Non-Response Policy in L.A. Can Go Into Effect in 60 Days
The Los Angeles Police Department expects to stop responding to unverified burglar alarms in 60 days after a new policy pushed by Chief William Bratton survived a City Council veto effort Jan. 29.
Bratton has called the policy—which would require verification of an alarm by a person or video before police respond, and was approved in early January by the Los Angeles Police Commission—an important step in his effort to make the police department more efficient and effective. “The 15% of the patrol resources we now spend chasing false alarms … that 15% of officer activity could be focused in the parks, in the schoolyards, on the streets – prioritized, focused patrols in areas where we know we have problems,” Bratton said, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.
Police Commission Executive Director Joe Gunn said there are so many false alarms now that the calls are given low priority, meaning that officers often take 45 minutes or more to respond. Under the new policy, once a call is verified, the police will respond with a high priority, arriving in 10 minutes or less, Gunn said.
The move has been vigorously opposed by alarm companies, homeowners groups and some council members. Opponents argued that it would leave owners of homes with alarms vulnerable to criminals.
Still, at the Jan. 28 council meeting, those seeking to veto the policy could muster only eight votes, when 10 were needed. Six members, including the council president, supported the policy, the article stated.
At this point, the city council can legally vote again on the issue by Feb. 4, but Bratton and key council members said they do not believe that the votes required to scuttle the policy will materialize.
The council action came after the Police Commission agreed to delay implementing the policy for 60 days to allow a task force to look at alternatives that might reduce the number of false alarms.
If the policy is not vetoed by Feb. 4, and if the Police Commission decides not to adopt the task force recommendations, it will automatically take effect 60 days from Jan. 28, without the council being able to intervene again, according to council rules.
Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who led the fight for the veto, while her brother, Mayor James Hahn, supports the chief’s policy, called on the Police Commission to schedule the policy for a second vote after the task force submits its recommendations. A second commission vote would allow the council to again exercise its veto powers.
However, Police Commission President Rick Caruso said he will not schedule a second vote on the policy and that he and his fellow commissioners plan to stand firm on the policy. “We’re not going to change our policy or our votes,” Caruso said, according to the article. “We are going to move ahead on it.”
If the City Council overturns the policy and sends it back to the commission, “we would send it back [to them] again without any changes,” Caruso said. At the same time, Caruso said, the 60-day delay was appropriate to give residents more notification of the change, educate the public about the policy and properly train officers, something that the department was planning to do anyway.
Howard Sunkin, a lobbyist for the alarm industry, said the vote to create a task force was “a clear message that the public needs to be consulted before a final policy is developed.”
“The alarm industry is grateful for that,” he said.
Council members have received hundreds of phone calls, faxes, e-mails and letters from constituents – some rallied by the alarm industry and their lobbyists – to oppose the policy.
The compromise approved by the council will create a task force within 10 days that will be made up of representatives of the LAPD, the alarm industry, neighborhood councils, citizen police advisory boards and city officials. City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski said she sees the task force’s role as working out ways to verify that alarms are genuine.
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