During a press conference held Tuesday morning, December 14, 2021, at the Hall of Justice, Sheriff Alex Villanueva discussed the significantly defunded budget of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD).
He started the press conference by showing a segment of the December 7, 2021, Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting in which Los Angeles County CEO, Fesia Davenport, and Fourth District LA County Supervisor, Janice Hahn, discuss the Sheriff’s Department budget. Supervisor Hahn believes it’s a myth that the BOS is defunding the Sheriff’s Department and asks Davenport for clarification. Davenport explains that last year and this year’s budgets are about the same, “but in 2019 the Board approved the CEO’s recommendation to set aside about 143.7 million dollars in the Sheriff’s budget for services and supplies. What essentially happened, supervisors is, we set that money aside at the outset of the budget year…” says Davenport, as Supervisor Hahn interrupts and says: “That’s not the answer that we want…” while she covers her mouth.
Sheriff Villanueva continued the press conference with a presentation in which the first slide showed the LASD budget of the last 10 years. The information obtained from the Los Angeles County CEO’s budget website, showed a decrease of the percentage of total county budget from 11.7% (during former Sheriff McDonnell) to the current 8.9% under Villanueva’s leadership. “If Supervisor Hahn’s position is that there is a myth here, well, then they’re perpetuating this myth, and the grim reality is the fact that we’re being defunded and at the worst time possible in the history of County,” said Sheriff Villanueva.
Sheriff Villanueva noted that cities and states that defunded law enforcement agencies across the United States including: Rochester, NY; Rochester, MN; Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland, and the City of Los Angeles, had regretted it and had reversed the decision, except for Los Angeles County. In addition to the defunding, a total of 1281 were removed from the department’s budget. On top of the positions removed, the current vacancy is 1,370, of which 686 are sworn and 684 are civilian positions. 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 LASD are necessary and, because of already-existing staff shortages, are filled by paying overtime spots, which only compounds budget issues.
The national average for all metropolitan law enforcement agencies across the nation is 3.8 cops per 1000 residents; New York Police Department has more than four, Los Angeles Police Department has 2.2. The average for all agencies throughout the nation is 2.5 cops per every 1000 residents. LASD is operating at 0.9 cops per 1000 residents. Academy classes were cut from 12 to four per year, and as a result, there are not enough deputies to cover attrition. Patrol stations are currently at 71% staffing, which means mandatory overtime for deputies. LASD is the only county department that remains on a hiring freeze.
Cutting the LASD budget affects the services we provide and takes away vital law enforcement services from everyone. Defunding law enforcement ultimately hurts public safety and that is not a myth.