L.A.‘s Alarm Plan Stuck in Crossfire With Need to Hire More Officers


Los Angeles’ new burglar-alarm response policy appears stalled in the L. A. Police Commission and could become a victim of the issue raging between Mayor James Hahn and the City Council over hiring more cops.

More than a month ago, the Police Commission agreed to consider a “three strikes, you’re out” policy for false burglar alarms after a citizens task force recommended it and the council later backed it. The policy was developed to replace a controversial one, which the commission adopted in January but has not yet instituted, that would ban the Los Angeles Police Department from responding to most tripped residential and burglar alarms.

The alternative policy has yet to be put on the commission’s agenda, and police officials won’t say for sure when it will be.

“I am getting concerned right now,” said San Fernando Valley businessman Ken Gerston, a member of the task force, according to the The Daily News. “It looks like sandbagging, and I don’t know why.”

Leonard Shaffer, one of the Valley’s representatives on the task force, added, “I hope it’s delayed because they are giving it more careful consideration.”

The newspaper stated police commissioners and their staff say that’s what they’re doing. LAPD Commander Dan Koenig, the commission’s new executive director, said members intend to give the alternative policy the serious consideration promised in April.

But the recent fight that erupted between the City Council and the LAPD over hiring more cops cast a shadow over the council-backed alternative policy, making its future less certain.

“We’re going to give it a fair shake,” Rick Caruso, president of the commission, said Friday. “But I do think (the budget) situation makes it more complicated.”

Mixed messages are coming from City Hall officials on this issue and others, he said.“There’s a lot of inconsistencies that are troubling to me,” Caruso said. “On the one hand, they want us to go back to a policy where we’re responding to false alarms. And on the other hand, they don’t want to fund the reorganization or more officers on the street.”

Commissioner David Cunningham III said the budget battle will make it tougher to roll back the ban on most alarm responses not verified by a person on the scene. “I’ve always maintained that the verified alarm policy is a deployment issue. And here we’re faced with how to manage such minimal resources.”

With the police department’s personnel stretched thin, the commission in January adopted a new policy banning officers from responding to ringing residential and burglar alarms – except at banks, stores that sell weapons, government buildings and city officials’ homes – unless verified by a person at the scene. The plan would free up about 15 percent more patrol time for stopping real crimes, officials estimate.

In April, the task force emerged from two months of weekly meetings with an alternative plan for response to stop only after three false alarms from a site, with incremental false-alarm fees to bring in money for deployment.

But now police are examining whether they can support the compromise if elected officials don’t make a commitment to hire more officers.

Councilwoman Hahn, who led the fight for a compromise, said it is unfortunate that the task force’s policy might become a casualty of the budget dispute. “I think they probably will use this as a wedge issue,” Hahn said, “which is unfortunate because I think we can implement the revised policy now.”

Chief William Bratton, who championed the Police Commission’s nonresponse policy, has shown he’s not going to sit quietly and accept a directive from City Hall that doesn’t serve his public safety plan.

Gerston said he’s less sure the commission will ever get to the task force’s recommended policy without some prompting.

“They have to be kicked,” Gerston said. “The chief was negative to the proposal. … They need to have a little fire under them. This has to be heard in the next two weeks.”

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