When California’s prison realignment kicked in on Oct 1, 2011, nearly $400 million was allocated to LA County to offset the added costs. One of the two main recipients of the money has been the LA County Probation Department, which oversees the post-prison probation of many former inmates who, in the past, would have been on state parole. The other main recipient, is the LA County Sheriff’ Department, which has had the considerable added expense of jailing thousands of extra lawbreakers who, pre-realignment would have served their sentences in state prison.
Yet the various police forces in and around LA County have been complaining loudly for more than a year that, while their budgets aren’t hit as hard as those of Probation and the LASD, they too have substantial added costs.
For instance, in 2011, the Los Angeles Police Department moved 150 police officers out of street patrol duty to help probation officers who, unlike state parole officers, do not carry weapons, and thus often rely on local police to help with house visits and other forms of probation enforcement.
With all this in mind, last year, the state legislature voted to allocate $20 million in grants for California’s city police departments, an amount that was tentatively upped to $24 million last week according to the California Board of State And Community Corrections, which voted to distribute the money to each county according to a formula based on the various counties’ relative needs. (The extra $4 is still pending the approval of the state legislature, which has ’till mid February to act on the matter.)
GARDENA? SERIOUSLY, GARDENA?!
Los Angeles County is set to get nearly $7 million of the $24 million, which is to be divided among the county’s various city police forces.
However, until the money is divvied up, one city in each county is given “fiduciary responsibility” for the cash and then will “allocate the funds based on the collective decision of local law enforcement.”
According to documents obtained by WLA, most California counties logically chose their largest city to administrate the grant funds. For example, Alameda County chose Oakland, San Francisco County chose San Francisco, Kern chose Bakersfield, San Diego chose San Diego….and so on.
That is why it was something of a surprise to find that LA County—which has within it the city that receives, far and away, the most parolees and probationers returning from prison of any other municipality in the state—did not choose Los Angeles to manage the grant, although surely LA would have been the obvious option. Nor did it choose Long Beach, which might be the fallback position. Instead, LA County’s administrative city is…..Gardena.
Now, no doubt there is perfectly good reason that the 6-square mile city of Gardena was selected. We weren’t able to find anyone before press time who could tell us who exactly made the decision, although since Sheriff Lee Baca is on the 12-member board for State And Community Corrections, one assumes he at least had something to do with it. After all, his Undersheriff, Paul Tanaka, along with being the main person who oversees the LA County Sheriff’s Department’s budget, is also the mayor of Gardena.
WILL THE LASD CONTRACT CITIES WANT THEIR CUT?
It will be interesting to see how the allocation of $7 million plays out, as the various police agencies make their bid for a piece of what is, in reality, a very limited pie.
One would normally assume that the Los Angeles Police Department would get the lion’s share of the money, for obvious reasons, with Long Beach and possibly Burbank running at a distant 2nd and 3rd place.
However, here’s the thing: according to the rules of the grant, in addition to city police departments being eligible for a share of the grant money, county sheriff’s departments that contract to police incorporated cities within their counties (in addition to the unincorporated areas that are their core responsibility) can also put themselves in the running for the new grant dollars. The LASD has contracts to police 42 cities within LA County. Taken cumulatively, one could make the case that the LASD should get a very large piece of the $7 million funding pie—despite the fact that, as mentioned above, they’ve already received a a good share of the nearly $400 million allocated to the county in the last 2 fiscal years.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT’S RECENT BUDGET TROUBLES?
Added to the ever-more-interesting mix, right now the Sheriff is facing large cash flow woes to the degree that, as of this week, is rumored to be running substantially over his $2.8 billion budget.
In fact, at the Tuesday Board of Supervisors meeting, Baca announced that he was going to have to cut patrols in the unincorporated areas of the county, in order to manage his cash flow, which was “hemorrhaging,” he said, in part due to runaway overtime. (It seems that the LASD’s overtime costs have doubled between the past fiscal year and this one, jumping by more than $30 million.)
Things got so heated at the meeting over the LASD budget issues, that the Supervisors ordered a forensic audit of the department’s budget, to find out where all the money is going.
Moreover, one of the issues that came up in the meeting is that the LASD is providing the contract cities with services that it is not charging them for.
All this is to say that, it would not be any kind of shock to hear the sheriff make a hardball pitch for some of those nice new realignment funds.
So does any of the above have to do with the otherwise unlikely choice of the City of Gardena to administer the police department grant funds?
Oh, who knows?!
But, it is at least a matter worth watching.