During a live virtual Board of Supervisors’ (BOS) meeting held on Tuesday, April 28, 2020, Sheriff Alex Villanueva addressed the BOS motion regarding the partial release of $143.7M in appropriated funds that had been frozen by the Board on October 1st, 2019. After the motion was introduced, Supervisors Kuehl and Solis amended it to include a bombshell, which was the surprise announcement of a promotional freeze for all positions within the Sheriff’s department, including critical front line supervision.
The Sheriff introduced a descriptive graph that illustrated the deliberate defunding of the Sheriff’s Department budget over the course of the last five years, as it compares to the overall county budget. Since 2000, the LASD budget has grown on average 0.86% every five years, an almost flat growth rate that does not cover rising labor and operating costs. Over the last five years, the LASD budget has shrunk in relations to the overall county budget by 1.41%, leaving public safety structurally underfunded.
The Sheriff cited several complex areas which were underfunded: Trial Court Security Funding – $76M, Workers’ Compensation – $33.4M, Retirement Payouts – $28.8M, Retiree Health – $16.2M, Court Liability Judgments – $10.8M, in addition to Federal Lawsuit Compliance, maintenance costs to work in Aging Facilities, Unscheduled Overtime (Tick Fire, Calabasas Helicopter Crash, Saugus High School Shooting, and the COVID-19 pandemic). The Sheriff went on to explain, “In spite of these unforeseen expenditures, it is anticipated that LASD will reduce overtime expenditures by $10.8 Million this fiscal year.”
Lastly, Sheriff Villanueva explained the harmful effects of stopping all promotions and reducing Academy classes by two thirds. With 356 sergeant vacancies and 34 lieutenant vacancies, this represents critical front line supervision of law enforcement activities, where the county faces the greatest liability and a critical point of concern noted in the Citizens Commission on Jail Violence (CCJV). Sworn vacancies, which now total over 700, are the driving force behind overtime expenditures, and the monies invested in Academy classes now will result in a reduction of over $400M in overtime expenditures over the next five years.
The sheriff is disappointed that the Board is playing politics with public safety and falsely portraying the financial status of the LASD for political gain.
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