LA County proposes ballot initiative that would redistribute law enforcement funds to underserved communities

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors is proposing a ballot initiative that would redistribute law enforcement funds to underserved and minority communities, a proposal the Sheriff says could cut roughly $170 million from his budget and would result in mass layoffs and closures within the Sheriff’s Department.

“This motion is they’re basically laying the groundwork for defunding the Sheriff’s Department as we know it,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva told FOX 11.

Photo Credit: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office

The motion, authored by L.A. County Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis, is called, “Reimagining L.A. County: Shifting Budget Priorities to Revitalize Under-resourced and Low-Income Communities”, and the first vote will take place at Tuesday’s Board meeting.

RELATED: L.A. County funds $63 million deficit for sheriff's dept.

According to the motion, about $8.8 billion of the County’s $35 billion budget comes from local unrestricted revenue known as “Net County Cost” (NCC).

The current budget allocates 42% of that money to law enforcement and the legal system, which equates to roughly $3.7 billion.

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The motion states “this budget allocation does not reflect this Board’s values and priorities, nor does it position the County to robustly and adequately invest in community-based counseling and mental health services, youth development programs, small businesses and jobs, or affordable housing.

A redistribution of resources is needed.

”The motion goes on to say the County would draft an ordinance to call for a special election on November 3 to amend the Los Angeles County Charter to set a baseline minimum threshold of at least 10% of locally generated revenues in the general fund to be allocated for “Direct Community Investment”, including funding for low income and underserved communities to begin July 2021 and be fully phased in by 2024.

”The motion states that none of those earmarked funds would be allowed to be used by any kind of law enforcement. “They’re going to fund all their ideas, their pet projects through the Sheriff Department’s budget. We take the lions share of net county cost and that’s exactly what they’re going for,” Sheriff Villanueva said.

The Sheriff told FOX 11 it costs $3.9 billion to run LASD, and the Board of Supervisors has already cut $600 million from his budget. He says if the County moves forward with a 10% redistribution of NCC funding away from law enforcement, it would cut $173 million from LASD, and would likely be a much higher number.

“Since we have roughly half of the net county costs going to the Sheriff’s Department, that number is going to be far larger,” he said.

He says a cut of such magnitude after cuts the department has already endured would have a devastating impact, including the laying off of more than 1,000 deputies, including hundreds of detectives.

“We’re talking half our jails will be closed down, which means we’ll be turning out between 5,000 and 7,000 inmates who are currently locked up, they’ll be put out onto the street and they’ll be homeless as soon as they hit the street,” Villanueva said several patrol stations would likely have to be closed down, including East Los Angles, Century, Marina Del Rey, and Altadena, and patrols would be drastically cut in unincorporated areas of the County.

“The people that are gonna suffer the most are the very same African American and Latino communities, the poorest communities that get the hardest impact from crime,” Villanueva said.

RELATED: Sheriff Villanueva says proposed budget cuts threaten public safety

“The people making the decisions are the ones that are living in those gated communities on the west side of town and they will never see the impact of this decision.”

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s office is pushing back against the Sheriff’s claims of impacts to public safety, sending FOX 11 the following statement:

“For the last several years, this Board has taken significant actions to expand access to housing, mental health treatment, and law enforcement diversion programs, but there is only so far we can go without making budget adjustments that are consistent with the Board’s values and priorities. If voters agree, and the ordinance would help us make those adjustments. Any projection at this time by the Sheriff or other County department about it would mean in terms of more, or less, revenue is very premature. Budget reductions would not come from a single department, would be graduated over several years, recommended each year by the CEO and approved by the Board of Supervisors, and the 10% baseline minimum threshold would only apply to the general fund which represents approximately ¼ of the County’s overall budget.”

However, a document leaked to FOX 11 by a county source appears to show a draft overview of the Reimagining L.A. County proposal, which states it “Reduces the Sheriff’s Department budget and re-directs that funding to programs and services in underserved communities.”

Kuehl’s office told FOX 11 that document did not come from their office, and that language was not included in their motion.“We’re gonna take the brunt of this one, they’ve already shown their hand, they have animosity towards the Sheriff’s Department, shame on them because the community depends on us for public safety,” Villanueva said.

County polling results were also leaked to FOX 11 showing that a survey of 1,200 likely voters in L.A. County between June 25 and July 2 revealed that 67% of respondents would support setting aside tax dollars for services that will “revitalize” underserved and low-income communities.

“I have a message to the Board of Supervisors, you really need to look hard and search deep inside and ask yourself, what are you doing?” Villanueva said.