Los Angeles Sheriff, County Spar Over Funding

By Jill McLaughlin
Jill McLaughlin
Jill McLaughlin
December 15, 2021 Updated: December 16, 2021

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva Dec. 14 accused the county of defunding the department this year, a claim that was disputed by at least one county supervisor.

The dispute boils down to a disagreement over whether county supervisors decreased the sheriff’s budget as part of the “defund the police” movement.

The county allocated about $3.6 billion to fund the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department this fiscal year, which began July 1. However, it designated $144 million of that for services and supplies, such as office supplies and academy classes for new recruits.

The county’s fiscal year 2021–22 budget is $39.3 billion.

The previous sheriff received 9.7 percent of the county’s overall budget, compared to the 8.9 percent awarded to Villanueva, he said.

“Our percentage of the county’s overall budget keeps shrinking,” Villanueva said on Dec. 14, during a weekly Facebook livestream. “The grim reality of it is that we are being defunded and at the worst time possible in the county.”

This has been an ongoing complaint of Villanueva’s.

County Supervisor Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro) disagreed during a supervisor’s meeting Dec. 7.

“I think it’s a myth that we are defunding our sheriff, and I know he has perpetuated that by actually holding press conferences that say he is being defunded,” Hahn said.

During the last fiscal year—which ran from July of 2020 until June of 2021—the county gave the sheriff’s department $3.4 billion of its $38.3 billion budget, which amounts to the same, percentage-wise, as the current fiscal year.

In 2019, the amount was 9.7 percent.

Epoch Times Photo
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva speaks at a press conference in downtown Los Angeles on Nov. 2, 2021. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

Villanueva said this year’s funding will leave several departments in the red. For instance, funds for trial court security are lacking by $112 million and workers’ compensation is short another $102 million, he said.

Funds for trial court security are lacking by $112 million, he said, and worker’s compensation is short another $102 million.

Villanueva said his department also needs an additional $29 million for helicopter fleet maintenance and $17 million to replace mobile radios.

Patrol stations are staffed at 71 percent, and academy classes were cut from 12 to 4 per year, he said.

“If Supervisor Hahn’s position is that there is a myth here, well, then they’re perpetuating this myth,” Villanueva said.

Decreased funding comes at a bad time, when homicides and auto thefts are up 44 and 27 percent, respectively, the sheriff said.

A rash of “follow-home” robberies in LA this year have targeted wealthy residents on the Westside, and the region has seen several “smash-and-grab” retail thefts.

Villanueva said the department’s ratio of nearly 1 officer per 1,000 residents falls well below the national average.

Nationally, according to Villanueva, metropolitan law enforcement agencies average about 4 officers per 1,000 residents. The Los Angeles Police Department is staffed at just over 2 officers per 1,000 residents.

Additionally, nearly 1,300 positions were removed from the sheriff’s department’s budget last fiscal year.

The county board lifted a hiring freeze on all departments except the sheriff’s department at its Oct. 15 meeting, according to City News Service. The freeze was enacted in 2019.

Meanwhile, the supervisors pumped over $460 million into several initiatives this year to fund the county’s new “Care First and Community Investment” policy, which calls for the county to invest in social services and alternatives to prisons and policing.

Requests for comment Supervisor Hahn were not answered by press time.