As governments nationwide move forward with plans to shift funds away from law enforcement in the aftermath of George Floyd's police-involved death last month, Los Angeles CEO Sachi Hamai has put forward a proposed budget with recommendations to cut some $145.4 million allocated to local police.
The bid, which would entail eliminating six units from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, earned a sharp rebuke from County Sheriff Alex Villanueva over the weekend.
"The budget cuts are targeted specifically to hurt public safety while sparing virtually every other function of county government from any reductions," Villanueva stated. "These cuts come at a time when jails were de-populated of over five thousand inmates in order to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that restrictions are lifting, violent crimes, such as murder, are on the rise across the County. Now is not the time to cut vital law enforcement services, that should be the last thing cut."
The CEO's proposed budget, as per the LASD, recommends the following LASD units be eliminated:
According to Villanueva, the CEO also advocates for drastically reducing Custody Operations (various units) and Mental Health Evaluation Teams (MET) – accusing the leadership of merely seeking to cover up their own financial planning errors.
"The CEO and the Board have embraced the 'Defund the Police' movement and are cynically hiding behind accounting maneuvers, knowing well that loss of revenue in sales tax can be made up by equitably distributing more stable revenue streams like property taxes. This is not acceptable and a willful abandonment of one of the top priorities of all local government, keeping people safe," he continued. "Curiously, the bloated county bureaucracy remains virtually intact, which should always be the first to suffer reductions. The priorities of the Board of Supervisors are not the priorities of the good people of Los Angeles County."
The concrete plan for fiscal change comes a month after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti pledged - amid the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests - to redistribute some funds from the police and specifically into black communities.
"We need to make a firm commitment to change, not just with words but with action," he announced.
Kelly Hyman, a partner at The Hyman Law Firm and specialist in class-action lawsuits, explained that in Los Angeles County's proposed budget, public safety will bear the impact of an overall 8 percent cut in spending, with the Sheriff's Department marked for more than 400 layoffs and $162 million trimmed from its $3.3-billion budget.
"Sheriff Alex Villanueva believes he needs $3.9 billion to run the department effectively. Officials have said that the proposed cuts to the 2020-21 budget were largely due to shortfalls in sales tax funds, which have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 'defund the police' movement was not a factor in the decision to reduce spending at the department," she noted. "Although the county's fiscal year starts July 1, Los Angeles County Chief Executive will present a 'supplemental budget' to the Board of Supervisors in September, and this potential supplemental budget could address whatever changes need to be made in that year's budget."
However, the pending eradication of the six LASD units has ignited some steep concerns over what this means for the overall safety and stability of the County of 9.5 million.
"The drastic move by local elected officials to appease this movement so quickly is premature and will backfire. We all agreed police reform was needed, but the step to defund police at this level is a con on every level," cautioned law enforcement expert and Mankarious, CEO of Crime Stoppers of Houston. "Reforming police in actuality means better training, investing in recruits, changes in police practices, and maintaining good officers. In theory, this would or could require an increase in funding for local police departments."
In her view, the result will be more citizens impacted and victimized by rising crime rates and, ultimately, the loss of lives in addition to t... (Read more)
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