ON THE BEAT: Santa Monica police officers conduct a pedestrian sting operation. (File photo)

ON THE BEAT: Santa Monica police officers conduct a pedestrian sting operation. (File photo)

CITYWIDE — Twenty-eight members of the Santa Monica Police Department made more than $200,000 last fiscal year, according to documents provided by City Hall.

Santa Monica consistently has some of the highest paid police department members in Los Angeles County, according to State Controller’s Office records from the past several years.

Four captains, five lieutenants, 12 sergeants, five officers, the deputy police chief, and Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks make up the list.

The top paid member, a sergeant, made $314,360. Next in line, another sergeant, made $268,817.

The highest paid officer made $263,150.

This fiscal year, the department has a budget of $77 million and 206 uniformed officers.

Twenty-seven members of the Los Angeles Police Department made more than $200,000 in 2012, according to the Los Angeles City Controller’s website. The LAPD has a budget of $1.189 billion.

Seabrooks would not respond to comparisons between the LAPD, which responds to an average of 3.7 million calls for service every year, and the Santa Monica Police Department, which responded to 110,290 last year.

“It’s not an equitable or meaningful comparison,” she said in an e-mail.

Alhambra, which is one of the closest cities to Santa Monica in Los Angeles County in terms of population size, has an annual police budget of about $22 million. No members of the Alhambra Police Department made more than $200,000 in 2011, the last year that wage information was readily available on the State Controller’s website. It should be noted that Santa Monica drew more than 7.3 million visitors last year and Alhambra is not a tourist hub.

Redondo Beach, which is a tourist destination but has a little more than two-thirds of the population of Santa Monica, is spending $33.6 million on its police force this year. Redondo’s Chief of Police topped their list at $201,000 in 2011, according to the State Controller’s Office.

Beverly Hills, which has a population about a third of the size of Santa Monica, paid 18 cops more than $200,000 in 2011. Its police department budget was more than $53 million last year.

There are a number of factors to take into account when breaking down Santa Monica’s well-paid police department, Seabrooks said in an e-mail.

“Any treatment I would give here would not be sufficiently expansive to provide the appropriate understanding of the dynamic,” she said.

More than half of the SMPD have bachelor’s degrees or higher, Seabrooks said at a meeting with the Daily Press earlier this month.

“A sophisticated town such as this warrants a level of sophistication in all of its staff, not just the professional staff at City Hall, and you have to pay for that,” she said.

She also gave the example of private events that require police presence. The overtime earned shows up in the salaries of the department members, but that money is reimbursed by the private event-holder.

“These extra work assignments are staffed on an overtime basis because it is more cost appropriate to do so,” she said. “For those staff members who opt to work the extra hours, that is their personal choice. The work is there and it must be performed.”

City Hall was reimbursed about $800,000 for the police they provided at private events last fiscal year, like the L.A. Marathon, the American Film Market and Cirque du Soleil, finance officials said.

That amount nearly covers the entire salaries of the three highest paid members of the police department.

When asked to pinpoint the police department’s most significant victory of the last year, Seabrooks pointed to the city’s “consistently low crime rate” despite its location, surrounded by Los Angeles.

“Santa Monica’s crime rate remains at historic lows not experienced since the mid-1950s,” she said. “That the city continues to be a relatively safe place, despite the array of external pressures and factors, such as prison realignment and a recovering economy, which operate to diminish these safety gains can be attributed to the men and women who work smartly and diligently to address crime and disorder issues.”

The number of reported crimes in Santa Monica has decreased almost every year from 1993 to 2011 (2001 and 2009 were the exceptions). In 2012, the rate jumped by 14 percent, the largest increase since 1980, mostly due to property crime. Police officials blame the uptick on the Prison Realignment Bill (AB 109), which required the California prison system to decrease its population and begin releasing prisoners. The weak job market was also blamed.

Santa Monica’s 2012 crime rate was still less than half of what it was in 1993.

This year’s crime rates are not yet available.

 

dave@smdp.com