In 1992 residents gathered 4500 signatures and the City Council voted 4-0 to put a proposal on the ballot to create the West Hollywood Police Force. Councilmember Paul Koretz abstained.
The Los Angeles Riots took place in 1992 and had a dramatic effect on the idea of an Independent West Hollywood Police Force. The final vote was close. A public records request was made to the City Clerk earlier in the week for the exact vote total but had been made available by press time. Former Councilmember Steve Martin recalls a margin close to 5%. Prop AA failed and West Hollywood would continue to renew its contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff.
At the time the Los Angeles Times reported, “Supporters of the measure stressed the need for local control while citing a report by a panel headed by former Judge James G. Kolts that harshly criticized the Sheriff’s Department. Opponents, who argue that a switch could bankrupt the city, singled out other parts of the report praising community policing efforts in West Hollywood and said it is the wrong time to abandon attempts to reform the department.”
It’s now almost 30 years later and today’s budget for the sheriff department contract is approaching 26 million dollars. The City of West Hollywood has developed it’s economy and created a tax base that can afford to pay City Staff among the most generous salaries and benefits, and affords our residents wonderful social services. Our AAA credit rating allows us to issue bonds to continue to service these priorities and build new infrastructure. But our investments to Public Safety are enormous without lasting benefits. The turnover at the Sheriff homogenizes the sensitivity to our unique needs. We are not building a workforce that belongs to West Hollywood, lives in West Hollywood, or shares our unique issues and values.
In this years 2021 West Hollywood budget approximately 18% is spent on Public Safety or just shy of 26million dollars. At last month’s Public Safety meeting discussions centered around upcoming priorities and the possibility of a supplemental security force, or homeless outreach team. Those expenditures would be in addition to the Sheriff’s Contract.
Lately I’ve noticed that most of the sheriff cars are missing the rainbow symbol of the City of West Hollywood. Former Councilmember Steve Martin filled me in on the origins of the rainbow version of the city logo developed by the then City Manager Charles Makinney. The deputies traveling downtown in the rainbow logo vehicles would be made fun of and they were removed. Martin brought the item forward and the rainbow logos were reinstated.
I reached out to Lt. Bill Moulder to ask where the rainbow logos are now? He replied quickly that due to the rotation in the fleet there are vehicles that no longer have the rainbow West Hollywood identification. But he added that an example was submitted to the City last week and approved. The decal will now be put into production and will place them on vehicles that do not currently have them when they arrive.
Last week the City Council voted to move forward and audit the Los Angeles County Sheriff after recent allegations over billing practices. At last weeks city council meeting Councilmember Erickson stated “I am slowly losing confidence in the sheriff’s department”. “They are not being responsive to members of our community who call them for very simple tasks and that is concerning to me.”
It’s clear that West Hollywood has a unique demographic that requires a different approach. If we want a truly ‘sensitive’ police department that understands our unique needs we cannot outsource to the County. Can you imagine the possibilities and social impact of a West Hollywood Police Department?
Beverly Hills has their own police department. West Hollywood contracts with Beverly Hills for the use of their parking enforcement officers. Our City Council, all proud Democrats all belong to the Beverly Hills/West Hollywood Democratic Club. There are relationships to build upon. Perhaps it is time for look at new ways to address our public safety needs.
When the public at-large loses confidence in their Sheriff dept. and when City Council members echo the need for change it just may be the time to let the voters decide once again.