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L.A. County sheriff considers major budget cuts

Lee Baca may slash overtime, reassign hundreds of deputies from administrative assignments to street patrols and order jail transfers to trim spending by 9% over the next 16 months.

March 02, 2010|By Andrew Blankstein and Rong-Gong Lin II

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said Tuesday that he is considering sweeping budget cuts that would move hundreds of deputies from administrative assignments to street patrols, slash overtime payments and downsize the Pitchess Detention Center in northern L.A. County.

But Baca said the department was "still a long way away" from more drastic steps, including pay cuts, furloughs and accelerating the early releases of inmates from the county jail system.

The cuts Baca outlined Tuesday total $128 million over the next 16 months -- or about 9% of the sheriff's nearly $1.3-billion general fund budget.

Most of the savings -- about $58 million -- would be achieved through reductions in overtime. Sheriff's officials said many of the uniformed deputies assigned to administrative duties would work schedules that otherwise would be filled by deputies accruing overtime.

The sheriff's command staff, including Baca himself, also would help fill gaps in law enforcement staffing, whether it is out on the streets or in the jails.

"We have to save money by reducing our costs and our management has to do everything to pitch in," Baca said. "It's going to be a challenge, but we're up for the challenge."

Baca plans to transfer hundreds of inmates from the 1,900-bed north facility of Pitchess to other jails in the county system. That would save about $26 million, although the facility would remain open with a significantly smaller inmate population.

The Sheriff's Department also plans to eliminate 300 frozen positions at a savings of $44 million. In the last fiscal year, the Sheriff's Department cut $35 million out of its budget. Most of the savings came from the elimination of more than 50 administrative positions.

County Chief Executive William T Fujioka said in an e-mail Tuesday that the proposed 9% cut was part of a budget exercise that was directed to all county departments. "We're still working on the budget and nothing is final," Fujioka wrote.

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

ron.lin@latimes.com

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