Full Law Enforcement Staffing
Is a Crime Solution
by ALADS Board of Directors
The combination of rising crime and a short-staffed Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) should be troubling for every resident of the county. As noted by a recent Los Angeles Times story, in areas served by the Sheriff's Department, violent crime was up 9% and property crime up 6% through November 30, 2016. This is the second year in a row with an increase in violent and property crime, and comes as numbers published by the department reveal there are over 1,100 vacant deputy positions; many acknowledge the current vacancy numbers may be substantially higher.
There is more than one reason our neighborhoods are feeling the increase in crime. As ALADS has repeatedly blogged, Prop 47 has made many theft crimes inconsequential misdemeanors. In addition; accused criminals have failed to appear in court in increasing numbers following passage of Prop 47. The pending early release of thousands of inmates from prison, thanks to Prop 57, only figures to exacerbate these problems.
However, an effective way to combat crime is to have a well-staffed law enforcement agency. The Rand Corporation, in an exhaustive survey of "high-quality academic research on the cost of crime and the effectiveness of police in preventing crime," concluded the return on investment for hiring additional law enforcement was likely to be appreciably above the cost of hiring. The study noted the benefits of additional hiring was in "plain sight" but "hidden" in academic journals that policymakers underutilized.
The Public Policy Institute of California (PPPIC) echoed the findings of the Rand Corporation in August 2016 and confirmed what law enforcement professionals already know. In the " Just the Facts " release, the PPIC wrote "The most recent credible research finds that an additional police officer reduces crime by 1.3 violent crimes and 4.2 property crimes per year. Other recent evidence estimates that the crime-reducing benefits of hiring an additional police officer exceed $300,000 per year , much more than the annual cost of an additional officer."
While the Sheriff's Department has announced plans for expanded Academy classes, the projected numbers of hiring and graduation will likely be scarcely enough to keep up with attrition, let alone close the vacancy gap. As of June 2016, there were  7,456 deputy sheriffs . However, 779 deputies have or will reach 30 years of service by the end of 2017; another 1,643 will reach 30 years of service by 2021. In short, the department faces the near-term loss of nearly 30% of the current deputies due to retirement.
The LASD is not the only agency having trouble facing hiring shortages. According to a USA today story , in the past five years, law enforcement openings in California have increased more than 600 percent. The hiring crunch and massive shortages plaguing law enforcement agencies in Southern California have heightened the need for LASD to maintain its ranks to maintain its roll as the primary countywide backup. The shortage in other agencies is a compounder for LASD's staffing problem since LASD provides mutual aid to all 88 cities to ensure an effective and organized response to a wide range of emergencies. There may be a misconception that mutual aid is used only during a civil unrest and natural disaster; however, this system has been used successfully for many other situations, including large criminal investigations, deployment of special teams such as Special Weapons and Tactics Teams, Bomb Squads, etc.
The Rand Corporation documented multiple ways to solve the issue of law enforcement retention and recruitment in another 2010 study . The study noted that retention and not just recruiting should be a key focus of departments, as turnover was both costly in terms of training, loss of valuable officer experience, good decision making, and increased impairment of organizational performance and service delivery. One way to enhance retention was to enhance "compensation and benefits" which has "demonstrated effects on improving retention by meeting immediate employee needs, as well as its reinvigoration of the organization."
The rise in crime is costly for the residents of Los Angeles County. However, as the Rand and PPIC studies show, one proven solution to combat the crime increases is to staff the Sheriff's Department fully.  
The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) is the collective bargaining agent representing more than 7,900 deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators working in Los Angeles County. 

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