Despite layoff threat, LAPD officers reject plan to raise $10 million for union war chest

David Zahniser, Richard Winton
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said in his State of the City address that he would be shifting 200 officers from elsewhere in the Police Department to its Metropolitan Division, a group that fights crime in different areas of the city. Above, at LAPD headquarters.
LAPD officers have rejected their union's plan for raising up to $10 million to fight layoffs and promote political candidates in 2022. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Officers at the Los Angeles Police Department have rejected a plan to raise $10 million to fight layoffs and support candidates in the 2022 elections, dealing a setback to a union attempting to push back against calls to defund the police.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents around 9,800 officers, asked its members last month to approve the creation of a “Protecting Our Profession” assessment, which would have collected $22 per paycheck from each officer over a nearly two-year period. Proceeds would have gone toward supporting the union's political allies, campaigning against public safety cuts and fighting new legislation.

In a statement, the union's board said that it's now looking at additional options to "ensure the interests of our membership and the public are fully protected at the local, state, and federal level."

The union confirmed that the proposal had been defeated but declined to release election results. However, one source familiar with the vote said the assessment had been defeated by a roughly two-to-one margin.

The rank-and-file officers' union has been highly influential in state and local politics, pouring millions of dollars into their favored candidates and defeating bills aimed at bringing additional transparency and accountability to law enforcement agencies.

Nevertheless, the politics around public safety have been upended since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked widespread protests against police brutality and new calls to shift money away from police and toward social services.

The City Council responded to those protests in July, cutting the LAPD budget by $150 million and setting the department on a course to have fewer officers than at any point since 2008. Council members also took a first step toward laying off as many as 355 police officers and 273 civilian employees at the LAPD, in an effort to close an estimated $675-million budget shortfall.

Mayor Eric Garcetti and other elected officials at City Hall have been hoping to avert those cuts by securing new federal funding and wringing concessions from the city's public employee unions. LAPD officers are scheduled to receive a 3.25% raise later this month and have rebuffed requests to postpone the increase so far.

Meanwhile, homicides went up nearly 38% last year compared to 2019, an increase of nearly 100 victims, according to preliminary LAPD figures. The number of shootings in L.A. has increased by a similar amount.

Had it passed, the union's proposal would have provided an influx of funding for the 2022 municipal election, when voters will select a new mayor, a new city attorney and eight members of the council. It also would have been the latest in a series of aggressive moves taken by the LAPD union this year.

The union recently erected billboards demanding that key council members offer a plan for stemming the spike in gunfire and homicides. However, those politicians are also facing demands from grassroots organizations for deeper cuts at the LAPD and growing public support for defunding of law enforcement.

A recent Loyola Marymount University poll found that more than 62% of respondents supported proposals to redirect some money from police to other local government programs. Nearly 37% said they favored the compete dismantling of the police.

Already running in the 2022 city election are candidates like Albert Corado, an activist who has called for the abolition of the LAPD. Corado, whose sister was shot to death by police during a 2018 gun battle with a suspect outside a Trader Joe's in Silver Lake, said he has talked to at least three council candidates who intend to campaign on proposals for defunding the police.

"I'm running a campaign that is actively hostile towards law enforcement. That's just who I am," said Corado, who is running for council in an Echo Park-to-Hollywood district. "For me there's really no other option. I've grown up here and I've seen the LAPD terrorize this city."

Activists have taken credit for the ouster of Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, who lost her race for reelection in November despite more than $1 million in financial support from the LAPD union. Leftist groups also succeeded in electing urban planner Nithya Raman to the council, in a district that stretches from Hancock Park to Silver Lake and Sherman Oaks.

During the campaign, Raman had argued in favor of making the LAPD a "much smaller specialized armed force," a move she said would leave officers better rested and more attentive to violent crime.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.