city hall money

Police Chief Robert Luna said Tuesday that there is no money in the fiscal 2018 budget to equip the entire department with body cameras.

The statement came in his budget presentation to the City Council. He said a pilot project with body cameras will end in November, and that he would then prepare a report to the council.

That wasn’t good enough for two of the council’s Public Safety Committee. Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price chairs that committee and is a deputy district attorney in Orange County.

“We need to implement cameras in full force soon,” Price said. “It is quickly becoming the standard for police departments… I would like to see us get moving on body-worn cameras soon.”

Luna said again he would wait to get results of the pilot project and would add how other departments are dealing with the issue. He said the Los Angeles Police Department is using body cameras for everyone, but the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is not using them at this time.

“I will tell you that it is very, very expensive,” Luna said. “It would require a significant commitment from the council. It is not in this year’s budget.”

Eighth District Councilman Al Austin also said he believes the body cameras are something the city must commit to in order to serve Long Beach residents. He added that he wants to see more video security cameras in business districts and other public places.

Fifth District Councilwoman Stacy Mungo, chair of the Budget Oversight Committee, pushed back, saying she wanted a report about all of the costs related to body camera issue. She said she supported use of body cameras personally, but there are many components that might not have been considered.

In regards to the Fire Department budget, the issue attracting the most City Council interest was the HEART (Homelessness Education And Response Team), two paramedics responding to calls about homeless people. Fire Chief Mike DuRee said that his 2018 budget added the team permanently — it was financed with Measure A money this year.

Price and Austin both said they would like more teams, with Austin asking how much it would cost to have a team in each of the three fire battalions. DuRee said each team costs about $350,000.

Councilwomen Lena Gonzalez (First) and Jeannine Pearce (Second) both said they would support more teams. Price added that she would like to see the current team spend half of their time in scheduled areas around the city so the service would be more equitable. Mungo agreed.

The budget presentation will continue at next Tuesday’s council meeting. In the current schedule, the first time the council could vote to approve the budget is at its Sept. 5 meeting. It must be passed by Sept. 12.

Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at hsalt@gazettes.com.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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