LASD sheriff asks for 1,100 deputies, more academy classes from county's $43B budget
Sheriff Robert Luna's request, which was opposed by the ACLU, includes plans to purchase a jail management system and new TASERs for deputies on patrol
By Steve Scauzillo
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
LOS ANGELES — As part of a public hearing Wednesday, May 10, on Los Angeles County's proposed $43 billion budget, Sheriff Robert Luna asked for enough funding to recruit 1,100 deputies, double up on captains at problem Sheriff's Stations, purchase a jail management system and supply new Tasers to deputies on patrol.
The requests appear to be over and above the $4 billion allocated in L.A. County CEO Fesia Davenport's recommended 2023-2024 fiscal year budget. It already includes a $135 million increase in the Sheriff's Department budget and $6.6 million to restart the department's Office of Constitutional Policing, billed as an effort to investigate and eliminate deputy gangs in the Sheriff's Department.
Luna wants to add two captains to the East Los Angeles Station and two to the Compton Station, both of which had a history of having deputy gangs. He explained that under his plan, each station would get a new deputy who would focus on administrative duties and a new deputy who would practice community engagement.
In addressing county jails that are tangled in lawsuits due to overcrowding, and that face a Department of Justice consent decree that ordered the county to improve jail conditions and halt excessive force, Luna wants to turn to technology. He wants to install a digital monitoring system to track the whereabouts of inmates and jail deputies, and said he was shocked that the county did not have a digital monitoring system.
"We have to understand where the problems are, who the problem is, in order to fix them," he told the Board of Supervisors.
In his first budget meeting with the board since taking office in early December, Luna said he wants to increase the number of academy classes to eight next year, with 100 department recruits in each. He said the 1,100-person vacancy among sworn officer positions is taking a toll on the department's deputies, who do mandatory overtime. He also spoke about addressing the lawsuits and large cash settlements for excessive force and wrongful death claims that cost the county millions of dollars each year.
If he fails to improve the county jails, Luna said federal or state receivership "appears to be a very real possibility" and he implied that his predecessor, Sheriff Alex Villanueva, ignored the problem. "Addressing these issues can no longer be avoided," he said.
Not everyone was excited about Luna's budget requests.
Third District Supervisor Lindsey Horvath pushed back on his request for more Tasers, referring to the death of Keenan Darnel Anderson on Jan. 3 after an LAPD officer used a Taser on him following a traffic accident. Anderson, a black man and cousin of Black Lives Matter founder Patrisse Cullors, resisted arrest and was subdued by officers who repeatedly shot him with a Taser. Anderson died at a hospital later that day.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California objected to increasing the Sheriff's Department budget. It said that hiring more deputies for patrols won't benefit unincorporated county areas or contract cities where the Sheriff patrols. Instead, the group argued that hiring more deputies would increase racial inequities and prompt more police violence.
"L.A. County can and should reduce staffing and related spending by moving away from this failed patrol strategy," the group wrote in a letter to the board.
Dozens of speakers recited the mantra "defund the police," saying extra funds allocated to law enforcement should be redirected to social program efforts such as hiring mental health and healthcare workers and increasing the number of affordable housing units and community gardens.
Herminia Galvez said people of color don't trust the Sheriff's Department. "You should hire people whom they can trust and actually talk to. There are not enough (mental health and social worker) counselors," she said.
Many objected to a 3% increase in the Department of Probation's budget. Several speakers blamed the department after a young adult male was found dead due to a suspected overdose earlier this week at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall in Sylmar.
"I recognize this loss as a massive failure on the part of the official bodies of stakeholders charged with protecting the lives of those in Probation's care," said Probation Oversight Commission Chair Esche Jackson, in a statement released Wednesday.
Jayline Parie, a young man with the Alliance Leadership Initiative, was one of many from the group who asked the board for more funding for youth recreational leagues. "Since I started playing basketball, I was able to gain a deep understanding of myself and the world around me," he said.
Kevin Garcia, a former inmate at one of the county's juvenile halls, said there were never enough programs. "I urge you to invest in things that work, not more law enforcement," he told the supervisors.
Other spending priorities in the proposed budget — including some increases over last year — include:
—$283 million toward alternatives to incarceration, which includes an additional bump of $88.3 million. The money goes to programs that address racial disparities in the justice system.
—$49.6 million toward improving conditions in county jails, as part of a response to a court order from the U.S. Department of Justice.
—$6.6 million to fund the restarting of the Sheriff's Department's Office of Constitutional Policing.
—$692 million toward reducing homelessness that includes investments in mental health outreach, supportive services and housing programs. This would be a $160 million increase from last year.
The proposed budget includes the following additional positions: 195 positions added to the Department of Mental Health (DMH); 86 clinicians at county hospitals and clinics; 70 positions for the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS); and 60 positions to support wildfire suppression.
The county government has a total of 114,106 positions.
The budget will undergo changes as the Board of Supervisors considers feedback, said Board Chair Supervisor Janice Hahn. The budget is expected to receive final revisions and approval on June 26.