Sheriff announces widespread cuts to close ‘staggering’ $400M budget gap

LASD Sheriff Alex Villanueva (top center) addresses Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Signal File Photo
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The latest concern between Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the count Board of Supervisors involves about a more-than-10% gap in what the county has projected in its allocation for the Sheriff’s Department, which Villanueva described as “staggering.”

“Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced the Board of Supervisors’ release of a portion of frozen service and supply funds, and discussed the impact their recommended 2020-2021 budget would have on our agency and the services we provide,” according to a statement on the department’s website.
Listing budget cuts to everything from school resource deputies to closing two stations — Altadena and Marina Del Rey — and the Parks Bureau, the widespread changes are aimed at closing what Villanueva described as a “staggering gap.” The area the Parks Bureau is responsible for, which includes “177 county parks, golf courses and special-event venues throughout Los Angeles County,” as well as the two stations, are expected to be picked up by the remaining surrounding patrol stations, according to the release. 

Those expected to be affected have not yet been notified as far as how the cuts would affect their assignments.

“They have not told us anything, we all learned about, including my supervisors, on Facebook Live today during his press conference,” said a member of the Sheriff’s Department expected to be affected by the cuts who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We have been given no information.”

The sheriff cited “large mandatory costs, such as trial court security ($77 million), worker’s compensation ($72.3 million), retirement payouts ($22.7 million), federal lawsuit compliance ($34.9 million), custody mandates ($49.6 million) and equipment and maintenance, as the main factors in the fiscal gap.

“The $3.9 billion it costs to provide law enforcement services, subtracted from the recommended budget of $3.5 billion,” Villanueva stated in the release, “would leave a staggering $400 million gap.”

The sheriff drew the ire of county supervisors in recent weeks after questioning his removal as chief of emergency operations, as the supervisors replaced him with county CEO Sachi Hamai.

Villanueva described the move as a “power grab,” leading Hamai to issue a statement that chastised the sheriff for bringing “issues to the media with the sole purpose of picking a political fight.”

Villanueva also said the department would do its best to avoid an impact on the public with a “compromised allowance.

“We can tighten our belt and creatively shuffle personnel to alleviate the sting of a fiscal deficit, but ultimately, it is the public who would be impacted by a compromised allowance,” Villanueva said, “and there is no benefit in that.”

Sheriff Lists Cuts

Sheriff Alex Villanueva listed the following cuts in response to a projected gap in Sheriff’s Department funding: 

· A reduction of academy classes from 12 to eight, to offer an approximate $21.9 million savings per year.

· Patrol Division cuts. With 191 positions already going unfunded, 137 of them would be integrated into funded line positions in two phases; first with 35, second with 102, to provide a yearly saving of around $22.8 million.

· Homeless Outreach Services Team (HOST) cuts. Instead of the intended increase of team members to 40 positions, the currently unfunded 10 positions would be slashed to six, which are funded through Assembly Bill 109. This offers a yearly cost savings of $1.4 million.

· Altadena Sheriff’s Station would be closed, garnering an annual $6.3 million savings.

· Marina del Rey Sheriff’s Station would be closed, garnering an annual $5.9 million savings.

· Elimination of other unfunded full-time patrol positions, including:

o Youth Activities League (YAL).

o School resource deputy.

o Vital Intervention and Directional Alternatives (VIDA).

o Nuisance abatement.

o Community Relations Team.

o Search and rescue coordinator.

· Parks Bureau would be eliminated. Slashing law enforcement services presently dedicated to providing a safe and drug-free environment at all Los Angeles County parks, golf courses and special venues will offer a $32.5 million savings. The areas would become the responsibility of the patrol station in which they lie.

· Community Partnership Bureau (COPS) would be eliminated. COPS teams provide supplemental services to residences in unincorporated areas, specifically addressing the unique and individual needs of each area by identifying crime trends, and quality of life and crime trends. Cutting this bureau would offer a $30 million savings.

· Curtailment of Detective Division positions. Personnel who investigate some of the most heinous crimes, identify dangerous trends, and create new and updated ways of protection against them would be reassigned to fill a funded vacancy elsewhere in the department. The savings are clearly substantial:

o Special Victims Bureau, $23.5 million.

§ Human trafficking.

§ Child abuse.

§ Sexual assaults.

o Operation Safe Streets (Gang Investigations Bureau), $38.8 million.

o Fraud and Cyber Crimes Bureau, $13.4 million.

o Major Crimes Bureau, $22.1 million.

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