There have been several articles coming out of the City of Long Beach inquiring as to why there are ZERO dollars allocated to the Anti-Gang Unit for FY 14-15. With Chief of Police Jim McDonnell on leave to run for Sheriff, questions are being fielded by his 2nd in command, Deputy Chief Robert Luna, his presumed replacement if elected.
According to Chief Luna the primary reasons they don’t have to fund an anti-gang unit is because council has directed more resources towards the city’s Libraries and Parks & Recreation programs. Prominent philanthropist, Skip Keesal, raises money for the Boys and Girls Club, but is not counted as an endorser of Jim McDonnell.
With nearly 60 gangs, having approximately 6,000 members, the city finds that gangs are involved in more sophisticated crimes such as organized crime, burglary, identity theft and forgery. It also doesn’t hurt that they have three gang injunctions.
“Our city is only 50 squares miles and policing the city is every police officers job, not just specialized departments.” said Luna.
Deputy Luna went further to state that the department has lost 200 sworn positions and no employees have been laid off as a result. They were lost to attrition, retirement and unfilled positions were closed. On the contrary, many officers have been involved in questionable shootings, costing the city millions and former officers have more than a dozen lawsuits in the pipeline.
According to the website GreaterLongBeach.com LBPD started defunding the anti-gang units in August 2012, when then Mayor Bob Foster eliminated funding in FY 2013. Current Mayor Robert Garcia, is the former councilman from District 1, were apparently crime was rising. Garcia was Foster’s appointee to chair the Public Safety Committee, which ironically held no public meetings on either the 2013 or 2014 budgets, which discussed the funding. The exact same occurred on the 2015 budget.
At the July 31st city council meeting it was affirmed that the new budget would include no anti-gang unit funding as detailed on the LBReport.com.
We reached out to Mayor Garcia’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Daniel Brezenoff, on August 12th, to inquire on the reduced funding and his initial response was, “the Mayor thinks Deputy Chief Robert Luna is the best person to fill you in.” He then provided me a contact information to Luna’s secretary.
We contacted Daniel the following day, August 13th, due to the 14-15 budget being on the previous night’s agenda and he replied “The budget hearing was continued and the full budget has not yet received formal approval by the council. The PD portion of the budget is not scheduled for any further hearing, but any council member can propose changes by September 15th.”
The 2015 budget calls for a complete elimination of the 22 sworn officers in the anti-gang units, which new councilman Rex Richardson denied.
“[The] gang unit wasn’t cut this year” said Richardson. Perhaps if the PSC would hold public hearing, which discuss the funding reductions, everyone in the City of Long Beach, city council members included, would be on the same page.
With African-Americans being 13% of the city’s population they also represent some scary statistics. African-Americans are stopped 4x more than whites and also represent nearly 44% of the marijuana arrests.
When we inquired of Deputy Luna of the history of racial profiling of African-Americans he said, “We have zero tolerance for racial profiling.” Which is a stark contradiction to the recent emails that revealed that yes, Long Beach Police Department teamed up with the Feds to profile attendees on the Super Bowl cruise, that set sail this January 2014. Are officers engaged in activities without the knowledge of the Chief of Police and his 2nd in command?
This open letter to LBPD Lt. Steve James, who is also President of the Long Beach Police Officers Association, pretty much sums up what a retired LAPD Deputy Chief thinks of the city he pays his taxes to and where he foresees the city headed; under a federal decree like LAPD just got out of.