West Hollywood’s Democrat-controlled City Council has voted to defund the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, despite concerns from residents and business owners amid soaring violent crime.
At the council’s meeting on Monday night, officials voted to slash the sheriff’s budget, despite a public backlash against the idea as the Los Angeles residents are plagued by out-of-control crime.
The measure was passed on a vote of 3-2.
Mayor Pro Tem Sepi Shyne voted for it as did Councilmembers Lindsey Horvath and John D’Amico. Mayor Lauren Meister and Councilmember John Erickson voted against it.
“Prioritizing people’s safety doesn’t just mean people with badges and guns on the street,” Councilmember Lindsey P. Horvath said during the meeting.
“We have to find another way to keep our residents safe in a way that is affordable.”
Meister said: “I’m not going to vote for the budget if we cut the sheriff’s funds.
“First of all, nobody has the gun problem that we have in this country.
“You can’t expect us to have a public safety team where most of the people aren’t armed in order to defend our citizens.”
“What we know now is our residents want foot patrols. We need to be fiscally responsible And we have all talked for two years.
“Reimagining policing means reallocating funding. You can’t just say it Without actually doing it. Period.”
Ruth Williams, a co-founder of West Hollywood who passed away earlier this month begged the council not to do it.
“We need our deputies on the street, and we need more of them,” she said.
“We need them on foot patrol.
“We need them on bikes.
“We need to bring back whoever was defunded and even add more.
“Crime is up. People are yelling for more public safety, not less.”
Shyne’s amended budget re-allocates the funds for the sheriff’s deputies to the Block by Block program, which staffs the unarmed, blue-shirted security ambassadors who provide the city with supplemental law enforcement services.
Two deputies will be removed in six months, and three more deputies will be removed six months after that, though an Entertainment Policing Team deputy will be restored.
Thirty Block by Block security ambassadors will be added to the program’s contract.
The reallocation is a victory for progressive activists, alternative policing advocates and opponents of Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who have pressured WeHo’s leaders to reduce funding for the department all year long.
The movement gained steam this spring when Public Safety Commissioner Nika Soon-Shiong led her colleagues in recommending the budget reduction to City Council.
For months, residents and business owners from all over the city have expressed their deep concerns about cutting the sheriff’s budget in the midst of a crime wave and at a time of general unease.