The LA County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously today to release $83m to the LA County Sheriff’s Department in response to a request by the Department to cover essential services and supplies, including $7.6m in COVID19-related expenses. Last fall, the Board of Supervisors placed $143m of the Sheriff’s Department budget in a holding account to try to reduce projected runaway deficits in the LASD budget.
Last year, LASD closed the year with a $63m deficit. This year, despite the $83m in proposed funding included in today’s motion as well as $20-30m in projected savings and new revenue identified by the County CEO and the Sheriff’s Department, LASD is projected to end the year with a $89m deficit.
“No County Department can be permitted to accrue significant deficits year after year,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, author of the motion. “It’s not fair to taxpayers, and it’s detrimental to the overall County budget since the overrun reduces funding to the budgets of other essential departments. Every County Department has been warned to prepare for a hair cut, and we need the Sheriff’s Department to bring its budget into balance. We have been working with the Department to ensure that we provide funding for COVID-related and other essential expenses, but we also have a responsibility to the public to rein in the Department’s large budget overruns.”
Last year, the County Auditor-Controller was directed by the Supervisors to seek the assistance of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and an outside audit firm Bazilio Cobb Associates to conduct an audit of the Sheriff’s Department.
The motion also calls for the Sheriff to continue to work with the CEO in reviewing Department costs, to adhere to the County’s COVID19 hiring freeze (under which the Sheriff’s Department may still hire sworn officers), adhere to a promotional hiring freeze and to reduce the number of Department training academy classes.
“When it comes to fiscal responsibility of taxpayers’ dollars, regardless of whether the Department Head was appointed by the Board of Supervisors or elected by County voters, there is a need for fiscal accountability. This is especially true at this moment given the economic downturn we are experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “I have a constitutional responsibility to be thoughtful and prudent with taxpayer funds while ensuring LA County continues to provide necessary health and public safety services at a time when families and individuals most need this assistance.”
Michael Gennaco, a nationally recognized expert on law enforcement reform and accountability systems who served as Chief Attorney of the Office of Independent Review for LA County, said, “Every law enforcement agency in the country is expected to live within its means. Right now, fiscal responsibility has never been more important because County leaders must plan for the long-term health of the County and our community in the wake of the dramatic economic downturn caused by COVID19.”