Molina Proposes Hiring Private Security to Fill Cuts In Sheriff Patrols

By Elizabeth Marcellino, City News Service

Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina suggested Tuesday that private security patrol services be hired to fill in where sheriff’s patrol cars have been cut.

A move by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to suspend overtime has cut patrols in unincorporated areas, according to Molina and fellow Supervisor Don Knabe.

Molina accused Sheriff Lee Baca of “(pulling) the rug out … from under unincorporated areas.”

In areas near South and East Whittier, for example, patrols were cut from 12 cars per day to six, she said.

Baca said the overtime cut was necessary to close his department’s budget gap, and defensible given a big drop in the crime rate.

“We’re not out of our recession as a county,” Baca told the board. “We have the lowest crime rate we’ve had in 40 years.”

The overtime budget was suspended as of Jan. 13, but the board just learned of the suspension Friday, according to Knabe.

The sheriff’s department is responsible for providing patrol services in unincorporated areas, while 42 cities and other agencies pay the county for patrol services. The patrol budget represents 17.6 percent of the department’s total $2.69 billion budget.

Molina said the board had allocated money to ensure that residents in unincorporated areas receive the same level of services as those in cities that contract for law enforcement.

Baca said he couldn’t make the overall cuts demanded by the board last year without cutting services.

“You cannot ask me to continue to provide the same amount of services with less money,” Baca said.

Molina ultimately suggested private patrols as an alternative – a proposal Baca expressed skepticism over – and Chief Executive Officer William Fujioka said he would look into the cost.

The board voted for an independent firm to be hired to conduct a forensic audit of the sheriff’s department budget.

Molina also said an earlier audit of the department – requested during budget discussions last year – would show that Baca is charging jurisdictions for services that he is not legally allowed to bill for under a state law called the Gonsalves code. That audit could be out as early as Friday, according to Molina.

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January 24, 2013  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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