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THE REGION

Deputies headed to Obama inaugural

December 17, 2008|Garrett Therolf

After a week of controversy over the potential cost to taxpayers, Los Angeles County supervisors voted Tuesday to send 112 sheriff's deputies -- a fraction of the personnel initially proposed -- across the country next month to aid in the presidential inauguration.

The narrow approval, although for far fewer than the 500 deputies first requested by Sheriff Lee Baca on behalf of the Washington, D.C., police, will still make the L.A. County department one of the largest contingents helping with crowd control and other duties at what are expected to be high-turnout festivities surrounding President-elect Barack Obama's swearing in.

Supervisors Mike Antonovich, Don Knabe and Zev Yaroslavsky had complained that the trip would deprive county residents of law enforcement protection and cause unnecessary expense to local taxpayers.

A letter sent by Baca to the board last week estimated the cost of sending about 347 deputies -- already fewer than the number first proposed -- to Washington at about $1.6 million, with as much as $1 million in salary and other expenses to be paid by the county.

Knabe brokered a compromise to send about a third that many deputies, with the assurance that the trip would be fully reimbursed by Washington's police department. The one exception is the cost of the deputies' employee benefits during the four days they will be in the nation's capital.

Supervisors Antonovich and Gloria Molina joined him to support the deal. Yaroslavsky opposed sending any deputies, and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas abstained after failing to gain support for his compromise proposal to send 250 deputies.

"I think that we could and should have done better than this," Ridley-Thomas said. "We will be making many requests of the Obama administration, and it is important to get off on the right foot. . . . We need to be smart about change."

Ninety-six agencies are sending 4,000 officers for inauguration events, according to a District of Columbia police spokeswoman.

Some agencies have opted out. The New York Police Department decided in 2004 that sending officers would open the agency to unwanted liability. So, it was not asked to help.

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garrett.therolf@latimes.com

Times staff writers Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Richard Winton contributed to this report.

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