LOS ANGELES, Calif.–Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck warned today he will be forced to make substantial deployment changes if the union representing the department’s rank-and-file does not agree to a temporary extension of police overtime limits.

Beck sent a message to the department’s staff overnight saying that in the absence of a deal he would remove officers from specialized units–like gang and narcotics, vice, and SWAT–and reassign them to patrol assignments starting in mid-July.

“As of today, no agreement has been reached with the LAPPL,” Beck wrote, referring to the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents more than 9,900 officers. “As a result, I am obligated to make plans for changes that I do not necessarily want to make.”

At issue is the maximum number of overtime hours officers can accrue before they are forced to take time off. Under the existing contract, officers can accrue up to 400 hours of overtime. When the officers’ contracts expire July 1, that maximum will go down to 96 hours, which “will mean having far fewer officers available to respond to emergency calls for help,” Beck said.

The chief said he has asked LAPPL for an extension of the 400-hour maximum while the union negotiates a new contract with the city.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s 2011-12 budget eliminated $80 million in cash for officers’ overtime. It also forced the department to absorb an additional $41 million in cuts. To do that the city wants police officers to put part of their salaries toward their retirement health benefits.

If officers do not agree to concessions, Villaraigosa has said he could resort to furloughing officers or imposing concessions on officers without the union’s agreement.

The Police Protective League said it plans to respond to Beck’s later message this morning.

Beck said that if he is forced to change his deployment plan, it would go into effect July 18, with officers notified of their new assignments as early as July 5.

By Richie Duchon | City News Service