Sheriff's Budget Cutbacks
... eating next year's seed corn


This appeared in the LA Daily News, on Monday, May 20, 2002:

Sheriff's Budget Cutbacks: eating next year's seed corn
by Arthur A. Jones and Robin Wiseman
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Consider this for tragic irony: While the City of Los Angeles is finally starting to get its community policing act together, the County of Los Angeles is threatening to curtail community policing next door at the Sheriff's Department by chopping the budget by $100 million.

After a nearly five-year lapse in the development of community-based violent crime prevention teams and techniques in the City of Los Angeles, Mayor James K. Hahn and the Board of Police Commissioners are interested in launching new and innovative programs. One of the foremost criteria for selection of a new chief of police will almost certainly be the candidate's total commitment to community policing.

At the same time, drastic funding cuts proposed by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will result in a $ 100 million budget shortfall in the Sheriff's Department beginning in July. The accounting figures are somewhat complex, as revenues come from several sources. However, the projected net cost to the county of operating the Sheriff's Department in fiscal year 2002-2003 will be $658.4 million, or a total reduction of $117 million from the net cost ten years ago. This will have a devastating effect on public safety in Los Angeles County.

According to Sheriff Leroy D. Baca, a major cut in officer force strength would quickly provoke a spike in crime. Taking patrol cars out of action, or mothballing them to save fuel costs, would be equally unacceptable. We have already seen the rise in violent crime rates in the City of Los Angeles-69% in two years--that resulted from a 1,000-officer shortage combined with the withdrawal of community policing tactics. Yet the Community Policing units will bear the brunt of the projected budget shortfall cutbacks. The crucial importance of specialized Community Policing techniques in combating violent crime has been conclusively proven in major recent studies. In fact, the High Impact Community Policing Team approach was pioneered by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and is widely considered a model for violent crime suppression and prevention.

To illustrate, the Sheriff's Department is the law enforcement agency operating in the East Los Angeles (unincorporated) district, similar in size, demographics and socio-economic status to Boyle Heights and the Hollenbeck Division of LAPD. Please note the wide discrepancy between those two law enforcement entities in homicide rates over the past five years:


Hollenbeck Area





...(LA Police Dept.)
East Los Angeles
...(LA Sheriff's Dept.)

As of May 15 this year, there have been 24 homicides in Hollenbeck Division, compared to only 5 in the East Los Angeles Sheriff's jurisdiction. The difference is the direct result of High Impact Community Policing teams in operation in East Los Angeles over the past four years.

The proposed budget cuts will devastate that program. The loss of funding will also reduce or eliminate all the other Community Policing programs developed by the Sheriff over the years. They include the High Impact Teams; the interagency outreach teams; the VIDA program that keeps kids in school and out of gangs; the Safe Streets Bureau; the COPS Bureau; the Family Crimes Bureau; the anti-recidivism teams (CTU) hard at work at the Twin Towers Detention Center; the Recovery Centers; Hate Crimes Units; Leadership Institute; Mental Evaluation Team; and many other valuable programs that reduce and prevent crime.

The prospect of cutting out crime prevention programs countywide should be incendiary to all concerned residents. It is the financial planning equivalent of eating next year's seed corn. It is certain to cost lives.

Please join us in calling on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to restore the Sheriff's crime prevention budget.


--- Arthur A. Jones and Robin Wiseman are international human rights lawyers with legal educations in the United States and Europe. They are consultants and authors on international policing, social policy and human rights.

For additional information or a complete list of references, contact:

Dr. Arthur Jones