Crime & Justice

Cops wanted: Long Beach recruiting police officers after four years with no academies

Long Beach police chief Jim McDonnell.
Long Beach police chief Jim McDonnell.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC

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The Long Beach Police Department is recruiting again after four years of hiring freezes and delayed police academies.

The city manager’s office announced Monday that it is accepting applications for a second police academy expected to begin next year.

Fifty new recruits were selected in May to join the LBPD’s seven-month long police academy, the first in four years. Those recruits are slated to graduate in December. Before that, the city had not hired new officers since 2009.

“It’s been a long drought of not hiring police officers,” said Cmdr. Randy Allen of LBPD’s communications and training division.

The second-largest municipal police force in L.A. County has about 820 sworn officers, which is how many the department is allotted based on staffing and budget, said Allen. Prior to 2008, the police department employed 1,020 sworn officers. Allen said LBPD loses about 30 to 40 officers each year to retirement and employee relocation. Without new police academies, the size of the force shrank.

“It definitely means that we have to handle our core services,” Allen said.

Some community programs like D.A.R.E. and the Police Athletic League were eliminated over the years. Some special detective units were reduced in size and shuffled to a centralized bureau.

Allen said, generally speaking, crime rates are down in Long Beach, including violent crime. Some property crime such as residential burglaries and auto thefts are a little higher, but that changes month-to-month, he said.

This year’s police academy and the 2014 academy are “one-time” expenditures, said Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster. He said the city had about $50 million extra from oil revenues, the end of redevelopment agencies, budget cuts and pension reform.

The city is spending $2.9 million on this year’s police academy. Foster said there was money in previous years to fund the training of new recruits, but city officials worried they’d have to lay them off later.

“You would not hold a police academy if you cannot hire the graduates from it,” he said.

Foster said the savings from pension reform is ongoing and is enabling the city to hire more officers. But he wouldn’t go as far as saying there would be multiple police academies.

The pension deal gives officers 2 percent of their salary per year of service at age 50 instead of 3 percent as it was in the past. Pension contributions by officers also increased from 2 percent to 9 percent of their salary. And city’s pension costs for new police officers are lower.

“We did the right things," Foster said. "We reform pensions and cut back on any kind of expense that we could and it’s paying off now."

The application period opened Monday for the 2014 police academy and will close in September. The LBPD received more than 3,075 applicants for the May 2013 police academy.

The police department has some diversity hiring goals for the next class, said Cmdr. Allen. He said for next year, the department is looking for more women, African-American, and Asian applicants, including people who speak multiple languages.

This is the current ethnic makeup of LBPD sworn personnel:

“We’re real excited to find out what those numbers will be like,” Allen said. “We’re hoping that our recruitment efforts will pay off and help us achieve those diversity numbers we’re looking for.”

In addition to funding another police academy, the Long Beach City Council is expected to approve this week up to $600,000 to supplement overtime pay for LBPD gang unit investigators for this year and 2014.