Well, we have said goodbye to 2020, a difficult year for our nation, the state, the county, our department and our families. We have faced a pandemic, riots, an emotionally charged presidential election, a challenging economy and a call from special interests to defund police, and we avoided the closures of Parks Bureau, PDC South and the majority of Community College Bureau. We also witnessed the election of a new district attorney who seems to be more interested in social justice reform than the consequences to victims or public safety. Some would say the world has gone mad.
Now, we march on into the year 2021, and what will it hold for us? By now the vaccine for the coronavirus (COVID-19) is being distributed, but how long will it be before we can see a noticeable difference in order to start getting back to normal? Hopefully, it will be sooner than later, as many Californians tire of Governor Newsom’s efforts and tactics to combat the spread of the virus, and many in our state now support an increasing campaign for his recall.
What can we expect from the Board of Supervisors now that Measure J has passed, which calls for the further defunding of the County’s criminal justice system, including the Sheriff’s Department? So, how is this all going to work? Well, they really don’t have a plan for it yet, so they will put together a group of people from the community, consultants (highly paid) and support staff to figure that out. Does this plan seem familiar? The answer is yes.
You see, in March 2017, Los Angeles County voters passed Measure H to deal with the rising level of homelessness. Measure H called for raising the sales tax by one-quarter of a percent. This new tax is estimated to bring in $355 million per year. Just like Measure J, there was a rush to pass Measure H with no specific plans or goals in place for how the money would be utilized. The Board of Supervisors, promising to be transparent, quickly assembled committees that included so-called experts and community stakeholders to gather data that would help create programs to cure or drastically reduce homelessness.
So, what has the Board of Supervisors come up with in the last three years? Unfortunately, a significant amount of the generated funds has been spent with nonprofit community outreach organizations, with little oversight or accountability. We are throwing more money at the problem, but the homeless count has shown sizable increases. Fiscal year 2019–2020 saw $460 million spent to combat homelessness, but the county has shown that only an estimated 14,000 people over three years have received permanent housing since Measure H started. At that rate, the spending equates to nearly $33,000 per person, and the numbers of homeless continue to grow.
So, you’ll have to forgive me when I don’t really feel confident that Measure J money is going to go to where it is truly needed. Changing people to move away from crime and the drug/alcohol addiction lifestyle is hard work. Dealing with mentally ill people who refuse services and housing is an even larger task, when you cannot force the individual into treatment.
So, to society, the Board of Supervisors and the district attorney, good luck with your attempt to “reimagine” L.A. County. Law enforcement has been deemed evil and vilified, so now it is all on you to enact the positive and life-changing measures that you have peddled. We will be watching from sidelines, and law enforcement, as always, will be there to support the community.
Until next time, stay safe, my friends.