with some of the city’s activist groups, who have argued for years that the city should cut the Police Department budget and shift the proceeds into affordable housing, mental health counselors and other social services. As early as June 2020, she told the Washington Post that the phrase “defund police” was “one of the worst slogans ever.”
Bass released her proposal in the same week that Rick Caruso, a former police commission president who has long emphasized public safety, is expected to announce his decision on whether he will run for mayor in the June 7 election. And Bass is only the latest mayoral candidate to lay out her spending priorities for the LAPD, which is confronting a surge in gun violence and homicides.
Last year, homicides hit their highest level since 2006, the year that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa embarked on his plan to expand the size of the LAPD by 1,000 officers. The number of shooting victims in L.A. last year were up more than 50% compared with 2019, the last full year before the onset of COVID-19.
In mid-January, the LAPD had just over 9,500 officers — nearly 200 below its authorized staffing.
City Atty. Mike Feuer, another candidate in the June 7 mayoral contest, said last year that the city should “reject calls to defund law enforcement” and return the LAPD to 10,000 officers, the number it had at the onset of COVID-19.
In recent weeks, Bass has highlighted the LAPD’s problems with attrition, with officers leaving at a faster rate than new ones are being hired. On Tuesday, she said she would also work to expand the LAPD’s Community Safety Partnerships, a program that places police officers in the same community for several years and assigns them to work closely with gang intervention workers.
Bass said she would assign the city’s personnel department to recruit officers who are “invested in reform.” And she promised to direct financial help to businesses recovering from “smash and grab” thefts.
“Bass understands that there are no ‘victimless’ crimes,” the plans says. “Property crimes devastate families and small businesses.”
Times staff writer Kevin Rector contributed to this report.