In the midst of ongoing contract negotiations in June, Jerretta Sandoz, vice president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL), sparked a heated debate with a Facebook post that has since been deleted.
Sandoz, who represents over 9,000 LAPD officers, vented about the hardships faced by cops in L.A., citing hostile city council members, a ban on displaying the thin blue line flag and dissatisfaction with the current contract.
In her post, Sandoz urged departing LAPD officers to seek employment in communities where their worth is understood and respected.
“Go somewhere that respects the work you do and you don’t have to beg for a great contract … Go somewhere that has a city council or city manager that openly acknowledges the great work you do, go somewhere that doesn’t have two or more city council members who hate you (no exaggeration),” Sandoz wrote.
The timing of the post, which was just weeks before the LAPD’s contract expiration on June 30, comes as the LAPD has been facing a significant officer shortage.
According to the LAPD, the number of active officers has declined to approximately 9,027, down roughly 1,000 from 2019. Moreover, in the last fiscal year, 43 officers left for other law enforcement agencies, compared to only 12 departures during the same period in 2017-18.
Mayor Karen Bass also took note of the crisis and proposed a budget to rebuild the LAPD’s ranks, aiming to increase the force size to 9,500 officers. However, the department’s last 10 police academy classes have seen an average of only 30 graduating officers, falling significantly short of the mayor’s hiring goal.
Addressing the controversy surrounding Sandoz’s post, a spokesperson for Mayor Bass stated that contract negotiations are still ongoing, and the mayor is deeply concerned about the dwindling number of officers.
“The mayor’s No. 1 job is to keep Angelenos safe,” Bass’ spokesperson said. “She remains concerned about the number of officers retiring and her budget reflects that concern.”
In response to the criticism, Sandoz downplayed the significance of her Facebook post, stating that it was part of a larger thread aimed at officers who had already decided to leave the LAPD and was taken out of context.
Sandoz later told The L.A. Times that she hopes the LAPD makes “improvements” to retain officers, adding that the “criteria I advise officers to evaluate when they are choosing to work for another agency is, in many respects, the same criteria officers are using to determine if they are going to stay with the LAPD.”
Meanwhile, LAPD Chief Michel Moore attributed the decrease in officer numbers to perceived anti-police sentiments that emerged after the killings of George Floyd and other Black Americans in recent years.
He also pointed out the backlog of background investigations, which results in potential recruits waiting months for a spot in the academy.
In their talks, the union and the department are considering offering $15,000 signing bonuses and other incentives to attract new officers.
However, the debate over the ban on the thin blue line flag remains a contentious issue. Supporters consider it a symbol of solidarity with fallen police officers, while detractors view it as appropriated by right-wing extremist groups.
Despite the challenges, LAPD and union representatives are optimistic about ongoing contract talks and are looking to agreements reached in other cities, particularly those offering substantial signing bonuses to newly hired officers.
The department and the union hope to address recruitment and retention issues through the new contract, with negotiations expected to continue until August. However, the situation remains tense, with internal disagreements and a widening fissure between the union and Chief Moore over issues such as the flag and lowering hiring standards.
“If you have police officers that can’t make minimum qualifications or attained minimum standards, for instance, there are recruits who have been in the academy who just can’t score the minimum requirements for a physical fitness test,” LAPPL spokesperson Tom Saggau said.