MAYOR FOSTER SAYS LONG BEACH CAN BE A SAFER CITY WITH FEWER COPSBy Bill Pearl
In a televised interview, Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster says that unless the Long Beach Police Officers Association agrees to a second consecutive modification of its contract with the City of Long Beach, layoffs are necessary because the City is paying nearly 70 percent of its budget for public safety and can’t go further without running “the risk of becoming an armed camp.”
LBReport.com provides on-demand audio of the exchange and an on-demand video link to the entire interview below.
During an interview with StraightTalkTV.com host/executive producer Art Levine (recorded on September 3 and available online on-demand now) whether he believes more cops mean less crime, Mayor Foster said that isn’t necessarily true because Long Beach cut police last year and crime went down.
When asked about a recent Rand Corporation study which indicated that cities which cut police saw increases in certain crime, Mayor Foster reiterated “that’s not necessarily true here. It’s one report. I don’t know who commissioned it.”
Asked for his response to a published statement by LBPOA President Steve James that his union’s members won’t agree to a second year of city management-sought contractual changes, Mayor Foster stated in pertinent part:
“We don’t have the money. We cannot meet our contractual obligations and the only way we can meet them is to lay people off…We’re already at nearly 70 percent of the budget for public safety. We used to be at 45 [percent] I think about ten years ago. We can’t go any further; otherwise, you run the risk of becoming an armed camp. Your libraries; your public works; things like the municipal band, all the kind of value added things, the quality of life things go away…”
Regarding the City Manager’s “Plan B” [which would cut 76 sworn positions if the Police Officers' Ass'n doesn't agree to a second year of management-sought contractual concessions], Mayor Foster said:
“If the Police [Officers] Association, the POA, believes that it’s more important to have highly paid people but fewer of them, I can’t control that. The only thing I can control is we are going to have take a stand here that public safety is not going to be beyond 70% of the budget.”
A transcript of a salient exchange follows:
Interviewer Levine: Before the segment ends Bob, let’s talk for a moment about the relationship between crime and cops. More cops means less crime, is that not true?
Mayor Foster: No, not necessarily. Crime has gone down in this city every year for the last six or seven years, and it’s gone down from last year to this year. We’ve got fewer police officers this year than we did last year. This is…
Interviewer Levine: …Then maybe we should cut more police then…
Mayor Foster: …No, look, at some point it does, you have to have a sufficient number, but this is not just about numbers. When I first became Mayor, and let me acknowledge this, I thought it was just a numbers game. You know well, ‘you have more cops, you have more safety’…
Interviewer Levine: …You wanted to add 100 cops and you campaigned on that…
Mayor Foster: …that’s right and the fiscal conditions didn’t allow that. We were about halfway there but could not meet it. But I also learned a lot. This is not just about numbers. It’s about technology and it’s about deployment. Look: we all talk about libraries and parks and recreation as being part of the public safety chain…so maybe that’s working. So maybe all the things that we did to spend on libraries and recreation are now bearing fruit.
Interviewer Levine: But the Rand Corporation recently came out with a report indicating that more police means more safety and they statistically demonstrated that.
Mayor Foster: Fine. All I can tell you is that’s not necessarily true here. It’s one report. I don’t know who commissioned it…And look: I’m sorry. We’re at the fiscal limits of this. If we don’t get the police union to be reasonable and to understand. I’d love to have all these police officers working. I cannot pay them what the contract says…I think we have a great Police Chief who in fact will make sure that we are safe, who’ll be able to use deployment and technology to a greater degree and we’ll be able to deal with this.
To hear an on-demand sound clip of the Mayor’s statements on police to host/interview Levine, click here.
To view the full StraightTalkTV interview on-demand (in which the Mayor also discusses the November ballot measure that asks voters to change City Hall’s possible share of LB Port revenue to 5 percent of Port gross revenue (instead of the present 10% of Port net revenue), click here.