For this Critical Issues Report, Chuck Wexler spoke with Los Angeles Chief Michel Moore about two issues in the LAPD: impending budget cuts, and the authority to terminate officers’ employment for cause.

The Los Angeles City Council recently voted to cut the department’s budget by $150 million. And Chief Moore recently told the Los Angeles Times editorial board that he would like to revise the department’s disciplinary rules, which leave the final decision about firing an officer in the hands of a three-member Board of Rights.


Staffing levels:  We have 10,000 sworn members and about 3,000 civilians in the LAPD.  Among major cities, we have some of the lightest staffing per capita. Our personnel numbers are going to drop by 400 between now and next June. I’m going to lose 250 sworn members, to drop to 9,750. The last time we were at that staffing level was 2007. We’ve had a 62% increase in call load since that time. We’re also going to go down to 2,850 civilians. In 2007-2008, our civilian staffing was 3,600.

So this is a significant cutback of personnel resources. There won’t be layoffs, but we won’t be backfilling some positions as people retire. On the sworn side, we’re going to lose about 500 people to attrition and only hire 250 new recruits. On the civilian side, we lose about 300 people per year and are going to hire about 140 positions.

And this is our new normal. We don’t have to just get through a rough year and then hire additional people next year. At this time of defunding police and realigning responsibilities, this is our “new normal.” No one is talking about us going back to 10,000 officers at this point, or the 12,500 we were talking about less than a year ago.

Re-imagining policing:  Policing is a people business. It’s accomplished by individuals, not machines. So this requires a re-imagining of policing. How are we going to do our primary public safety tasks while conducting community engagement?

Our challenge is to not only make sure that staffing is sufficient to meet our call load, but also make sure staffing is sufficient to conduct community engagement, because building trust and relationships is really the core function of community safety. It’s not how many arrests you make or how many citations you’re issuing. It’s whether you have the time and resources to engage effectively with the community, to do problem-solving, and take on the issues that impact the sense of safety in a community.

Training:  We have to ensure that we invest in our training. Not just recruit training, but in-service training, which is the ongoing process of refining this profession by reinforcing tactics and expectations. We should not forego training. We saw this happen to us years ago. In the drive to have the maximum number of people in the field, we deferred in-service training. With that we saw deterioration of our field performance, because officers have perishable skills that need replenishment.

Accountability:  There’s also an issue of accountability, because we need systems of control and oversight to make sure that when errors are found, they’re nipped in the bud. As the organization operates, we need early warning systems to make us aware when there are shortfalls or corners are being cut.

I’ve challenged every command to look at their organization, what they do, and how they do it. We have to identify strategies that deal with some basic tenets. First and foremost is our field performance. How do we build trust, engage the community, and handle our emergency and routine calls? How do we ensure appropriate staffing for that? How do we ensure sufficient staffing so that we can conduct our in-service training? In this period of reforms, we invest heavily in our training on command and control, de-escalation, procedural justice, and implicit bias. Ongoing training is about 50 hours per year in the LAPD, so that’s at least a week out of the field. In the past, I have seen people cut training when staffing is cut. But there’s a cost to performance when doing that.

Viewing this crisis as an opportunity:  We’re going to take this crisis and use it as an opportunity. We’re looking at our calls for service to see what we can shed from our responsibilities. Not only to keep our workload manageable with reduced staffing, but we also recognize that the public is asking that someone other than a police officer handle outreach and engagement with a person experiencing a mental health crisis or some type of distress. Right now, it’s an officer who responds, because we’re the only people available 24/7, but that has to change.

In the coming months, I look forward to us supporting that and challenging our elected officials and others to deliver on that promise.



Chiefs of police are effectively CEOs of their organizations. As such, they’re responsible for not only the vision, strategy, and leadership, but also the outcomes and results. That includes how you hire, train, and discipline people.

In the LAPD, it works somewhat differently from other major police agencies across the country. While I work at the discretion of the police commissioners, who are five civilians appointed by the mayor, my authority to remove someone is bound by the city charter. It prescribes that I can recommend an officer for removal for serious misconduct, and then that matter is referred to an internal tribunal. That tribunal is made up of three people: two command officers and a civilian appointed by the board of police commissioners or, at the officer’s discretion, three civilians appointed by the board of police commissioners.

That tribunal hears the evidence presented by the department, the officer can offer his or her defense, and the officer’s legal counsel can advocate on behalf of the officer. The tribunal’s finding of guilt or innocence is binding. If they find guilty, they are tasked with a penalty session, based on the seriousness of the offense, prior misconduct, and employment history. They deliberate and determine a penalty, which can be anything from no penalty up to removal.

I then have five days to affirm that penalty or lower that penalty. I cannot increase it.

In Los Angeles last year, we had 3,774 complaints. 524 officers were disciplined, meaning that evidence supported the allegation that misconduct occurred, and there was some level of discipline meted out. Of those 524, I directed 26 to the internal tribunal. In 17 instances the tribunal found the officer guilty and agreed with my recommendation of removal. In 7 instances, the officer was found guilty, but the tribunal prescribed a lesser penalty. In two instances the tribunal found the individual not guilty.

My concern is the 7 instances where they found the officer guilty, but felt that the penalty should be something less than removal.

This year, we’ve had five cases referred to the tribunal. Three have been terminated, and two have been found guilty with lesser penalties proscribed.

If a George Floyd-type situation happened in Los Angeles, I couldn’t immediately fire that officer. In Los Angeles, I have the ability to suspend peace officer powers, meaning I assign the person to administrative leave with pay and they lose their police officer authority. Then there’s the pending administrative case. That case would be held in abeyance pending the outcome of the criminal case against the officer. The officer would be inactive but continue to receive pay until I could develop enough information without jeopardizing the trial to recommend removal to the tribunal. But the tribunal could call testimony that would impact the criminal trial, so generally you don’t move administratively against an officer until the criminal trial reaches an outcome. That means the officer remains a formal member of the organization throughout the entire process, which may take one or two years.

I believe that as the chief of police, just as I have the responsibility to hire, train, develop, and promote, I should have the authority to remove. There should be the ability to appeal that, and I believe that process can be outside the organization. And that body should be responsible to the community we serve, in addition to the rank and file.

The discipline process in Los Angeles and all of California is very oblique. Due to state law, we’re not allowed to talk about discipline. If an officer is given an official reprimand, a five-day suspension, or is removed, the California Peace Officers Bill of Rights and confidentiality laws limit our ability to speak about that. So we can’t say that we fired an officer. We have to say that an officer is no longer employed.

I think transparency in the process is needed. Far too many people believe that no one gets disciplined in this profession, and I think that disciplinary consequences do occur and are much more far-reaching than in other professions. But we can’t talk about it, and that impacts our credibility.

Research to date has found that if citizen advisory boards have a tendency, it’s more towards the officer’s position than the position of management. They give the benefit of the doubt. There are instances of misconduct where an officer’s conduct is out of bounds, yet there are mitigating factors that may lead a community member to give the officer the benefit of the doubt. But management isn’t as inclined to give the officer the benefit of the doubt, because this is a profession with high standards and when you fail to meet those, there are consequences.


The PERF Critical Issues Report is part of the Critical Issues in Policing project, supported by the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


PERF also is grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for supporting this work.