County responds to Villanueva’s claims about budget, staffing issues

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva

Earlier this month, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva furthered tensions with the county’s Board of Supervisors with his claims his department is understaffed and underfunded.

The talk came after the Board of Supervisors submitted a budget proposal for 2020-21 for the Sheriff’s Department $400 million short of what Villanueva was expecting.

During a May 27 news conference, Villanueva said the department has approximately 10,000 sworn deputies who cover a jurisdiction of 10 million people, or one deputy for every 1,000 people.

In comparison to the police departments in New York, Washington, D.C., and even the city of Los Angeles, which is serviced by the Los Angeles Police Department, LASD has one of the lowest ratios of sworn deputy-to-residents among the country’s largest law enforcement agencies, Villanueva said. And therefore, he said, a 10% budget cut, like the one proposed by the supervisors, would result in people getting hurt.

However, seven days after Villanueva made this claim, 5th District County Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s office disputed Villanueva’s numbers.

The sheriff’s 10 million number incorrectly included the population of the city of Los Angeles, which is serviced by LAPD, according to Michelle Vega, a spokeswoman for the supervisor’s office.

“In terms of the population for the areas in which LASD provides general law enforcement and traffic services, it does not encompass all 10 million residents,” said Vega. “It only encompasses the 42 contract cities and unincorporated regions, which is a significant decrease from 10 million.”

Vega added that the decrease is even more significant when the approximately four million people living in L.A. City is taken out of the final sum.

In addition to the contract cities, the Sheriff’s Department provides bailiff services to the Los Angeles Superior Court, general law enforcement and traffic services to unincorporated areas and support for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and community college districts.

In addition, the LASD provides placement, housing and care for inmates at seven custody facilities; however, Barger said on Wednesday that LASD was facing a budget deficit of $89 million prior to COVID-19, and yet still accounts for 25% of the county’s discretionary spending.

“This shortfall will only be further compounded by the current public health crisis,” said Barger through a statement Wednesday. “These budget overruns require thoughtful recommendations and mitigation efforts that will help reduce overtime and to find cost savings without endangering public safety.”

Barger said she urges Villanueva to work with county CEO Sachi A. Hamai to develop appropriate budget strategies to lessen the impact on local communities.

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