Speaking to CNN, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said the city's budget woes and a related 10 percent decrease in the LAPD budget have already translated to less police on the mean streets of L.A.
"We already have reduced funding for the police department," he said. "We had to come up with a way to make up for a $100 million shortfall this year, which is right around 10 percent of our total budget. We did that by changing the way we reimburse overtime. This is not only a reduction in pay for the officers because they no longer get overtime, it is also a reduction of the number of police who are on the street at any given time."
Beck says the budget crunch has already affected the department's policing style -- "all you're able to do is respond to emergencies" -- and its morale. "You're not able to spend any time working on solutions, you're just constantly chasing the symptoms," he said. " ... It is extremely hard on the morale of officers."
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The chief said that when he was a young officer there was a similar milieu at the department and "we didn't solve anything."
Under ex-Chief William Bratton the LAPD adopted a more proactive form of policing under the "broken windows theory" of law enforcement that argues focusing on the small crimes affects the overall picture. However, with less cops on the streets it's hard to give out tickets for jaywalking, graffiti, and loitering.
Bratton helped the department maintain a troop strength of near 10,000 officers. Beck seems resigned to the fact that increasing the number of officers is a dream for now.
"We police a city geographically much larger than New York but with a third the number of officers," he told CNN. "We're going to work to change that, but not this year."