Sheriff's Budget Cutbacks
... letter to LA County Board of Supervisors


Arthur A. Jones, J.D., Dr.jur.
Robin Wiseman, J.D., Dr.h.c.

International Human Rights Law and Policy
email to:

In Opposition to Sheriff's Budget Cutbacks

Letter to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
------------------ May 21, 2002

Supervisor Gloria Molina, 1st District Supervisor
Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, 2nd District Supervisor
Zev Yaroslavsky, 3rd District Supervisor
Don Knabe, 4th District Supervisor
Michael D. Antonovich, 5th District

500 W. Temple, Los Angeles, CA 90012


This international human rights consulting firm is actively engaged in comparative studies of Community Policing techniques and projects in the United States and the European Union. We are closely familiar with major studies and surveys measuring the impact of specific Community Policing efforts on crime rates and public safety in many jurisdictions, and have recently published articles in professional journals on that and related topics.

Between March 2001 and the present date, we also studied the specific crime prevention effects of the entire spectrum of Community Policing teams and units presently in operation at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (hereinafter referred to as LASD).

We have concluded that any significant reduction of total operating funds made available to the LASD during the impending fiscal year, i.e., July 1, 2002 through June 30, 2003, would result directly in a corresponding increase in violent and property crimes throughout the County of Los Angeles.

Let us consider the following example of tragic irony: While the City of Los Angeles is finally organizing the re-introduction of Community Policing, the County of Los Angeles is threatening to curtail essential Community Policing programs at LASD 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.

Obviously, we must all acknowledge that tax-based funding resources, whether municipal, county, state or federal, are presently in a state of near-crisis. We are also mindful that accountings of County budgetary sources and uses are extremely complex, and that the multiple sourcing of scheduled and potential revenues tends to introduce dynamic variables that reduce both the reliability and clarity of definition we would all desire.

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. Our studies, taken together with other surveys nationwide, corroborate that conclusion. Removing sheriff's deputies from patrol or curtailing recruitment will be one visible and unacceptable early warning sign. 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 units and personnel. Yet the Community Policing units at LASD 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. Our own studies of over 20 major metropolitan police forces in the US, and a larger number in ten European countries, reached closely similar conclusions in all essential respects.

Two of the chief findings, and among the most consistently reliable principles demonstrated by all extant studies in the US and throughout Europe, are:

  a) .innovative and specialized Community Policing programs including but not limited to High Intensity Community Policing, Anti-gang teams, and Interagency Outreach Teams are the single most effective means of reducing violent crime; and

b) .there is no evidence that increased patrol deployment alone decreases violent or property crime.

In our own studies as in the other surveys mentioned, all authorities concluded that narrowly focused teams, targeted toward reducing specific activities, are the most effective means of combating violence and homicide in the community. These include intensive or high-impact targeting of gang area and hot spots; combing for illegal firearms possession by criminals; intervening where domestic abuse/violence patterns are known; proactively targeting repeat offenders; and operating intensive programs to reduce recidivism among jail inmates.

In fact, every additional dollar per city resident invested in innovative Community Policing team programs causes a decline of 12.93 violent crimes per 100,000 residents after adjustment for all known econometric variables. The Board of Supervisors should be aware that the High Impact Community Policing Team approach was actually 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) station. That district is similar in size, demographics and socio-economic status to Boyle Heights and the Hollenbeck Division of LAPD, with which East Los Angeles is contiguous. 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) rendering extremely effective work at the Twin Towers Detention Center; the Recovery Centers; Hate Crimes Units; Leadership Institute; Mental Evaluation Team; and many other proven, valuable programs that reduce and prevent crime.

It is safe to predict that, if those programs are reduced or curtailed, the direct result will be increased violent and property crime, reduced public safety, and impairment of LASD efforts throughout the County.

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.

We therefore call upon the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to restore the Sheriff's crime prevention budget.

Arthur A. Jones, J.D., Dr.jur.
Robin Wiseman, J.D., Dr.h.c.

Los Angeles, California
Genoa, Italy
May 21, 2002


--- 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