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Defunding lasd

sheriff villanueva denounces budget cuts, outlines services to be affected 1024 899 SIB Staff

sheriff villanueva denounces budget cuts, outlines services to be affected

During a press conference held Monday morning, June 29, 2020, at the Hall of Justice, Sheriff Alex Villanueva discussed a large budget cut proposed by Los Angeles County CEO Sachi Hamai for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) 2020-2021 fiscal year, which was voted on and approved later that day by the Board of Supervisors.  On the cusp of reopening after the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an all-around tightening of belts because of tax revenue losses incurred from the closure of businesses.  All 34 Los Angeles County government departments will have their budgets reduced, however, it is LASD which will take the largest cut. 

With around 18,000 employees, LASD staffs 15% of the entire county family.  Sheriff Villanueva pointed out the unbalanced distribution of cuts to be imposed on our agency:  Of the 600 proposed county layoffs, more than half of them will be from the Sheriff’s Department, and of the 3,200 vacant positions to be eliminated county-wide, 1,525 will be from the Sheriff’s Department.  The Sheriff, however, cited there are other, steadier sources of money for government than sales tax, such as property tax, which could be directed toward law enforcement and the other 33 county departments, but for a variety of reasons, is not.  “The Board has the ability to fund all of the county government operations, and they need to prioritize public safety,” said Sheriff Villanueva. 

With the Board of Supervisors voting in favor of the defunding proposal and following CEO Hamai’s recommendations, four important investigative bureaus within LASD will be eliminated:  Special Victims Bureau, which investigates crimes against some of the most vulnerable of our population, children and victims of sexual assault, who are victims of atrocities like physical abuse, sexual abuse and rape; Operation Safe Streets, which investigates gang-related crimes, collects gang intelligence and maintains current information on local street gangs; Fraud and Cyber Crimes Bureau, which investigates crimes committed online and various forms of fraud, including identity theft, real estate fraud and wire fraud; and Major Crimes Bureau, which specializes in investigating kidnapping for ransom, illegal medical practices, extortion, solicitation for murder, series and pattern robberies, etc.  Scrapping these specialized bureaus will cause investigations to be decentralized and conducted at a station-level by detectives whose caseloads are already heavily burdened. 

“It’s unconscionable,” said Sheriff Villanueva.  “These are the major detective units of the entire department.  They serve the entire county of Los Angeles.  Those four units…are the cream of the crop of investigative units throughout the entire nation, and as the largest county in the nation, I cannot see how we move forward without these four units,” he said.

At the discretion of the CEO and Board of Supervisors, the four detective bureaus will be eliminated, as well as the Mental Evaluation Team, comprised of soft-clothed deputies and mental health clinicians, who respond in teams of two to calls in the field, to conduct mental health evaluations.  They also provide follow up and support services, respond to incidents such as suicides, school shootings, incidents with barricaded persons, and locate persons with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and autism who wandered away.

Custody Operations will also be impacted with $50 million already dedicated to fulfill unfunded mandates.  The Department is legally obligated to provide a certain level of programming to our inmate population, and the positions to be eliminated because of budget issues will cause incompliance with federal consent decrees. 

One might argue that if a position is vacant, it wasn’t needed anyway, and won’t be missed if eliminated.  On the contrary, vacant positions across our agency are compulsory and, because of already-existing staff shortages, are filled by paying them as overtime spots, which only compounds budget issues.  Cutting the 2020-2021 budget by $555 million affects the services we provide and takes away vital law enforcement services from everyone.

DEFUNDING THE LASD BUDGET 145.4M Dollars 680 380 SIB Staff

DEFUNDING THE LASD BUDGET 145.4M Dollars

DEFUNDING THE LASD BUDGET $145.4M

The budget cuts announced by county CEO Sachi Hamai are targeted specifically to hurt public safety in
Los Angeles County, while sparing virtually every other function of county government from any reductions.
The CEO’s recommended budget for the LASD from May was $3.5 billion, a shortfall of $400 million from
the true cost of running the largest sheriff’s department in the nation. As we have been busy reorganizing
around the first massive reduction, the Board of Supervisors are now set to force the community to suffer a
major loss of law enforcement resources with a second round of cuts to the tune of $145.4 million. This is
literally balancing the entire county budget on the back of the LASD.

Half of the LASD’s budget is offset by revenue from contracts that provide law enforcement services to 42
contract cities, the Los Angeles Superior Court system, the Los Angeles Community College District, the
Metropolitan Transit Authority, and other contracts. The other half is what is known as “Net County Cost” or
NCC, and that is the cost of providing patrol to the 131 unincorporated communities throughout the county,
running the nation’s largest jail system, and the specialized detective units who serve the entire county such
as Homicide Bureau, Special Victim’s Bureau, Major Crimes Bureau, Safe Streets Bureau, and Fraud and
Cyber Crimes Bureau.

The CEO’s proposed budget recommends the following LASD units be eliminated:

• Safe Streets Bureau (Gang Enforcement)
• Parks Bureau
• Special Victims Bureau (Sexual/Physical Abuse of Children, Rape, Human Trafficking)
• Community Partnership Bureau (COPS Team)
• Fraud & Cybercrimes Bureau
• Major Crimes Bureau

The CEO also recommends drastically reducing the following units:

• Custody Operations (various units)
• Mental Health Evaluation Teams (MET)

The CEO and the Board have embraced the “Defund the Police” movement and are cynically hiding behind
accounting maneuvers, knowing well that loss of revenue in sales tax can be made up by equitably
distributing more stable revenue streams like property taxes. This is not acceptable and a willful
abandonment of one of the top priorities of all local government: keeping people safe.

These cuts come at a time when jails were de-populated of over five thousand inmates in order to combat
the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that restrictions are lifting, violent crimes, such as murder, are on the rise
across the County and other metropolitan areas such as New York City and Chicago. Now is not the time to
cut vital law enforcement services, that should be the last thing cut. Curiously, the bloated county
bureaucracy remains virtually intact, which should always be the first to suffer reductions. The priorities of
the Board of Supervisors are not the priorities of the good people of Los Angeles County.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva