Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced Wednesday that his department’s Altadena and Marina del Rey stations will remain open, despite what he called “devastating budget cuts.”
On May 4, the sheriff had announced that he planned to shut the two patrol stations — amid other cuts — to reduce a projected budget deficit of $89 million. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted a week later to halt the sheriff’s plans to close the two stations.
“It is unclear how and why these stations were selected for closure,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said then, adding that the sheriff never presented those options to the board or CEO Sachi Hamai for any discussion or analysis. “This type of unilateral and unfettered action … could have far-reaching, absolutely unnecessary and unanticipated impacts.”
In a post Wednesday on Twitter, the sheriff wrote, “Although my department is suffering devastating budget cuts from the Board of Supervisors, I will not be closing Altadena and Marina del Rey stations.”
The county’s $34.9 billion revised budget for the coming fiscal year, approved Monday, includes 655 potential layoffs — roughly 70% of which are slated to come at the expense of the sheriff’s jail operations and 20% from the department that helps parents enforce child support orders.
Hamai said the reason the sheriff’s department is hardest hit is because public safety departments are funded primarily through local revenues, including property and sales taxes, rather than federal and state dollars.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who highlighted her support for the sheriff’s department and her hope that more funding could be found before layoffs are necessary, backed up Hamai in that assertion.
But the sheriff called the argument about funding sources a “fig leaf” for the board to hide behind, saying Hamai could choose to allocate other dollars to his department.
More than 40% of the county-generated revenue base already goes to public safety, with federal and state dollars typically granted for specific programs.
The sheriff — who has long been at loggerheads with the Board of Supervisors over his agency’s budget — accused the county of underfunding his department by about $400 million even before the latest cuts. He has said the changes essentially amount to an effort to defund the agency and accused the board of being swept up in nationwide calls for slashing law enforcement funding.
He warned that crime would increase and cuts would have to be made to bureaus central to the department’s mission, including major crimes, special victims, narcotics, cyber crime and parks security.
“Just axing them from the budget for somehow to balance the books of the entire county budget does not seem a very judicial exercise,” the sheriff said. “People are going to get hurt with this budget, plain and simple.”
The CEO said Villanueva had originally submitted a budget proposing 894 layoffs and cuts to all of those bureaus, but that her team made revisions to cut the number of layoffs nearly in half.
All of those potential layoffs would come from custody operations, according to Hamai, given that the jail population has been reduced by nearly 30% in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.
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