Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers are retiring in droves, and its chief is struggling to recruit replacements while certain categories of violent crime are on the rise.
“We, unfortunately, are losing experienced officers, trained officers, and they're resigning,” Tom Saggau, spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Protective League—the union which represents most of the department’s force—told The Epoch Times.
“They're leaving to other jurisdictions that are paying more where there's much less scrutiny and where there's much more trust.”
Other departments that officers are opting for are those with the cities of Anaheim and Santa Ana, about 30 miles south of Los Angeles, according to Saggau.
“We have an exodus of officers, that recruiting only helps so much, so we got to retain who we have as well,” he said.
Saggau said he predicts the department could drop below 9,000 officers this year. The department has lost nearly 1,000 since 2019 and stands at 9,094 sworn personnel as of April.
LAPD officer Deon Joseph, speaking on behalf of himself and not the LAPD, told The Epoch Times that the reason police are leaving forces nationwide is because of the “rhetoric” seen on social media.
“It's very difficult to get people to want to join the police forces because of the rhetoric. It has been so strong over the last six or seven years,” said Joseph, who worked on Skid Row for more than two decades.
“There are cities across America who have completely turned [its] backs on police officers, city officials who have bought into the anti-police rhetoric, and basically let police officers know that they're just a necessary evil instead of an important part of the city family.”
But in a bid to strengthen law enforcement citywide, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass believes that she can strengthen the department with more spending, according to her $13 billion 2023–24 fiscal budget summary released last month.
Bass wants to increase the department’s budget by less than 1 percent, which would bring its total for the year—which starts July 1—to $3.24 billion. She also wants to increase the force by at least 400 officers by the end of 2024.
Her budget—which must be adopted or modified by the Los Angeles City Council by June 1—allocates $1 million toward recruiting new officers, including signing bonuses of up to $15,000 and hiring additional civilian employees as 911 operators. The plan also includes bringing back retired officers.
“The budget supports urgent efforts to grow the police department,” Bass’s recently-hired budget director, Bernyce Hollins, said during a hearing on the issue on April 26. “The mayor has indicated she feels bold action is needed to change the downward trend in the size of LAPD. This is a diverse city, and there is no one solution that fits all.”
During the hearing, Hollins said Bass understands some of the city’s 15 councilmembers may not agree with the need for additional police but that the mayor was committed to beefing up the force to 9,504 officers.
To divert lower-priority calls away from the LAPD, Bass is also investing in unarmed crisis response teams for mental health and homeless-related calls.
The LAPD’s proposed budget makes up about 25 percent of the overall city budget.