Los Angeles falls short of LAPD hiring goal, faces lowest officer levels in decades

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is falling significantly short of its hiring goals for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, facing its lowest staffing levels in over two decades. Despite an ambitious plan by Mayor Karen Bass to rebuild the LAPD’s workforce, projections show the department will end the year hundreds of officers below its target. The shortfall underscores the ongoing challenges facing the LAPD amid a changing workforce and debates over police funding priorities in Los Angeles.

Falling Short of Mayor’s Hiring Targets

When Mayor Bass laid out her budget proposal last year, she aimed for the LAPD to reach about 9,500 officers by June 2024. This would require hiring nearly 1,000 new officers over 12 months. However, a new report from City Administrative Officer Matt Szabo estimates the LAPD will only have 8,908 officers by the fiscal year’s end.

This leaves the department with its lowest sworn staffing since the early 2000s. It also falls nearly 600 officers short of the mayor’s stated goal. The projections suggest the ambitious hiring targets are unrealistic amid current workforce trends.

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Lowest Staffing Levels in Decades

The LAPD boasted around 10,000 officers in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic began. In mid-2020, the city council voted to reduce deployment to about 9,750 officers in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. When Mayor Bass entered office in 2022, staffing had already declined to 9,027.

Her first budget aimed to reverse the downward trend through pay increases and higher salaries. However, based on the latest projections, the department is poised to drop below 9,000 officers for the first time in over 20 years. The shrinking police force represents an ongoing challenge for city leaders.

Calls to Scale Back Hiring Goals

With the shortfall apparent, some city council members are arguing the annual budget should reduce the number of funded officer positions. Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martínez contends the goal of 9,500 officers is unrealistic given hiring difficulties. He advocates shifting certain police duties to unarmed response units.

The disconnect between funded positions and actual hires is fueling calls to right-size the budget. Rather than fund hundreds of unlikely new hires, critics say resources could be reallocated to other programs.

Ongoing Decline in Officer Numbers

Staffing Levels in Recent Years

The LAPD has faced a steady drop in staffing over the past few years:

  • 2019: ~10,000 officers
  • June 2020: Reduced to ~9,750 officers
  • 2022: Fell to 9,027 officers

New Mayor’s Efforts to Reverse Trends

To boost hiring, new Mayor Bass negotiated pay increases and higher starting salaries in 2022-2023. However, projections show these incentives have not yet reversed the ongoing slide.

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Salary Increases and Recruitment

Supporters argue the salary deal is slowing attrition and spurring recruitment. But critics say it limits funding for other priorities.

Critiques of Police Salary Deal

Some, like Councilmember Nithya Raman, say the police raises are financially irresponsible. They warn the spending will create deficits in other areas. With mixed hiring success so far, critics believe resources could be better allocated.

Slowed Attrition Rates

Despite hiring struggles, some council members contend the salary agreement has helped slow the rate of officers leaving the force. They argue that without the deal, attrition could have been even higher. The contract may be stemming losses even as new recruitment falls short.

Budget Impacts of Lower Staffing

Savings from Unfilled Positions

While problematic for public safety, the staffing shortfall does create some unexpected savings. Each unfilled officer position reduces LAPD salary costs versus original projections. This could cut $82 million from the department’s budget this year.

Crime Statistics Show Mixed Trends

With fewer officers, certain types of crime have continued to decline. Homicides are down 6% and burglaries down 7% so far this year. However, assaults and shooting victims have notably increased over the same period. So the impact of understaffing shows mixed results thus far.

Conclusion

Despite an ambitious push by Los Angeles’ mayor to rebuild its police force, the LAPD is poised to hit some of its lowest staffing levels in decades. While some see benefit in scaled back hiring goals, city leaders continue working to reverse the downward slide. Ongoing challenges around police recruitment and retention will factor heavily into future public safety plans and budget debates. Although expanded salaries aim to aid hiring, their success remains uncertain amid a tight and evolving job market.

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FAQs

What were Mayor Bass’ original hiring goals for the LAPD?

Mayor Bass aimed to reach about 9,500 LAPD officers by the end of the 2023-2024 fiscal year. This required hiring nearly 1,000 new officers over 12 months.

How many officers is the LAPD now projected to have by June 2024?

The latest projections estimate around 8,908 officers, nearly 600 short of the mayor’s goal.

When is the last time LAPD staffing levels were this low?

Staffing is projected to hit its lowest levels since the early 2000s, over 20 years ago.

How have some council members responded to the shortfall?

Some argue hiring goals should be scaled back since current targets appear unrealistic. They believe resources could be better allocated.

Has the new salary deal helped address attrition at all?

Supporters claim the salary increases have helped slow the rate of officers leaving the force, though hiring still lags goals.

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