Despite ongoing budget problems, there are more police officers patrolling the streets of Los Angeles than ever before.
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Police Department now has more officers than at any other time in its history with 9,895 sworn personnel, a figure that includes those still going through the Police Academy, Chief William Bratton announced Monday.
A class of 65 recruits started work Monday morning, bringing to 756 the number of additional officers on the rolls since Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took office four years ago. The mayor is up for reelection Tuesday, but said the timing of Monday morning's announcement was unrelated to the campaign.
For every new recruit, there are 12 to 15 applicants who were not accepted into the academy, Bratton said.
"The quality of officers has always been high in this organization," Bratton said. "One of the reasons this city has been able to police with so few police officers over the years and continues to ... is the quality of the personnel."
The latest figure surpasses the previous all-time high of 9,852 officers, which was achieved in June 1998 at a time when the federal government was providing local law enforcement agencies with money to grow their departments.
"Public safety must always remain our top priority. There is never too high a price to pay for the security of our families and we must not back down from our commitment to putting more cops on the streets and making L.A. the safest big city in America," Villaraigosa said.
The buildup of the LAPD has been funded in part by an increase in the trash collection fee paid by residents. In 2006, the Los Angeles City Council voted to increase the cost of garbage collection from $11 to $28 over a four-year period. The money was placed into the city's general fund and could not be earmarked for a specific purpose, but city officials said it would be a way to hire more police officers.
Last year, the council agreed to increase the monthly fee again to $36.32 for single-family households and $24.33 for multi-family units
"Just to be sure that we had everyone on board, we asked people of Los Angeles to pay a little more for trash pickup in exchange for a larger police force," Villaraigosa said.
The crime rate in Los Angeles is the lowest it has been since 1956 and last year the total number of homicides dropped to a 38-year low. The city expects to have more than 10,000 police officers by the end of the year.
The milestone was announced one day after the unexpected death of a deputy chief who played a central role in the recruitment process. Deputy Chief Kenneth O. Garner, 53, was commander of the Los Angeles Police Department's South Bureau and one of the LAPD's highest-ranking black officers.