City News Service
Los Angeles, CA
The Los Angeles Police Department announced today it would temporarily close four evidence rooms because of budget cuts, a move the president of the union representing the department's officers said "will waste precious patrol resources."
The evidence rooms at the department's Newton, Wilshire, West Valley and North Hollywood stations will be closed beginning Sunday, Officer Norma Eisenman confirmed. Evidence will continue to be stored at the department's 17 other stations, she said.
In addition to the property room closures, the Valley Property Section evening watch and weekends shift will be eliminated, along with the Evidence Control Section morning watch and Forensic Science Center evening watch.
"These closures and service reductions are a part of our shared sacrifice in very difficult staffing conditions," Chief Charlie Beck said.
"Consolidating functions and limiting service is a balancing act that takes into account not only public safety, officer safety and legal mandates, but also goals for efficiency and effectiveness. Staffing 24 separate property locations, many with extended hours of service, with only 58 property officers was unsustainable."
Paul M. Weber, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said "make no mistake about it, shutting down the four property rooms will adversely affect police services."
"(Beck) is in a tough position and does not want to take additional sworn police officers out of the field to backfill civilian positions," Weber said.
"While closure of the property rooms will keep police officers on the streets, it will also force officers to drive to other police stations to book and retrieve property. That extra time driving and standing in line with officers from other divisions will waste precious patrol resources in the impacted communities."
In certain situations, secure interim storage lockers and refrigerators may be used, police said, adding that no police officers will be deployed in property officer assignments.
The decision on which property rooms and shifts to close "was based on an examination of workflow histories and proximity to other property rooms," Property Division Commanding Officer Terry Carter said.
"An effective, efficient and well-supervised property function is crucial to several department mandates, including the successful prosecution of criminals and the expeditious return of property to rightful owners," Carter said.
Most of the department's civilian workforce, including the property division, has been subject to a mandatory hiring freeze since early 2008, police said.
The Los Angeles City Council voted Monday to continue hiring officers to maintain the current level of just under 10,000 officers. Overtime costs will be compensated with days off instead of cash. Union officials said this will result in the equivalent of about 286 fewer officers on patrol a month.
The department's civilian employees could also be laid off as the city tries to reduce a half-billion-dollar budget deficit.
Weber said more than 200 officers have been pulled off patrol and other duties to fill in for civilian support personnel, who have been cut by about 25 percent.
"The LAPD is being hollowed out by these ill-advised budget cuts," Weber said.
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International Association for Property and Evidence
"Law Enforcement Serving the Needs of Law Enforcement"