The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is running a $40 million deficit on its $3.2 billion budget, the county’s CEO announced on Tuesday.
That’s $40,000,000 out of $3,200,000,000. Lots and lots of zeroes.
A major cause for the deficit is $260 million in overtime spending–twice what was planned for–with another $100 million in cost overruns on the way due to retiree healthcare and workers compensation costs.
This news coming over three years and millions of dollars wasted into Sheriff McDonnell’s term. And without any apparent media probing re why workers compensation costs are up–including why-oh-why 37 office-dwelling lieutenants, captains and commanders are allegedly out injured.
As anyone familiar with the Sheriff’s Department knows, because the department is so severely understaffed (with approximately 1,500 fewer deputies than it should have), it is heavily reliant on forcing deputies/giving deputies the opportunity to work overtime (depending on how you look at it) in order to meet minimum staffing.
While LASD sure could use any more money the Board of Supervisors wants to throw its way, the problem is that even deputies know we have a credibility problem suggesting we need more money because they know we aren’t spending what we already have wisely:
- The sheriff spends at least $2 million per year (5% of the deficit) on his personal chauffeurs. This is real tax money and the sheriff has no credibility in asking the board for a bigger budget when he spends tax money like a Saudi prince.
- Significant bloating of management, including:
- 27 Commanders, 74 Captains, 387 Lieutenants, plus 16 Chiefs, Assistant Sheriffs, and Sheriff/Undersheriff plus a bunch of civilian directors…maybe 1/3 or 1/2 of whom have a county Charger with county gas
- The annual total compensation alone for all these non-enforcement personnel is probably over $200 million.
- And then there are the hundreds of personnel assigned to unnecessary, non-enforcement positions. Not just the sheriff’s personal drivers–but in assignments which are nice-to-have if you’ve got the money, but unnecessary (at least to be performed by sworn staff) if you don’t. Examples here might include the International Liaison unit, the Video Unit, in audit functions, the new Lieutenant assigned to the Office of the Sheriff, etc. There are hundreds of deputies all over the department who could be more valuably pushing hoops and fighting crime than doing whatever they’re doing now–and we owe it to the taxpayers to stop wasting their money before demanding more.
What examples of wasteful spending can you cite?
The Sheriff’s Department’s first responsibility is to protect the public. Yet McDonnell is starving patrol and custody of the resources to keep the public safe and redirecting those funds to build a bureaucracy. Now he wants the public to pay for actual public safety twice.
But here’s the other thing: the Sheriff is now whining all over town about how about how “tough” it is to recruit. And the Board of Supervisors has approved a plan to pay a consultant a bunch of money to tell him why and design a better system (similar to the $297 million plan the Border Patrol just got approved). Yet he has no interest in the real reasons why he’s (we’re) having such a hard time (and the other politicians and media aren’t holding his feet to the fire, either).
Do we really need a consultant to tell us why people aren’t applying, or aren’t getting hired, and what should be done about it? REALLY?! Our 500 lieutenants and above couldn’t figure it out?
“He completely ignored it, and when you do that it has catastrophic results,” Bob Lindsey (candidate for sheriff and previously responsible for LASD recruiting), told KPCC National Public Radio.
In fact, the Department could have been doing many things over the past four years to increase its ability to recruit applicants and (more importantly) actually hire good deputy sheriffs. Here are just a few basic ideas which were certainly proposed to the sheriff and he refused/failed to pursue:
- The biggest thing the sheriff could have done is to foster an environment where people want to work. An environment where people are rewarded for working. LASD should–and can–be a place where people will accept being paid less than somewhere else in order to work in the big leagues and have a career of amazing experiences. They’ve been doing it for years. But when you see thousands of deputies being fired or having their careers destroyed by civilian lawyers and internal political shenanigans, people don’t want to put themselves in that position.
- Stop telling existing personnel they have a responsibility to recruit people to LASD. They don’t–and they aren’t, because they don’t think its morally right to encourage people to make life mistakes. Instead, ask deputies what stops them from encouraging people to apply here and fix the things they cite.
- Actively pursuing EXISTING DEPARTMENT EMPLOYEES including civilian Law Enforcement Technicians, Custody Assistants and Reserve Deputies (all of which the agencies we are competing against for talent aggressively pursue and fast-track).
- Stop viewing our high disqualification rate (96%?) as a good thing. Yes, it’s good the public know we are selective. But a failure rate that high also suggests we are doing a poor job recruiting the right talent, retaining the interest of the right talent, getting them through the process, and possibly that disqualification quotas are present in the system.
The fact is, there are still a lot of people who want to be cops. Despite the bad media environment, cowardly politicians and good economy. It’s a noble and exciting profession…and cops in Southern California make great money (many, significantly more than they would in the private sector). The sad fact is that many people simply don’t want to be deputies at LASD, because of what they have heard and what they see. And that we badly mistreat many of those who apply here anyway.
“Come to LASD, where you have one badge but unlimited opportunities. And then when you do your job, we’ll find a reason to hang you out to dry!” Gee, can’t imagine why our numbers are down and applicants’ first choices are Torrance, Santa Ana, Glendale, Anaheim, Beverly Hills, SBSO…
We don’t need an expensive consultant to tell us these things. We need a new sheriff to. And we’ll have that chance on June 5.