by Timothy Rutt
Altadena Sheriff Capt. John S. Benedict said that Altadena still has full patrol coverage, but at the cost of shifting detectives, lieutenants, and community relations officers -- and the captain himself -- into patrol cars.
Sheriff Lee Baca clashed with the county Board of Supervisors last week over charges that he was, according to the LA Times, “iignoring the needs of unincorporated parts of the county in favor of cities that contract with his department for police services.” Due to budget constraints, the Sheriff’s Department has cut deputy overtime.
The LA Times reports that the sheriff's department, with a budget of $2.8 billion, had its budget cut by the supervisors by $128 million in 2010, $96 million in 2011 and $140 million in 2012.
A county audit released this week showed that deputies in unincorporated parts of the county took a minute longer to respond to emergency calls in unincorporated parts of the county than from contract cities. The sheriff’s department contracts for police services in more than 40 cities in LA County that do not maintain their own police force. The contracts specify a minimum level of enforcement. Baca’s critics are saying that he is hewing to these contracts at the cost of reducing services to unincorporated county areas.
In unincorporated Altadena, Benedict said that they’ve maintained having three patrol vehicles per shift, but without overtime, it means that higher ranking officers or officers with other duties now have to pull patrol at least one day a week. “Not only my detectives, but my lieutenants, community relations officers, deputy administrators, sergeants -- even the captain,” Benedict said.
What this means is that some other tasks will feel the pain, Benedict said -- detectives will have one less day a week to investigate crimes, and community relations officers will have one less day a week to work on graffiti abatement and other quality-of-life issues.
“We’re looking at creative ways to maximize resources is what it comes down to -- but it won’t be easy,” Benedict said.
Benedict said that the manpower is so stretched, there’s not much left. “We’re not talking about vacations, sickness, or if a deputy is injured on duty,” Benedict said. “I don’t even have time to think of that right now.”