Villanueva talks understaffing; outbreak at Pitchess Detention Center

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said on Wednesday the department was suffering from understaffing due to budget shortages, and that herd immunity was beginning to occur at North County Correctional Facility at Pitchess Detention Center.

During his weekly press conference, Villanueva said that underfunding had led to the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department having the worst ratio in terms of police per thousand residents, among the top five law enforcement agencies in the United States.

According to a graph held up by Villanueva, the Washington, D.C., Police Department has six officers per 1,000 residents, the New York and Chicago police departments have four police officers per 1,000 residents, and Los Angeles Police Department has two officers per every 1,000 residents.

The LASD, Villanueva said, has one officer per every 1,000 residents, the lowest officer-to-resident ratio among this group.

“Actually that one is being generous … it’s about 0.9 deputies per 1,000 residents, and the national average is about 2.4,” said Villanueva. “Remember, Los Angeles County is the most populous county in the entire nation with over 10 million residents and to have on top of that the least staffed Sheriff’s Department in the nation is really a recipe for disaster in times of a major crisis.”

Villanueva said the understaffing is an extension of a previous complaint that he lodged last month, saying that the county Board of Supervisors’ proposed $3.5 billion budget for the department is short $400 million.

“This week we’re organizing, or attempting to reorganize, an entire department around a new budget that is 10% smaller than the actual cost of running the department,” said Villanueva. “And when you do that 10% cut across the board, in this organization, that means people are going to get hurt and the question is ‘who?’ and ‘how?’”

Villanueva has said that he has asked the county Board of Supervisors for a sitdown to discuss the budget.

In addition to outlining his concerns over the proposed budget for his department, Villanueva said countywide that violent crime was down 6.5% since the beginning of the pandemic in comparison to this same time period last year. Similarly, property crime is down 6%.

The department has reportedly made four COVID-19 related arrests and issued 73 citations.

Since the start of this pandemic there have been 635 patient-inmates and 392 asymptomatic inmates who have tested positive for COVID-19, for a total of 1,027 positive tests, according to LASD officials.

Villanueva said that the North County Correctional Facility, one of the outbreak epicenters within the LASD system, has started to attain “herd immunity.”

“That’s a positive trend and hopefully will continue that way,” said Villanueva. “And the inmates that are quarantined, that number jumps up and down quite a bit, because if one inmate has tested positive in one module, they’re going to quarantine that entire module.”

There have been a total of 3,112 inmates who have received a negative test result subsequent to the administered asymptomatic test.

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