Budgets of all County departments shift over time to reflect the priorities of the Board of Supervisors and the public we serve. The budget for the Sheriff’s Department is no exception. Changes in allocations and staffing in recent years have several causes, including pandemic-driven staffing reductions that affected multiple departments; transfer of responsibility for medical care in the jail system to the Department of Health Services, rather than LASD; and the transformative efforts underway to fully realize the Board’s Care First, Jails Last vision, which includes alternatives to incarceration, expanding community-based mental health care, and youth development services, among other investments to improve our system of justice. These investments also include $200 million in ongoing funding for Care First Community Investments (formerly known as Measure J) as a key component of the County’s annual budget.
The County budget reflects the need for both criminal justice reform and public safety. These are not mutually exclusive and in fact, the Supplemental Budget approved by the Board this week provides significant Care First investments along with resources for two additional LASD academy classes, increased community college and parks patrols, and a total of 205 new budgeted LASD positions, as well as $75 million in funding to address conditions at our County jails and comply with the Department of Justice consent decree. The LASD continues to account for the largest portion of General Fund allocations of “net County cost” and the Sheriff’s Department budget currently stands at $3.8 billion with 17,442 budgeted positions.
It is up to the Sheriff to manage the LASD budget.
The Sheriff—not the Board of Supervisors or the County’s Chief Executive Office—has the responsibility and authority to decide how to use the Department’s currently approved $3.8 billion budget. Making the tough fiscal, personnel and programmatic decisions are part of the job—as they are for every County department head.
The Board has not “defunded” the Sheriff’s Department.
In fact, the Department’s total budget allocation from all sources, including state and federal funding, has increased by more than $1 billion since 2011, despite a slight drop in funding during the first year of the pandemic. A 12-year history is provided below:
|Fiscal Year||Sheriff’s Department Budget|
|2022-23||$3,856,596,000 (Recommended for Final Budget)
$3,628,323,000 (as of 6/27/22 Final Changes Budget)Note: both totals include $143.7 million in provisional funding
|2021-22||$3,605,692,000 Note: includes $143.7 million in provisional funding|
|2020-21||$3,541,694,000Note: includes $103.7 million in provisional financing; $40M was transferred in the Supplemental Budget to mitigate layoffs|
|2019-20||$3,548,808,000Note: includes $143.7 million in provisional financing|
Note: Other than as indicated above for FY 2022-23, numbers reflect Final Adopted Budget totals for the relevant year. FY 2022-23’s Final Adopted Budget is subject to the Board’s vote scheduled for October 4, 2022.
The totals for the last four fiscal years reflect $143.7 million in funds set aside to encourage the Department to make a concerted effort to cut unnecessary overtime and other costs. This money is part of the Department’s ongoing operating budget and has been set aside and then released later in each budget cycle since October 2019.
There have been NO layoffs in the Sheriff’s Department.
When the County was forced to tighten its overall spending for the 2020-21 fiscal year due to the severe economic decline caused by the COVID-19 public health crisis, the Sheriff responded to a request for thoughtful cuts (made of all Department heads) with a proposal that included laying off as many as 888 deputies. The Chief Executive Office ultimately identified funding to avoid any layoffs at all.
While a “hiring freeze” was instituted Countywide during the pandemic and restrictions remain in place for both the Sheriff’s and Probation Departments, the Sheriff’s Department is in no way prohibited from filling critical positions. The Department has hired or promoted more than 2,506 new employees during the “freeze.”
Seeking to contain LASD deficit spending, the Board adopted motions on October 1, 2019 and April 28, 2020, requiring that the Sheriff justify new hires. However, since October 2019, at least 1,478 sworn promotions/new hires and 1,028 non-sworn personnel have been approved for hire. In addition, 1,000 non-sworn reserve officers were approved during the same time period. The Sheriff’s Department budget for FY 2022-23 includes eight academy classes that can accommodate 800 deputy sheriff trainees (subject to the Board’s approval on October 4, 2022).
The Sheriff has not been prevented from hiring more deputies to serve Contract Cities.
A process is in place for the Sheriff to request approval to fill the vacancies in his Department, including for services to contract cities.
Excessive overtime and deficit spending has been a longstanding issue with the Sheriff’s Department.
In 2017, the Board took action to curb overspending and rein in overtime, directing the CEO and Auditor-Controller to work with the Sheriff and report semi-annually on the Department’s financial status. Overtime continued to balloon, and in 2019, the Board took additional action to incentivize a more concerted effort to cut overtime and bring the budget into balance: the board directed setting aside $143.7 million from the existing LASD budget in a separate account. That $143.7 million has been consistently set aside and then released later in each budget cycle since October 2019.
The Department’s 2020-21 budget surplus was supported by one-time funding that cannot be duplicated.
The Department ended fiscal year 2020-21 in the black and made some progress in reducing overtime. However, the strategies were primarily one-time measures that cannot be relied on to keep the Sheriff’s Department budget balanced. Below is a five-year history of LASD overtime relative to budget that makes clear that overtime remains a significant problem. Managing and allocating his workforce is part of the work the Sheriff and his team need to do to further bring down overtime spending and better serve both the public and his workforce.
|Fiscal Year||Actual Overtime||Budgeted Overtime||Variance|
LASD ran up a $27.8 million budget deficit for the twelve months ended June 30, 2022, but the Department has yet to produce a concrete, data-driven spending plan for public safety.
Like all department heads, the Sheriff is expected to live within his department’s budget. The Chief Executive Office has repeatedly asked the Sheriff to develop a long-term plan for addressing the LASD budget deficit and continues to look for opportunities to help the Department better spend the more than $3.8 billion at its disposal. To date, after repeated requests and numerous meetings, the Department has failed to do the in-depth analysis necessary to safeguard limited resources and ensure public safety.
The Sheriff is responsible for determining which public safety programs best serve County residents and which should be eliminated.
As an elected official, the Sheriff has broad authority to fund programs within his Department as he sees fit. Final operational decisions lie with the Sheriff, and the Chief Executive Office and Board have little interest in or authority to micromanage those choices. The Department alone made the decision to shut down its online crime reporting system, for example, and has 100% control over whether to maintain or eliminate certain units or services.
Claims about cuts to the LASD services and supply budget can be misleading.
Though the Board has held $143.7 million in reserve to try and help manage expenditures, the Board has transferred that same amount to the Department for its use annually since 2019.
Los Angeles County does not have a stockpile of unallocated funds.
Like any responsible financial steward, LA County sometimes closes out the year with some money unspent. Money that was not spent during the 2021-22 budget cycle—primarily related to big capital projects that take longer to get underway—has either been carried over to the next fiscal year for the original capital project or will be fully allocated to other programs and services during the 2022-23 budget process. Some of those dollars were allocated as additional funding for LASD.