Yes, NPR: Illegal Immigration Does Increase Violent Crime

ICE-Immigration-AgentsAs members of an alien caravan beat their fists at the gates, the experts provide the rationalization for inviting them in.

John Burnett wrote last week for National Public Radio, “four academic studies show that illegal immigration does not increase the prevalence of violent crime or drug and alcohol problems.” But Burnett curated studies that conflate much and misinform plenty.

My favorite among the four is Alex Nowrasteh’s Cato Institute study, because you could tell Burnett pulled it from the top of a pile he kept on hand for just such occasions, to convince Americans that the decay they’re witnessing in their communities is actually “cultural enrichment.”

The Cato study selectively sources data from the Texas Department of Public Safety (TDPS), and it notes that what we’re reading is the “[a]uthor’s analysis” of that data. In other words, Nowrasteh presents data in a way that suits his ends. Data analysts, like those in Cato’s salon, have an interest in producing specific results. Or as one data analyst says, “they know the results the analysis should find.”

Nowrasteh’s study claims that among 952 total homicides, “native-born Americans were convicted of 885 homicides,” while “illegal immigrants were convicted of just 51 homicides.” Setting aside the fact that those 51 killings — like all crimes committed by illegal aliens — were completely avoidable, a few other questions come to mind.

First, how many of those “native-born” convicted killers were anchor babies? That is, how many of those convicted killers have parents who entered the country illegally? How many arrived through chain immigration?

That is a fair question, considering Latino gangs recruit heavily from kids as young as 10 years old, and the fact many of these immigrants come from countries with some of the highest homicide rates in the world.

Mexico is the most dangerous conflict zone in the world outside of Syria, with some Mexican states more deadly than Afghanistan. Looking at mass shootings since 2000 that have left at least four people dead, we find that first and second-generation immigrants account for 47 percent of all such shootings. The anchor baby question, when considering the pervasiveness of the violent narcoculture in Latin America (that we now import), is valid.

Second, “convicted” is an operative word. The Cato study only takes into consideration killers who were caught, properly identified and convicted.

Consider that Kate Steinle’s killer was not convicted either of manslaughter or murder. He committed the crime, but he wasn’t convicted. In fact, there was confusion over the killer’s identity as he used 30 aliases, had been deported five times, and committed seven felonious crimes. Federal authorities stated his name was “Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate,” but the criminal alien left a trail through the “immigration system and criminal courts for nearly a quarter of a century as  Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez and Juan Jose Dominguez de la Parra,” to name just two others.

Texas has porous borders and it’s a sad fact that illegal aliens enjoy the luxury of moving relatively freely across the border, whether for trafficking operations or simply for the purpose of avoiding Mexican authorities. A sizable number of illegal aliens work with drug cartels that operate within the United States. Some of them are killers.

“In 2009,” writes Steven A. Camarota for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), “57 percent of the 76 fugitive murderers most wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were foreign-born. It is likely however that because immigrants can more readily flee to other countries, they comprise a disproportionate share of fugitives.” How many of those were illegal aliens?

In fact, an internal Texas Department of Public Safety report revealed that between 2008 and 2014, 177,588 illegal alien defendants were “responsible for at least 611,234 individual criminal charges over their criminal careers, including 2,993 homicides and 7,695 sexual assaults.” Maybe the Texas authorities didn’t trust Cato with the good stuff. Or maybe Nowrasteh didn’t ask.

One thing is certain: the more substantive TDPS report paints illegal immigration in a much less favorable light than does the report selected by Cato and promulgated by NPR.

But the TDPS report also comes with a glaring caveat. “The 177,588 criminal aliens identified by Texas through the Secure Communities initiative only can tag criminal aliens who had already been fingerprinted,” writes J. Christian Adams, a former U.S. Justice Department employee.

“That means that the already stratospheric aggregate crime totals would be even higher if crimes by many illegal aliens who are not in the fingerprint database were included,” Adams concludes.

Cato, then, is misinforming Americans and perhaps hoping that no one looks below the surface of Nowrasteh’s study. This is not surprising as Cato emphatically endorses open borders, or as I prefer to call it, civilizational suicide. Thus, Burnett chose this specious source because it aligned with his cosmopolitan prejudices. Neither is a good look for a NPR.

A second study Burnett highlighted reports on “50 states and Washington, D.C., from 1990 to 2014 to provide the first longitudinal analysis of the macro‐level relationship between undocumented immigration and violence.” Assuming crime statistics are accurately reported, it stands to reason that if we look at immigration nationwide, lumping all “undocumented immigrants” into the same pool, things might not appear as bad as they actually are.

Crime statistics, however, aren’t always accurately reported — remember that Steinle’s killer won’t be reported as a homicide conviction. Although crime has decreased nationwide, it has risen in certain cities and counties. A “macro-level” glance might miss that.

In counties like Los Angeles, which has a high concentration of illegal aliens, authorities don’t have the best track record when it comes to accurately reporting crime, prompting investigations every now and again. Nevertheless, Los Angeles County has also seen crime rates increase, while they have fallen elsewhere across the nation.

Echoing Burnett, Steve Lopez writes in the Los Angeles Times that concern over sanctuary policies and tying immigration to higher crime rates is baseless. He maintains that it is a bigoted political formula and not much else. Lopez invokes Wayne Cornelius, a UC San Diego professor emeritus, “who has studied immigration for decades,” and “said there is no correlation between sanctuary cities and crime rates.”

Neither Burnett, Cornelius, nor Lopez understand why “14 Southern California cities and two counties have passed ordinances, and in some cases filed lawsuits,” against state sanctuary laws. After all, say the experts, sanctuary policies don’t protect bad guys; and noncitizens—specifically illegal alien Latinos—are less likely to engage in crime than the “native-born” population anyway.

If you don’t believe Lopez, take it from Cornelius. He received the Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest honor bestowed upon foreigners by the formalized narco-kleptocracy Mexico calls a “government.”

To understand how unethical and fundamentally obscene this narrative is, a look at California’s history with sanctuary policies, crime, and immigration might be instructive.

City of Angels

The beginnings of sanctuary can be traced back to a 1979 Los Angeles memorandum stating: “Officers shall not initiate police action with the objective of discovering the alien status of a person. Officers shall neither arrest nor book persons for violation of title 8, section 1325 of the United States Immigration code (Illegal Entry).”

California progressives, in their brilliance, decided to adopt sanctuary just as the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, was coming onto the scene — although other Latino gangs were already entrenched in California.

Born in the barrios of Los Angeles in the 1980s, the membership of MS-13 was comprised of “refugees” from El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. This is relevant, considering the origins of the migrant activists demanding asylum from the United States today.

As a token of their appreciation to the United States, these foreigners formed the rank and file of one of the most vicious gangs in the world. It didn’t take long for the Mexican Mafia, or “la eMe,” to incorporate MS-13 into its Latino gang alliance, a coalition that came to be called the “Sureños.” More than a dozen gangs, including Hezbollah, Los Zetas, the Sinaloa Cartel, and the Gulf Cartel, all operate under the Sureños alliance.

In 2007, federal agents discovered businesses in Los Angeles that were peddling cocaine and counterfeit designer clothing in a front operation run by the Mexican mafia that financially benefited Hezbollah.

Between 1990 and 2000, the Latino population of the United States increased by 63 percent—from 22 million to 35 million. Suffice to say, the Immigration and Naturalization Service was overwhelmed. So were prisons. More to the point, this wave of mass immigration meant more recruits for Latino gangs.

Manhattan Institute Fellow Heather Mac Donald recounts how a “confidential California Department of Justice study reported in 1995 that 60 percent of the 20,000-strong 18th Street Gang in southern California is illegal; police officers say the proportion is actually much greater.” The 18th Street Gang collaborated with la eMe “on complex drug-distribution schemes, extortion, and drive-by assassinations, and commits an assault or robbery every day in L.A. County”; and the gang “has grown dramatically over the last two decades by recruiting recently arrived youngsters, most of them illegal, from Central America and Mexico.” As early as the 1990s, Latinos were importing narcoculture to the United States.

“In 1997, the INS simply had no record of a whopping 36 percent of foreign-born inmates who had been released from federal and four state prisons without any review of their deportability,” writes Mac Donald. “They included 1,198 aggravated felons, 80 of whom were soon re-arrested for new crimes.”

Mass immigration also brought with it a violent prejudice all too well known in Latin America: vitriolic hatred directed at blacks.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that in the 1980s when Highland Park in Southern California it “fell heavily under the control of the Mexican Mafia . . . eventually becoming fundamentally racist as a result.” As deceptive and dishonest as it often is, even the feverishly leftist SPLC couldn’t deny what was happening, because doing so would mean denying the plight of one of America’s protected minority groups for the sake of another.

Still, none of this seemed troubling enough to cinch up the border at the time. By 2000, “nearly 30 percent of federal prisoners were foreign-born,” Mac Donald writes. She adds that the L.A. County Sheriff also “reported in 2000 that 23 percent of inmates in county jails were deportable.”

Considering how difficult it is for minorities to be convicted of hate crimes, it is impressive that not only did Latino illegal aliens bring crime, they brought prolific amounts of hate crime the likes of which put the Klan to shame. By 2007, 75 percent of Highland Park residents were Latino, while just 2 percent were black.

Latinos developed a singular reputation for carrying out coordinated hate crimes that defied national trends. “Researchers found that in areas with high concentrations, or ‘clusters,’ of hate crimes, the perpetrators were typically members of Latino street gangs who were purposely targeting blacks,” the SPLC reported.

Los Angeles became home to random “racially motivated crimes” perpetrated throughout “the 88 cities of Los Angeles County by the members of Latino gangs.” Among these Latino gangs were “the Pomona 12 in the city of Pomona, the 18th Street Gang in southwest Los Angeles, the Toonerville gang in northeast L.A., and the Varrio Tortilla Flats in Compton.”

But the violence from Latino gangs against blacks wasn’t limited to Los Angeles. The same SPLC report notes that “six members of a Latino gang in Carlsbad, California, were arrested and charged with hate crimes for allegedly hurling racial slurs at a black teenager—who police said was not a gang member—while kicking and punching him.”

Meanwhile in Fresno, California, two Latino gang members “were convicted of attempted murder in what police described as the random hate-crime shooting of a 41-year-old black man.” Police reported that “the shooters used racial epithets and told the victim, ‘We don’t like your kind of people on our street.’”

The viciousness of Latino gangs was matched only by its pervasiveness. Although different in some respects, Latino gangs shared two common characteristics: hatred toward blacks and ranks augmented with illegal aliens thanks to porous borders.

Citing U.S. attorney Luis Li, Mac Donald noted that the “leadership of the Columbia Lil’ Cycos gang, which uses murder and racketeering to control the drug market around L.A.’s MacArthur Park, was about 60 percent illegal in 2002.”

The Cycos gang was controlled by a member of la eMe, an illegal alien, who ran the gang from prison, “while serving time for felonious reentry following deportation.” By 2004, “95 percent of all outstanding warrants for homicide [in Los Angeles] (which total 1,200 to 1,500) target[ed] illegal aliens,” and as many as “two-thirds of all fugitive felony warrants (17,000) [were] for illegal aliens.”

To argue, as Burnett, Lopez, and Cornelius do, that “there is no correlation between sanctuary cities and crime rates” is to offer a bad joke. But the litany of Latino gangs goes on, while the intelligentsia preaches tolerance to the communities that have been terrorized by this nightmare.

In 2009, 147 alleged Varrio Hawaiian Gardens members—that’s a Mexican gang—were indicted “on charges ranging from racketeering to kidnapping and attempted murder.” These crimes, said U.S. Attorney Thomas O’Brien, were motivated by “explicit racial hatred.”

The scale at which these gangs coordinated and mobilized against blacks was terribly formidable. In 2012, la eMe “put the word out for Hispanic street gangs to stop battling each other, to ‘focus on getting the blacks out’ of their territories,” writes Eva Knott, citing a police gang specialist.

The violence hasn’t stopped, and neither have the lies about sanctuary or illegal immigration.

In 2016, the “Eastside Latino gang tried to firebomb black families out of a community the suspects claimed as their own,” to “get the nigger out of the neighborhood,” federal authorities said. One firebomb landed in a room where a mother had been sleeping with her baby, but the family managed to escape.

The George W. Bush Administration made some headway in dealing with Latino gangs, but Democrats during the Obama era enabled them to replenish their ranks. Under Democratic Party leadership, California enacted a plan to release 13,500 inmates every month to reduce overcrowding, including those sentenced for “stalking” and “battery.” Early release of “nonviolent, low level prisoners,” coupled with ICE field offices being directed to cease arresting gang members for immigration violations or minor crimes, meant Latino gangs could resupply their numbers. This happened at the same time that California made it even harder for immigration authorities to apprehend and deport illegal aliens. Indeed, from 2015 to 2017, California denied 3,348 ICE detainer requests.

“Progressive” policing meant preventing federal authorities from screening thousands of dangerous aliens, when one in four “MS-13 gang members arrested or charged with crimes since 2012 came to the U.S. as part of the Obama-era surge of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC).”

Jessica M. Vaughan, director of policy studies for the CIS, reports that “ICE officers were no longer permitted to arrest and remove foreign gang members until they had been convicted of major crimes.” This resulted in gang arrests plummeting, “from about 4,600 in 2012 to about 1,580 in 2014.”

Vaughan also notes the “location of these MS-13 crimes corresponds with locations of large numbers of UACs who were resettled by the federal government.” MS-13 gang members have been apprehended after entering the country by claiming they were refugees “fleeing the violence in El Salvador.” Indeed, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen last month warned Congress that gangs like MS-13 “recruit young children, they train them how to be smuggled across our border, how to then join up with gang members in the United States.”

This is the insanity that sanctuary, mass immigration, and inability to enforce border security or immigration laws have wrought.

The Politics of Propaganda

Between 2005 and 2012, the Los Angeles Police Department incorrectly classified 14,000 assaults as minor offenses, “making the city’s crime rate look significantly lower than it really is.” Josh Sanburn reports that the LAPD routinely classified aggravated assaults as “simple assaults,” therefore artificially reducing the city’s numbers for violent crime.

“We know this can have a corrosive effect on the public’s trust of our reporting,” said Assistant Chief Michel R. Moore, who oversees the LAPD’s system for tracking crime. “That’s why we are committed to . . . eliminating as much of the error as possible.”

Then, the LAPD did it again. The department “misclassified nearly 1,200 violent crimes“ in 2014, “including hundreds of stabbings, beatings and robberies.” That’s not exactly an inconsequential clerical error. With this correction, the rate of serious assaults during that time would have been around 14 percent higher than what the LAPD reported, while overall violent crime would have shown 7 percent higher. This problem is “systemic,” according to a San Fernando Valley LAPD captain.

Capt. Lillian Carranza says “the department’s systemic pattern of under-reporting certain crime statistics” isn’t just skewering crime data, “it affects the way we deploy resources, the support we get from federal grants, and in my case and in my officers case, who gets the support of discretionary resources and who doesn’t.”

Carranza said she found errors “in categorizing violent crimes that were never fixed” that resulted in LAPD “under-reporting violent crime for 2016 by about 10 percent.” Carranza said she believes “staff members may have falsified information,” or “cooking of the books . . . in order to get promotions, accolades and increased responsibility.”

Progressives love to bash cops, but they avoid connecting the dots between underreporting serious crime and violent crime, with regions where illegal aliens are concentrated appearing safer than they are.

Why should Californians assume Los Angeles is the only city obfuscating the truth about sanctuary policies, immigration, and crime? California is the state, after all, where Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, an outspokenly progressive Democrat, tipped off illegals to an ICE sweep, claiming a “duty and moral obligation as mayor to give those families fair warning when that threat appears imminent.” She had a duty and moral obligation least of all to American citizens, it seems.

Oakland also happens to be one of the least safe cities in America.

CityRating reports Oakland’s violent crime rate in 2016 as higher than the national average by 259.04 percent, higher than the California average by 220.13 percent. Oakland’s property crime rate was higher than the national average by 129.96 percent, higher than the California average by 120.75 percent. Further, CityRating reports an overall upward trend in crime based on “data from 18 years with violent crime increasing and property crime increasing,” and based on this trend, “the crime rate in Oakland for 2018 is expected to be higher than in 2016.”

When Mayor Schaaf refuses to enforce the law, she contributes to Oakland’s growing crime problem.

Still, why do people like Krishnadev Calamur claim that “[s]tudy after study after study” show “[i]mmigrants largely commit crimes at a lower rate than the local-born population”? Calamur says those “numbers are true even of the children of immigrants.”

Because “study after study after study” conflate the children of immigrants whose parents entered our country legally holding a postgraduate degree, like many Nigerians do, and the children of Latino gang members, whose parents entered the United States illegally. Both are second-generation, both are lumped together, but they are not the same. Sometimes, these studies even conflate legal and illegal aliens.

“Fact Checker” Salvador Rizzo writes for the Washington Post, “every demographic group has its share of criminals, but the research shows that immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than the U.S.-born population.”

“Fact Checker” may not be an appropriate title for Rizzo.

Like Calamur, Rizzo argues, “most of the available data and research say immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the U.S.-born population.” But a closer look at Rizzo’s narrative is instructive of other common misinformation tactics.

First, Rizzo makes no distinction between legal and illegal alien crime statistics, when lumping the two together will obviously give a better impression of illegal alien crime alone.

Second, in later immigration “fact checks,” Rizzo uses data that excludes non-violent crimes committed by illegals, such as identity theft, racketeering, arson, most property crimes, drug and alcohol-related crime, grand theft, counterfeiting, fraud, and so forth. Human trafficking involves dangerously transporting vulnerable people, often women and children, against their will, but this offense can be labeled “non-violent.”

Suffice to say, Rizzo’s fact-checking is extremely misleading.

A look at U.S. Sentencing Commission data from 2016, pertaining to 67,742 felony and Class A misdemeanor cases, shows noncitizens accounted for 41.7 percent of all offenders. Further broken down: noncitizens accounted for 72 percent of drug possession convictions, 33 percent of money laundering convictions, 29 percent of drug trafficking convictions, 23 percent of murder convictions, and 18 percent of fraud convictions. Commission data doesn’t report on state and local prisons and jails, but the Government Accountability Office does.

The GAO found that among 251,000 criminal aliens incarcerated in federal, state, and local prisons and jails, these criminal aliens were arrested 1.7 million times, for nearly 3 million combined offenses. Fifty percent had been arrested at least once for assault, homicide, robbery, a sex offense, or kidnapping—around half had been arrested at least once for a drug violation. The GAO consistently reports the number of noncitizens (legal and illegal aliens) constituting 25 percent of the federal prison population. That slice of the pie would require noncitizens to commit crimes around three times the rate of citizens.

Not only do these data show 7 percent of the population accounts for one-fifth of all federal murder convictions, but when Rizzo excludes non-violent crimes, he clearly excludes a staggering lot. Thus, Rizzo deliberately avoids confronting a mountain of data that directly contradicts his narrative.

Like Burnett, Lopez, Cornelius, and Calamur, Rizzo is willing to deny that communities have been and continue to be violently afflicted, while criminals have been given sanctuary, just because it satisfies his liberal paternalism. Minorities must be shielded from criticism, even if that means offering up the very principles that attracted them to this country, particularly those of justice and the rule of law, on the altar of progressivism. …

Click here to read the full article from American Greatness

 

Pedro Gonzalez, a writer based in California, is a Mount Vernon Fellow of the Center for American Greatness.

These L.A. Police and Firefighters Figured Out How to Double Pay for Not Working

Police carTake a program that lets a public employee earn both a pension and a salary at the same time. Add an extremely generous disability leave and workers’ compensation program that allows public employees to be paid while not working for months or even years on end. What do you get? Massive corruption, obviously.

new report from the Los Angeles Times attempts to quantify the costs and consequences of a program allowing L.A. police and firefighters to collect both salaries and pension returns in the years running up to retirement. But these same employees often spend massive chunks of their final years on the payroll out on medical leave — so they’re costing the city even more money without actually working.

The program is called the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP), and it allows public safety employees who have reached the age of 50 to bring home a salary while also earning pension returns during that time. The pension funds (with a guaranteed five percent return rate) are then given to the officer or firefighter as a single payment upon retirement within five years. When you hear stories about police chiefs or fire captains taking home a massive lump sum of money when they retire, this is typically why.

The Times calculated that employees who participated in DROP took more than twice as much sick leave and disability time off than other employees in 2016: 296 hours compared to 123 hours. Over the course of nine years, the city has paid more than $220 million for police and fire personnel who had taken a combined 2.4 million hours off for leaves and sick time.

None of the injuries claimed by cops and firefighters in this program happened as the result of intense field activity. According to the Times, they tended to be the medical consequences of growing old: bad backs, high blood pressure, cancer, and a lot of carpal tunnel syndrome. Thanks to state law (and the influence of public employee unions on lawmaking), these ailments are all presumed to be job-related. Apparently one of the most terrifying, dangerous beats for Los Angeles Police Department officers is its own offices. One guy’s injuries stemmed from him falling off a chair.

The corruption that follows is fairly predictable. The Times includes several stories of public safety employees who spend months or years of their final period on the job out on medical leaves. But they’re hardly bedridden or fighting their way through physical therapy. One couple, a captain and a detective in the LAPD, spent around two years each on medical disability, spending some of their time at their condo in Cabo San Lucas starting a family theater production company. A firefighter who injured his knee just weeks after entering the DROP program shares the same name and hometown as a man who ran a half-marathon two months later, but he and his lawyers would not confirm or deny to the Times whether they were the same person.

Unsurprisingly, this easily abusable program was sold by claiming it would accomplish the opposite of what it actually does. City leaders said the program would keep older police and firefighters on the job to serve and mentor new recruits. And they promoted it to voters by saying it would create no additional costs for the city. This is obviously an absurd claim—the city paid out more than $400,000 in extra pension payments in average in 2016 per DROP employee, and the fire department has to pay overtime to fill the shifts of those who take medical leave.

It’s not a new thing for cities to not consider — or to deliberately ignore — the long-term unintended costs and consequences of pension-related commitments. It’s the very reason why cities (and now even states) face bankruptcy over them. The costs of pension-related commitments are often concealed from residents. The Times notes that Los Angeles city officials haven’t even bothered to analyze the amount of medical leave taken by DROP participants.

Public warnings about problems with the DROP program aren’t even new. Check out this piece from 2011 that warns that the program wasn’t even being audited.

Former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan, who was in charge when the program was introduced, has acknowledged that DROP was “a mistake” and a “total fraud.” But it persists in Los Angeles as other cities and states across the country have dropped it. Even San Francisco dumped the program because it was too costly, and this was after they implemented rules to try to cut back on abuse.

Los Angeles has a big problem with underfunding its pensions to the tune of billions and expecting much higher returns than is reasonable. This DROP program helps make a bad problem even worse.

This article was originally published by Reason.com

Bonus link: Steven Greenhut goes over the ways public sector unions in California push for costly benefit packages that leave taxpayers overcommitted.

Should the LAPD use drones?

As reported by the L.A. Times:

For more than three years, a pair of drones donated to the Los Angeles Police Department was locked away, collecting dust after a public outcry over the idea of police using the controversial technology.

Seattle police saw a similar backlash when they wanted to use the devices, grounding their drone program before it even took off. And recently, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s use of a drone has been criticized by activists as well as civilian oversight commissioners who want the agency to stop.

On Tuesday, the LAPD again waded into the heated debate, saying the department wanted to test the use of drones in a one-year pilot program.

Drones have been hailed by law enforcement across the country as a valuable technology that could help find missing hikers or monitor armed suspects without jeopardizing the safety of officers. But efforts to deploy the unmanned aircraft have frequently drawn fierce criticism from privacy advocates or police critics for whom the devices stir Orwellian visions of inappropriate — or illegal — surveillance and fears of military-grade, weaponized drones patrolling the skies. …

Click here to read the full story

LAPD awarded $1M by U.S. Department of Justice to buy body cameras

A reported by the L.A. Daily News:

The Los Angeles Police Department was awarded $1 million by the U.S. Department of Justice Monday for the purchase of body cameras, despite a complaint by the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union that the department’s policies on the use and release of the footage hinders transparency.

The LAPD was one of 73 agencies across the country to be awarded a total of $19.3 million in funding for the purchase of cameras. Pasadena was awarded $250,000.

Los Angeles officials had asked the federal government for funding to purchase 700 cameras. The city ultimately wants to purchase 7,000 cameras to outfit all of its field officers. The department already has about 860 cameras purchased through private donations. Distribution of those cameras began this month at three LAPD stations. …

Click here to read the full story

How Much Do Los Angeles Police Officers Make?

There’s a deep seated frustration and anger among the rank and file due to their low pay.
Det. Tyler Izen – President, Los Angeles Police Protective League, July 28, 2014, KTLA Channel 5

Low pay, of course, is relative. It’s very difficult to objectively determine what a police officer should be paid. There aren’t jobs in the private sector that are easily compared to police work. As a result, police officers typically compare how much they are making in their city to how much other cities are paying their police officers. The problem is no city wants to pay the lowest rates, which creates endless rounds of wage and benefit increases. But a city as big as Los Angeles doesn’t have the option of matching what a much wealthier, much smaller city may pay. Too many billions are involved.

Despite the difficulty in determining what may be a fair rate of pay and benefits for police officers, this very sensitive debate has to be waged. Because without debate, there can be no limit – how do you put a price on safety and security? How do you put a price on enduring the stress and the dangers that come with police work? You can’t. In that context, a fair wage will always be far more than any public institution can possibly afford.440px-LAPD_officers

Calculating Average Total Compensation for LAPD Officers

So how much do Los Angeles police officers make? This information is not easily found. Every year California’s cities are required to report to the state controller the individual pay and benefits for all of their employees. The most recent 2012 raw data for cities can be downloaded here. The information can be sorted by city, then by department. Within police departments, by sorting records by the reported pension benefit formulas, sworn officers can be differentiated from administrative police personnel. There is even sufficient data to eliminate records for officers who have not worked the full 12 months in the year being analyzed. Using all of these techniques, we were able to determine that the average LAPD pay and benefits during 2012 for full time sworn officers was $110,285. But the state controller’s numbers are grossly understated because they don’t include how much the city of Los Angeles paid for retiree health benefits or retiree pensions. This adds a significant amount to their actual total pay. Funding these benefits are part of any employee’s total compensation package.

How can that information be obtained for Los Angeles police?

If you review the Actuarial Valuation and Review Of Retirement and Other Postemployment Benefits as of June 30, 2013, performed by Segal Consulting Group for the city of Los Angeles Fire and Police Protection Plan, there is some pretty good information available. Exhibit B in the beginning of the document shows the retirement fund contribution rates as a percent of eligible payroll. The pension contribution last year was 37.82 percent of base pay, and the retirement health care contribution was 11.69 percent of base pay. An expert at the LAFPP office confirmed that these percentages exclusively represent the employer contribution and do not include amounts withheld from employee paychecks which are also contributed to their retirement funds. Therefore, the total of those percentages, 49.51 percent, can be applied to to the average LAPD base salary of $94,660 and apportioned per employee to accurately represent, on average, how much they are making in retirement benefits. As it is, that equates to $59,491 per year – meaning that the average total compensation for LAPD officers is actually $157,151.

LAPD Retirement Payments Affected by Investment Returns

It doesn’t end there, however. If the LAPD retirement systems fail to achieve forecast investment results, the amounts currently being paid by the employer – already nearly 50 percent of base pay – will have to increase. According to the Segal Report (Exhibit III, page 59), as of June 30, 2013 there were assets of $14.6 billion set aside for retirement pension liabilities estimated – using a discount rate of 7.75 percent – to have a present value of $17.6 billion, leaving a $2.6 billion unfunded liability. How confident can the LAFPP be that they will be able to grow a $14.6 billion fund at a rate of 7.75 percent per year? Using formulas provided for this purpose by Moody’s Investor Services, if you lower that annual projected earnings rate just a little, to a still very healthy 7.0 percent, the unfunded liability grows to $4.65 billion; at projected annual earnings of 6.2 percent, which represents the historical earnings rate of U.S. equities (including dividend reinvestment), the unfunded liability grows to $6.62 billion. And at the less risky 5.0 percent annual earnings rate of top grade corporate bonds, that liability grows to $10.1 billion.

In plain English – the unfunded liability for the LAPD pension fund could quadruple if the fund earns 5 percent per year instead of 7.75 percent. Just dropping the rate of earnings to 6.2 percent nearly triples the unfunded liability.

And it gets worse. The pension plan – officially analyzed at what some of us would consider to be a ridiculously optimistic annual 7.75 percent rate of return assumption, has a “funded ratio” of 83.2 percent. That should still alarm us, actually, because only 100 percent qualifies as fully funded, but 83.2 percent is a better ratio than most public employee pension funds out there. The other fund managed by LAFPP, however, for retirement health care, is only 38.5 percent funded (Segal Report, Valuation Results, Health Plan, page 4), although it is a much smaller fund – it’s officially recognized unfunded liability is “only” $1.6 billion.

There may be a lot of deep financial concepts and arguments in play here, but unfortunately, it’s not mere gibberish. There are real world consequences and tough decisions signified by these numbers. The city of Los Angeles is going to have to put more into these retirement funds then they already are, or they are going to have to cut benefits.

What Criteria: Comparable Pay, Affordable Pay, or Appropriate Pay?

If you look around Southern California it isn’t hard to find cities who pay their police officers more than LAPD. The California Policy Center compiled 2011 and 2012 data for a few cities in Orange County and here are some of the numbers they found for average annual total compensation for their police: Irvine, $168,336; Anaheim, $170.866; Costa Mesa, $181,709. One may reliably surmise that immediate neighbors such as the city of Beverly Hills also pay their police more than Los Angeles – and herein lies an irony that will justifiably grate on any officer of a large city like Los Angeles: The wealthy cities have less crime, but can afford to pay more to their police. But are the LAPD receiving low pay, or are the police in these other cities overpaid?

Moreover, there is a converse to this point – small cities cannot possibly absorb and employee thousands of police leaving because they want to earn more money.

Which returns us to the difficult question – is an average pay package of $157,151 really “low pay”? Beyond what rate of pay may be comparable or affordable, what is appropriate? Bear in mind the average LAPD overtime earned per officer, as reported in the 2012 data, was $1,691, which means that most LAPD officers are working the 4-10 or 3-12 shifts and not much more. According to an official summary of LAPD benefits, they also get 13 holidays, and three weeks vacation as rookies, which increases to 4.6 weeks after 10 years. And for all those contributions to their retirement benefits, after 30 years work the average LAPD officer can expect to retire with a pension and health insurance package worth between $90K and $100K per year (ref. Evaluating Public Safety Pensions in California, CPC, April 2014).

One of the most significant reasons the city of Los Angeles faces financial challenges is because personnel costs – for all departments – increased year after year, thanks to the power of collective bargaining. But was this appropriate? During the lean years after the internet bubble popped, and again after the real estate bubble popped, people in the private sector felt lucky to have jobs. Meanwhile, in the public sector, year after year, annual cost-of-living adjustments kept being awarded. And even in cases where, finally, cost of living increases were suspended due to financial constraints, “step increases” and “longevity pay” and other annual pay hikes continued per labor agreements. Worse still, the pension funds and retirement health care funds, which appeared to be flush during the bubble years, have now revealed themselves to be in serious trouble. When comparing their pay to what other cities pay, LAPD officers, and all public employees, ought to also compare their rates of pay to what private citizens have experienced. Making $157,151 per year is a LOT of money in virtually any profession in America, including police work if you venture outside of California, New York and a few other places where, arguably, public employee unions have taken over their local governments.

When confronting the continuous risk and inevitable tragedies that befall police officers, no amount of money will ever be enough. But the Los Angeles Police Protective League, and other public and private unions, should consider the deeper cause of middle class struggle, which is the artificially high cost of living in California. Despite well crafted arguments to the contrary, there is plenty of land and almost limitless conventional energy in California. And if the alfalfa farmers in the Mojave Desert were permitted to sell their water allotments to the LADWP, there wouldn’t be a residential water shortage even in this tough year. Taxes in California are among the highest in the nation, and taxes are driven primarily by public sector personnel costs, along with the costs for an unreformed welfare system that gives California the dubious distinction of having 12 percent of the nation’s population but 30 percent of its welfare recipients. Failed immigration policies further strain the system. Public employees could afford to make less, a lot less, and live better, if these needless hindrances to California’s prosperity were corrected.

Along with protecting one of the greatest cities in the world, and hopefully participating constructively in a tough debate over whether or not their compensation is appropriate and affordable – L.A.’s finest should consider the deeper roots of the economic hardships we share together, and how to engage on those fronts for the good of everyone.

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.