Defunding has Consequences
On Wednesday, March 9, 2022, Sheriff Alex Villanueva held a press conference to discuss the severe impacts of the department’s staff shortages and defunding amid a consistent rise in crime.
Sheriff Villanueva began the press conference by stating that throughout the Los Angeles County’s history, there was an agreement that public safety was a priority for the Board of Supervisors, but over the last couple of years, that has changed drastically.
Currently, there are 783 sworn vacancies in the department and the number is expected to grow to over 927 by April 1st due to personnel retiring. Deputies, Sergeants and Lieutenants are critical positions that staff patrol stations, courts and jail facilities. They’re first responders that maintain and improve public safety. Patrol stations are operating with as low as 70% of deputy personnel when 100% is needed. In other words, the 70% has to work overtime to cover the 100%.
The County budget has continued to steadily rise, but the Sheriff’s budget has not had the same relative growth. During 2018-2019, 11.85% of the County’s total budget was devoted to the Sheriff’s Department. Now it’s shrunk to 8.9% and falling. Net County cost continues to rise, but the Sheriff’s is decreasing. Sheriff Villanueva showed a graph to compare Net County Costs (NCC) of counties surrounding LA County; Riverside County is 38% of NCC, Orange County is 25%, Ventura County 32%, San Bernardino 22% and LA County 16%.
In 2019, the department had a total of 12 academy classes where 1100 Deputy Sheriff Trainees were hired, but the Board of Supervisors cut academy classes to 7 in 2020 and down again to 3 in 2021. It takes a minimum of 8 classes to maintain the staffing levels of the department.
Firearms-related arrests have almost doubled from 2017 to 2021, and in half of those arrests ghost guns were seized. “Every arrest we make is one less crime that’s going to occur. One less homicide, one less assault with a deadly weapon, one less robbery,” said Sheriff Villanueva.
A graph that separated murders by supervisorial districts showed the highest murder rate in Supervisor Holly Mitchell’s district. Ironically, Mitchell has said that she does not want any money going to the Sheriff’s Department.
The Scientific Services Bureau (Crime Lab) lost 22 positions during the October 2020 curtailment. As a result, there is a 4,200 firearm and ballistic submission backlog, there is a 3-month backlog for toxicology, and the homicide and evidence collection has increased significantly.
Amongst the many consequences of the defunding of the department are deputies working multiple shifts. Deputies used to only be allowed to work 12 days in a row, but now the number has increased to 30 days in a row because the department simply does not have the personnel to meet its needs.
Sheriff Villanueva did not shy away from stating that the Board of Supervisors is acting on retribution and political motives without legal or moral justification for doing so. Their motives are affecting the Sheriff’s Department and are taking away vital law enforcement services from everyone. Their actions are hurting and will continue to hurt public safety.