LA sheriff shuttering stations due to COVID-19-related budget cuts
The county is also shutting down the department’s parks bureau, saving the county $62.5 million annually
Los Angeles Daily News
LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County sheriff’s stations in Altadena and Marina Del Rey will close this year because of steep budget cuts, some prompted by the coronavirus that is ravaging sales-tax revenue. That would leave 21 patrol stations.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said on Monday that the department’s parks bureau must also close, reverting patrol duties for the county’s parks to the nearest sheriff’s station.
And a program assigning deputies to solve quality-of-life issues for residents will shut down.
The sheriff said the cuts are necessary after the county Board of Supervisors voted for a drastic slashing of the department’s budget.
Villanueva said the Sheriff’s Department needs $3.9 billion to operate, which is the current fiscal-year budget. The board approved a tentative $3.5 billion annual budget last week for the Sheriff’s Department for next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
“All of this is designed to kill overtime in the places that we’re required to be,” Villanueva said.
The county is facing billions of dollars in lost tax revenue as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Consolidating the stations will allow the department to mesh administrative services. Villanueva said about two dozen administrative staffers will be reassigned throughout the department, creating some savings. In all, shuttering the stations will save the county about $12.2 million a year.
“This has happened in the past,” Villanueva said. “Now we’ll have to do it again.”
The union representing rank-and-file deputies did not respond to a request for comment.
The sheriff said he’s more worried about his department falling behind in filling positions left vacant for years – the board’s budget forced the reduction of academy classes from 12 to eight this year, meaning fewer recruits for a department Villanueva said already has 712 vacant jobs.
“These are the line jobs in the department – these are your deputies working patrol, your deputies working in custody, the detectives out in the field working investigations,” he said. “These are not positions we can just wish away because they’re inconvenient.”
For weeks, Villanueva has blasted the board for forcing cuts to public safety as the region deals with the virus.
During their meeting last week, supervisors said they’ve asked the Sheriff’s Department for years to rein in spending.
The county is projected to lose nearly $2 billion in revenue in one fiscal year alone as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, a fierce critic of the current sheriff, said cuts had to be made everywhere.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose sprawling district covers the unincorporated Altadena area, said closing the station didn’t have to happen.
She said the county provided Villanueva with suggestions for eliminating spending in other areas, primarily in overtime costs and reducing more academy classes. She said most of the sheriff’s ballooning budget comes from overtime for deputies and legal settlements.
The board had actually asked the Sheriff’s Department to cut the academy classes down to four. Villanueva on Monday said eight was as low as he was willing to go.
Villanueva said he was shutting down the department’s parks and community service bureaus, an “extreme” move, but one that would save the county $62.5 million annually.
A planned increase of a homeless outreach team – currently staffed with two supervisors and four deputies for the entire county – will not go forward.
The department will have to also stop funding a 20-year-old program that pairs at-risk youth with deputies to try to steer them away from gangs. All of the deputies in these positions will be reassigned to patrol.