15
Mon, Jul

Tragic Toll: L.A. Sheriff's Department Mourns 4 Suicides in 24 Hours

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna

LOS ANGELES

RANTZ & RAVEZ - The News Headline draws your attention to a very serious and mostly hidden situation impacting many dedicated members of the law enforcement profession: ”L. A. Sheriff’s Department in mourning after 4 current and former Deputies die by Suicide.”  “Inside the ‘Pressure Cooker’ 4 deaths in 24 hours opens conversation about suicides among police.”  In total there were 9 Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriffs who committed Suicide in 2023.  8 Active and 1 retired.

The story is real and illustrates the constant pressures members of the Law Enforcement community experience on a daily basis.  Pressures to excel in a profession that is severely under staffed, under paid, and under constant scrutiny by an assortment of mostly liberal anti-police government officials, District Attorneys who fail to prosecute those arrested for serious crimes, minority anti-law enforcement groups, biased news and various media reports, social media criticism of law enforcement personnel along with a host of others who describe law enforcement professionals as Racist, Cowards, Thugs, and an assortment of other derogatory and negative terms.  With this constant barrage of criticism from various people and organizations in our society and the internal pressure from the command staff of law enforcement officials constantly under pressure to do this and that without causing anyone to get upset or injured during the process of personnel enforcing the laws equally and fairly.  The pressures continue to mount to the point of desperation and ultimately hope is lost and the option for some is to end it all and commit suicide.  Leaving loving family members to grieve and partners and friends to ask why this would happen to him or her.  Why would they become so isolated and not find help to resolve the pressures and anxiety they are experiencing on a daily basis when they are sworn to Protect and Serve.     

With the shrinking number of law enforcement personnel in most law enforcement agencies and the lack of interest from people interested in joining the ranks of public safety, the pressures continue to impact the dedicated men and women of the law enforcement community who continue to protect and serve in spite of all the internal and external challenges.  Hostile elected officials and the media that fails to express support or appreciation for the members of Law Enforcement who continue to perform their duties against all barriers and political correctness.     

The funds to maintain all L.A. County Government services are appropriated by the County Board of Supervisors.  The total budget for 2023/2024 is $46.7 BILLION DOLLARS to run all county operations.  The Sheriff’s Department is allocated approximately $4 Billion Dollars to run the public safety operations within the County.    

So, who is to blame for the lack of support and funding for the members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department?  It is not any of us who pay our taxes and respect the law and appreciate the members of Law Enforcement who work to protect us along with our families, friends, and property.    

In doing research for this edition of RantZ and RaveZ, I found some interesting facts you might consider.  As a basis for my interest in this subject is the fact that I have a total of 55 years of law enforcement experience, and I continue my service with the police.  It is not for the pay since I am not paid for my services.  It is truly dedication to a profession that I believe in and plan to continue in the years ahead.   Additionally, I was elected three times to the Los Angeles City Council where I served for 12 years.  I believe I have a unique perspective between the law enforcement responsibilities and an elected official’s public safety responsibility for the members of the organization and community at large.

In reviewing the relationship between the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in the past few years, there is a marked difference in the level of cooperation and respect between the members of the Board of Supervisors and the administration at the LASD.  An example is when Sheriff Alex Villanueva was sworn into office 5 years ago.  Supervisor Hahn stated during the ceremony “Don’t forget, we write the checks.”  Following that the Sheriff’s Department was defunded by $145 million dollars which negatively impacted the hiring of personnel to maintain an adequate force to perform all the duties and responsibilities of the Department.  Additionally, $143 million dollars was frozen from the service and supply budget.  1,281 positions were eliminated from the Department.  The following year, $116 million was cut from the budget.  Many civilian positions were eliminated during the subsequent years due to the continuing Sheriff Department budget cuts by the Board of Supervisors.  Crime Lab personnel were reduced which negatively impacted the processing of critical evidence associated with various crimes.  The Bus Transportation fleet was reduced in size in the past 4 years due to continuing cuts by the Board of Supervisors.  The fleet went from 82 down to 16 operational transportation buses.  Along with the many financial cuts pushed by Supervisor Hahn and her colleagues, the civilian and sworn personal ranks were drastically cut.  The number of Deputies dropped from 9,986 to 8,700.  The Sheriff’s Dept is usually 4,000 personnel both sworn and civilian short daily.  Some personnel are working over 70 hours a week.  Overtime is the only option the Department has to adequately deploy for jail, patrol, detective, court, training, management, and other required operations.        

The numbers reflect the situation at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department over the past few years.  A Department that has been taken over by the 5 elected members of the Board of Supervisors.  Holding the Sheriff and Deputies accountable is appropriate along with holding the members of the County Board of Supervisors responsible for appropriate funding for public safety in the County of Los Angeles. 

The safety of the public should be paramount in the minds and votes of the elected officials of the Board of Supervisors.  That does not appear to be the case over the past few years with all 5 members of the Board of Supervisors.  So, who is responsible for the Suicide Deaths of the Deputies who took their own lives?  Was it the excessive and mandatory overtime that drove the Deputies to take their own lives or was it just a state of depression caused by other factors in their personal lives?  You be the judge...4 Dedicated Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputies commit suicide in just 24 hours!  May They Rest in Peace.

There are now lawsuits being filed against the County by families of Deputies who died.  Time will tell if the County Board of Supervisors are held accountable for how they managed the budget for the Sheriff’s Department. 

 

(Dennis P.  Zine is the author of RantZ and RaveZ.  The column is published twice a month to keep you informed of activities in the Los Angeles area.  Your comments are welcome at [email protected].)

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