Your guide to the L.A. City Council District 4 race: Nithya Raman faces two challengers

When she first ran for office four years ago, Raman’s public safety campaign platform called for the Los Angeles Police Department to become a “much smaller, specialized armed force.” On some levels, that change is partially underway. Since she was sworn in, the size of the department has fallen from about 9,800 officers to 8,957 .

Raman said that, while serving on the council, she has been working to shift duties away from the LAPD — for example, by hiring unarmed responders to interact with homeless Angelenos. Those efforts will help ensure the department is focusing on violent crime, she said.

Raman voted last year for Bass’ first annual budget, which called for the LAPD to hire enough officers to restore the ranks to 9,500 officers.

On the bigger question — does the LAPD need more officers or fewer? — Raman said: “I don’t know.”

“I’ll tell you the same thing I told you the last time when I was running, which is: I don’t have a sense of how many officers the city actually needs. I don’t have clarity on how officers are deployed,” she said in an interview. “And while I engage with LAPD all the time … we don’t have significant operational insight into how they work.”

Weaver, who works closely with the LAPD as a city prosecutor, offered a sharply different assessment, saying the city urgently needs more police. He said a lack of officers has hampered the department’s ability to respond both to serious crimes and to lower-level neighborhood problems, such as out-of-control party houses in the Hollywood Hills.

“When we had 10,000 sworn [officers], we had the capacity to handle quality-of-life issues. Now, LAPD is basically going from emergency call to emergency call, and these issues that affect people in their homes — there’s no one to handle them.”

Baronian took a similar stance, saying the district needs police to respond more promptly to property crimes, particularly burglaries and home-invasion robberies. “I also want to make sure the right people are hired, and that they’re given enough training to understand potentially problematic situations [and can] de-escalate,” he said.

Appearing recently at a campaign event in Griffith Park, Weaver and Baronian criticized Raman for voting against a four-year package of police raises negotiated by the mayor last year. Those pay increases are needed to keep officers from abandoning L.A. and taking jobs elsewhere, the two candidates said.

Baronian, 41, called the raises “reasonable.”

“Because inflation is obviously so high, a 4% to 6% [yearly] increase in pay isn’t really an increase in pay,” he said. “It’s a cost of living adjustment.”

Raman defended her vote against the police raises, saying she warned last summer that the deal was not fiscally responsible and would do little to improve hiring. Since that vote, higher LAPD salary increases helped create a major budget shortfall, endangering other city services, she said.

At the same time, recruitment efforts are still lagging, she said.

“So far, the data has proven me correct,” Raman said.

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