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Sheriff's Dept. Budget Woes

October 29, 1995

* I read with great interest your Oct. 16 editorial, "Think Twice on Police Budget Cuts." While I share your concern about cutting the LAPD budget, your editorial ignored a major portion of the public safety picture for Los Angeles: the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

The 2.5 million people we serve in the over 3,000 square miles of Los Angeles County deserve the same message, and the same consideration for their well-being. We are charged with providing patrol and investigative service, operating the largest jail system in the free world (average daily population of over 18,000 inmates), and providing security for the Municipal and Superior courts. We are faced with the same violence, pursue the same suspects, deal with the same gang enforcement problems as the City of Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department also provides essential police and technical service to the police departments that rely upon us within our county: homicide, arson/explosives and narcotics investigations, air support, special weapons response, air/sea/mountain search and rescue and crime lab services.

Additionally, the Sheriff's Department acts as the mutual aid coordinator for this region, coordinating the response of federal, state and local public safety resources during major events such as earthquakes, civil unrest and other catastrophes.

Ironically, any budget success enjoyed by agencies within L.A. County requires additional resources for the Sheriff's Department because of increased demands on the support we provide and the impact on the jails and courts. This makes our department's survival critical to all in the criminal justice system.

Since the 1992-93 fiscal year, our department has been cut by more than $160 million, resulting in the loss of over 900 employees, the closure of four jails, consolidation of patrol stations, loss of investigators and other essential support services. With the increased demand for accountability of criminals via "three strikes" and the resultant change in the nature of inmates held in custody, we are unable to house misdemeanants and are unable to open the recently completed Twin Towers custody facility due to budget cuts.

Any budget cuts beyond this already critical level will impact our patrol functions--the cornerstone of police operations and the most visible reassurance to the communities we serve. It should be noted that we currently have one of the lowest officer-to-population ratios in the nation: Chicago 4.3 per 1,000; New York 3.7 per 1,000; LAPD 2.3 per 1,000, L.A. County Sheriff 1.3 per 1,000.

I do not minimize the needs of the city, but I believe that the interests of the people in all of Los Angeles County would be better served if the state of the Sheriff's Department was not ignored in the criminal justice picture of our community.

SHERMAN BLOCK

Los Angeles County Sheriff

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