Penny Wise and Crime Foolish
Introducing the Los Angeles city council, the '62 Mets of government.


“This is one of the things that happens when departments don’t live within their budget,” Parks told reporters, taking a thinly veiled slap at Bratton. Granted, it may have been easier for Parks to keep a lid on overtime when he was chief: The department was so demoralized under his autocratic regime that officers were loath to make arrests or even get out of their cars. As the number of arrests declined under Parks, to no one’s surprise the number of reported crimes increased, as did the number of bodies stacked up in the morgue. These trends were reversed virtually the moment Parks was sent packing. The decrease in crime seen under Bratton was brought about by an increase in officer productivity: In 2006, LAPD officers made 38,000 more arrests than they did in 2002.

Los Angeles is hardly suffering from a revenue crisis. An October 19 report from the city’s administrative officer said revenues for this fiscal year were $31 million above expectations, and that property tax receipts were ahead of the previous year’s record-breaking level. So, if the money is coming in in such quantities, the only questions are on how it should be spent. What good are paved streets if they’re running with the blood of shooting victims? What good are libraries, parks, and pools if people are afraid to come out of their houses to use them?

The solutions proposed to avert the LAPD’s budgetary shortfall are comically shortsighted. Officers are being discouraged from making arrests if doing so will result in overtime, and some are being told to disregard subpoenas to appear in court. There is even talk within the department of having those specialized units that ordinarily work evenings, like gang and narcotics squads, work during the day so as to eliminate court overtime. But with these officers gone from the streets at night, when most gang and drug crime occurs, how long will it be before the city’s gangsters and dope dealers take advantage of their absence?

Faced with this pending crisis, how did the L.A. city council occupy its time on Friday? By banning the use of the “N-word.” No, I’m not kidding. Even Casey Stengel would be speechless.

On an 11-0 vote, the council adopted a resolution — put forth by none other than Bernard Parks — on a “symbolic moratorium” on the use of that most politically incorrect of all ethnic slurs. The council voted after listening to testimony from attorney Gloria Allred, community activists, and the owner of the comedy club where Michael Richards infamously made such prolific use of the word last year. A Los Angeles Times story on the vote told of Councilwoman Jan Perry’s bitter experience on hearing the word. “Perry said she was so emotionally scarred after hearing the word directed at her years ago.” said the Times, “that she recoiled when she heard it used by any people, regardless of their race or ethnicity.”

“It affected me so much psychologically,” Perry said, “that I remember to this day, the name and the place and the person who used that word.”

If that’s truly the case, Perry could stand on the sidewalk in front of her district office on South Broadway for an hour and hear the word used enough times to put her on a therapist’s couch for the rest of her life. And if she were to stand there at night, hearing some coarse language would be the least of her problems, especially if she and her colleagues can’t turn from cheap symbolism to figuring out how to pay for police overtime before it’s too late.

Jack Dunphy is an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. “Jack Dunphy” is the author’s nom de cyber. The opinions expressed are his own and almost certainly do not reflect those of the LAPD management.


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