Villanueva Says Proposed Budget Cuts Threaten Public Safety

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva says proposed cuts to public safety coffers amounts to abandoning efforts to keep residents safe.

In response to county CEO Sachi Hamai's planned cure for a $935.3 million budget shortfall, due largely to a coronavirus-related plunge in revenue and an increase in expenses, Villanueva accused the Board of Supervisors Saturday of jumping on the Defund the Police bandwagon while the county's bureaucracy remains "bloated.''

On Thursday, Hamai released a dire revised budget proposal calling for across-the-board cuts that could result in the elimination of more than 3,200 positions and 655 layoffs, more than half of which could affect the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.

"These cuts come at a time when jails were de-populated of over five thousand inmates in order to combat the COVID-19 pandemic,'' Villanueva said in a late Saturday post on Twitter. ``Now that restrictions are lifting, violent crimes, such as murder, are on the rise across the county.''

Under Hamai's plan, several LASD units would be eliminated, including the Safe Streets Bureau (which investigates gangs), the Parks Bureau, the Special Victims Bureau (which investigates sexual abuse, rape and human trafficking), the Community Partnership Bureau, the Fraud and Cybercrimes Bureau and the Major Crimes Bureau, along with drastic cuts to Custody Operations and Mental Health Evaluation Teams, Villanueva said.

"The budget cuts...are targeted specifically to hurt public safety in Los Angeles County, while sparing virtually every other function of county government from any reductions,'' he said. "This is literally balancing the entire county budget on the back of the LASD.''

Villanueva, who is frequently at odds with the Board of Supervisors over his agency's budget and other issues, previously accused the county of underfunding the sheriff's department by $400 million. He has also accused Supervisor Kathryn Barger of withholding $30 million for the sheriff's department's body-worn camera program.

The $34.9 billion spending proposal includes $453.5 million in department cuts and $59.3 million in management reductions. Most notably, the budget plan calls for the elimination of 3,251 positions -- 2,596 of which are already vacant, but 655 of which would result in layoffs.

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