Department will shrink by 200-300 deputies due to budget cuts
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said his department may shrink by 200 to 300 deputies by March and blamed the shortfall on hiring restrictions imposed by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors that were set in place to address recurring budget deficits.
The sheriff made his prediction while responding to questions from followers during a live session on Facebook and Instagram Wednesday, Dec. 1. He said a partial hiring freeze drastically reduced the number of classes graduating from the Sheriff’s Academy each year.
“They’ve choked us from 12 all the way down to four, which means we’re going to actually be smaller by end of March next year than we are right now,” Villanueva said. “We’re going to be two to three hundred deputies short.”
Each class hosts 85 cadets, Villanueva said. There were more than 10,200 sworn deputies in the department as of November, according to figures shared by the LASD.
The sheriff has repeatedly stated that his department is severely understaffed, and that a shortage of deputies is contributing to a rise in crime. He has pointed fingers at the Board of Supervisors and others he accuses of attempting to “defund” law enforcement.
The Board of Supervisors cut funding to all of the county’s 37 departments as they encountered economic challenges at the start of the pandemic, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said during a brief interview Wednesday. She said most of those agencies have worked hard to “live within their budgets,” but the Sheriff’s Department has remained under continued scrutiny after repeatedly overspending millions of dollars on overtime pay.
“He is a department head who will not take responsibility, and continues to ask for more, more, more,” Kuehl said of the Sheriff. “There is no more, unless you take it from other departments. And I think the Department of Public Health, others, have been pretty important over the past year.”
She added that just over half of the Sheriff’s Department’s staff are fully vaccinated, and the remainder could be subject to termination if they do not comply with an order requiring all county employees to receive the jab.
“If he’s so concerned about losing deputies, his greatest worry should be the extremely low vaccination rate within his department,” Kuehl said.
Just under 52 percent of the LASD’s employees were fully inoculated as of November. By then, more than 73 percent of the LAPD’s staff had received both doses of the vaccine.
Villanueva himself is vaccinated, but has been publicly critical of the order mandating the shots for county employees. Last month, he blamed resistance to the mandate for a rise in retirements and resignations among his staff that he said is impacting public safety.