In a mark of increasing anti-police sentiment, Los Angeles County is proposing a $145.4 million budget cut to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, which includes eliminating six specific divisions like the Special Victims Bureau/Unit and Major Crimes Bureau.
There have been calls over the last few weeks to defund police departments around the country in response to the death of George Floyd. Some, including Minneapolis where Floyd died in police custody, have already made the decision to defund the police department (though the city council paid $63,000 to a personal security firm over personal safety concerns). The city will instead replace it with “a department of community safety and violence prevention, which will have responsibility for public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach” or i.e. “police” with the politically acceptable progressive jargon.
It’s an experiment in public safety that could have potentially disastrous results, and it looks like one of the nation’s largest police departments will soon begin its own experiment.
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department serves approximately 10 million people, compared to the 430,000 served by the Minneapolis Police Department. The city has recently announced that it will cut the budget by about $145.4 million and eliminate certain specialized units including the Safe Streets Bureau (Gang Enforcement), Parks Bureau, Special Victims Bureau (sexual/physical abuse of children, rape, human trafficking), Community Partnership Bureau (COPS team), Fraud and Cybercrimes Bureau and Major Crimes Bureau.
As Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said, “The budget cuts announced by county CEO Sachi Hamai are targeted specifically to hurt public safety in Los Angeles County, while sparing virtually every other function of county government from any reductions…These cuts come at a time when jails were de-populated of over five thousand inmates in order to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that restrictions are lifting, violent crimes, such as murder, are on the rise across the County. Now is not the time to cut vital law enforcement services, that should be the last thing cut.”
According to reports, the budget cuts were due in part to the lack of sales tax funds due to COVID, which will result in 400 layoffs in the department and the closing of those specialized units. But the rest of Los Angeles County is not feeling the squeeze as most of the cuts are coming solely out of the police budget.
The proposed department cuts are the most surprising and concerning.
The Major Crimes Bureau is responsible for “preventing individuals or groups from harassing or harming others on the basis of race, religion, national origin or sexual orientation.” During this time of heightened racial tensions, it seems incredibly counterintuitive to eliminate the department which is partly responsible for addressing crimes that have a racial component.
Eliminating the Special Victims Bureau is especially concerning as this division deals with women, children and men that have been victims of sex trafficking, sexual assault or sexual abuse.
According to a County of Los Angeles website, “In 2012, Los Angeles County was identified as a major hub for the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Adult traffickers were preying upon children, some as young as 10 years old, and forcing them to sell their bodies for money in our local streets night after night. As a result of a history of abuse and neglect prior to their exploitation, many of these children have been involved in the County’s child welfare system.”
To eliminate a department that is specially trained to deal with traumatized victims and systemic abuse will leave hundreds if not thousands of children and adults vulnerable.
In light of the recent George Floyd case, it makes sense for some police departments to conduct internal reviews and address any racist, sexist or any other prejudice on the force, but to eliminate such critical departments in the nation’s most populous county is rather extreme and may result in increased criminal activity.
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