Sheriff Speaks Out Against Budget Cuts

LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva addresses a crowd gathered in Calabasas on Tuesday, March 3.

As the call to defund police has echoed after nationwide protests against police brutality, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has cut nearly $150 million from the Sheriff’s Department budget for fiscal year 2020-21. The move is the latest salvo in the rocky relationship between the board of supervisors and Sheriff Alex Villanueva who, in 2018, pulled off a stunning victory over incumbent Jim McDonnell.

Villanueva isn’t happy about the budget cuts and has taken to Twitter and other media outlets to voice his frustration.

“We’re the most understaffed agency in the entire nation with less than one deputy per 1,000 residents,” he commented during an interview on KABC AM790 radio. “LAPD has twice the staffing level. NYPD has four times. Now we have less people to respond to emergencies. We’re going to have less investigators. The bad guys are going to be out there victimizing the community. And now they want to close Men’s Central Jail, which means there’s going to be nowhere to put ‘em once we take them into custody. It’s insanity all around.”

The sheriff’s department contract to police Malibu makes up 20 percent of the City of Malibu’s budget, which itself will be undergoing belt tightening due to a dramatic drop in tax revenue caused by pandemic business shutdowns. Citing safety for Malibu residents and its many visitors, City Manager Reva Feldman was reluctant to trim agreements with the sheriff, saying at a June council meeting, “My gut instinct is that isn’t the place to start making cuts.”

Newly appointed mayor Mikke Pierson told The Malibu Times this week it was too early to know how the sheriff department cuts might affect Malibu, but that the city would continue to focus on Pacific Coast Highway safety relying on the California Highway Patrol. Council Member Rick Mullen has previously stated he’s not a “defund the police kind of guy.”

It has been a contentious tenure between the sheriff and supervisors from the get-go.

Villanueva hasn’t been shy in his recent media blasts.

“I have less than 10 percent of the entire county budget yet I’m taking 50 percent of all the cuts,” he told Fox News. “That is target[ed], specific and malicious from the BOS. Yet the need to provide public safety continues to rise. Crime hasn’t gone away because people don’t like law enforcement. No one is listening to victims of crimes. We’re not some outside occupying force. We are part of this community.”

Villanueva said likely sacrifices would be to special victim’s units, narcotics and major crime bureaus.

“At the minimum, cases will not be investigated,” the sheriff said. “Our cyber crime unit investigates fiduciary and elder abuse—a huge, growing crime sector. There are no easy cuts. It’s going to hurt the public in some way.”

Villanueva blasted the board of supervisors on Twitter, saying the BOS believes the most vulnerable population is criminal offenders. “I believe our most vulnerable are the victims of crime,” he wrote.

On the proposed closure of the men’s central jail, Villanueva tweeted his department “will have less capacity to house the County of LA’s most violent offenders. In our custody today are serious criminal offenders. Murder—1,199; Attempted murder— 762; Manslaughter— 65; Rape—105; Child molestation— 391; Robbery—1,196. Reconsider cuts to #PublicSafety & don’t silence victims. I stand with you.”

A call for a comment to Captain Salvador “Chuck” Becerra at the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s station on how budget cuts may affect the Malibu community had not been returned by the time The Malibu Times went to print Tuesday.