At the recent weekly meeting of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, hosted by community commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Los Angeles City Council member and former police chief Bernard Parks, addressed several Los Angeles Police Department policies that result in poor police presence in many of our community's most troubled areas.
In addition, Gerald Thompson, member of the City of Inglewood Police Commission and founder of The Frontline Soldiers and Pathway to our Future, non-profit organizations involved in mentoring young people in the community and directing them away from gangs and related activities, shared the podium with Parks.
Responding to the moderator's comment that the police department has reported an overall reduction in crime in Los Angeles, Parks was hasty to indicate that the manner in which crime is reported presents an impression that crime is declining however, that perception does not extend to the reality many citizens experience in the streets.
"The community is the real measure of what is safe and what is unsafe," Parks explained. "Generally there is less crime in the entire area of the San Fernando Valley than there is in the 77th Precinct alone."
"The police department can show charts and graphs that depict whatever they wish to convey," he added. "But many residents in my district simply do not feel safe."
Parks attributes much of the community's concern for an apparent lack of police presence to the adjusted work week schedule that allows officers to work fewer days per week but with longer hours each day. "The effect of this schedule," Parks continued, "is that 35 percent of the officers who would otherwise be on patrol in our neighborhoods are off-duty."
The impact of fewer officers on duty working a more conventional shift results is reflected in the increased response times for emergency and regular police calls.
"For example," he described, "the average police response time in the Valley for emergency calls is now nine-plus minutes compared to about six minutes before the work schedule was adjusted."
What is equally alarming, he indicated while explaining that these numbers are not broadly publicized by the police department is the fact that the average police response time for regular calls, burglary and auto theft, for example, is 45 minutes to one hour.
With that level or response, Parks explained, "many of my constituents tell me that they do not bother to call the police and if they do, they do not expect any response, which leaves a large number of crimes that go un-reported."
Another factor that makes it appear as though crime is declining Parks said pertains to the current decision to refrain from reporting domestic violence cases and the manner in which individual incidences are counted. These changes in police crime reporting Parks also noted, occurred without any public review.
Continuing to make the case for greater police presence on the streets of Los Angeles, a greater deterrent to the criminal who is contemplating unlawful activity and ultimately, an actual reduction in crime on the streets, Parks explained that the criminals have figured out that there is little immediate response by the Los Angeles Police Department and that "since the adjusted workweek was established, murders in Los Angeles have never dipped below 500."
"The only advantage to the adjusted work week," Parks explained, "is the fact that the officers love it."
Since nearly 85 percent of the Los Angeles police officers do not live in the city, it is easy to conclude that they spend more of their time in other communities which does not do anything to ease the concerns of the residents of the 8th and 9th districts where most of the crime in Los Angeles occurs.
"We do not want the four day work week," he concluded. "Our 18-25 year olds are dying and our 13-19 year olds are going to prison."
The initiative for Los Angeles police to return to a work schedule that provides more police presence in our communities, greater crime-deterrents, and greater peace of mind for the citizens, rests with the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa.