Southern California breaking news and trends

Police chiefs want a piece of prison realignment funding

Prison Realignment

Bear Guerra/KPCC

North Hollywood Police Department's Probation Compliance Unit is currently monitoring about 110 former prisoners throughout the district. On August 21, 2012, the Unit traveled as a team of five - one sergeant, and three police officers, and another officer from the LA County Dept. of Probation.

Police chiefs in L.A. County say they bear much of the brunt of prison realignment without reaping any of the resources.

Almost $400 million has flowed into L.A. County in two years under AB 109. That law shifted responsibility for lower level offenders and parolees to the counties. None of it, at least in L.A. County, has gone to city police departments.

"That is your infantry that's keeping the cities safe, every day, 24 hours" said El Monte Mayor Juventino Gomez, who's also president of the Independent Cities Association. "But an infantry will never win without the right equipment, without the right funding." 

State Finance Department spokesman H.D. Palmer said the whole point of realignment was to give money to the counties and let them sort out how to best use it based on local needs. 

In L.A. County, the bulk of the money has stayed at the county level. Most has gone to the L.A. County Sheriff's Department (LASD) and the L.A. County Probation Department. LASD runs the county's jails. Under realignment, the number of inmates has swelled by about 25%. Probation, meanwhile, is newly responsible for supervising people returning from prison who  would have been on state parole before realignment. 

But police departments say their workloads have also increased, and they've searched their own budgets for resources to deal with realignment's effects.

Glendale Police Chief Ronald De Pompa said he's diverted about $1 million (of about a $58 million budget) to handle matters like running compliance checks on recently released prison inmates. Previously, state parole handled such checks, although local law enforcement has historically provided manpower to probation checks and parole sweeps. 

De Pompa and other local chiefs have also attributed a recent uptick in property crimes to realignment. 

"The timing is unmistakeable," De Pompa said. "And we know anecdotally that we've arrested members of this population who've been recently released and totally unsupervised."

So far, there's no research data to evaluate the link. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Press Secretary Jeffrey Callison said it would be impossible at this point to tie any changes in the crime rate - good or bad - to a single policy.

The assertion "is based on nothing whatsoever," Callison said. "There are so many factors that go into a crime rate and there are so many other things that can change, from economy, to number of police officers." 

Glendale's De Pompa said he and other police chiefs plan to approach the state legislature about  guaranteeing realignment dollars to municipal law enforcement, alongside current guarantees to county governments. 

Several counties, like Ventura, Santa Barbara, and Riverside, have chosen to allocate a portion of their realignment funds to city police departments. 

L.A. County Probation Chief Jerry Powers, who chairs the county committee responsible for overseeing realigment, was not immediately available for comment. Counties throughout the state have consistently said they're underfunded with nothing to spare for the costs of realignment.

Finance Spokesman H.D. Palmer said he's aware of that complaint. He added that the recently passed Proposition 30 ensures a steady stream of funding going forward, and that the state expects its allocations to counties to increase by hundreds of millions of dollars in the next couple of years.

blog comments powered by Disqus