Sac County Weighs Drastic Public Safety Cuts

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(Sacramento, CA)
Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Board of Supervisors continued its budget hearings Wednesday, when it heard from the sheriff, district attorney and probation departments.
Sacramento County Supervisors have long said public safety is their top priority.  But this year, nothing is immune to the budget axe.  Take, for example, the probation department.  Interim Chief Probation Officer Suzanne Collins says her department’s proposed 30 percent cut would force her to lay off 50 probation officers.
Collins: “It equates to no supervision for adult offenders in Sacramento County except for a very small number that will be supervised by the gang unit and the sex offenders that are deemed to be high-risk and mandated by law to be supervised.” 
Out of the county’s 15,000 adult felony probationers, only around 500 would be supervised.  The cuts would also mean the closure of the two juvenile correction facilities: the Sacramento County Boys Ranch and the Warren E. Thornton Youth Center.
Collins: “There’ll be no accountability for juveniles.  The approximately 235 commitment beds where these juvenile offenders have been housed will be gone.” 
As for the sheriff’s department?  It faces a 20 percent cut, $80 million.  Sheriff John McGinness says he’s looking at eliminating responses to so-called “cold calls” – that is, crimes that aren’t life-and-death situations.
McGinness: “Where we find ourselves today is in a position where the county of Sacramento – particularly the unincorporated areas – will be without sufficient law enforcement services.  It will become known as the place where disrespect for law is the order of the day.” 
The department could get around $10 million back if the sheriff’s deputies union agrees to labor concessions.  A vote on those concessions started Wednesday night.  But McGinness says he needs about $20 million more to provide the most basic level of service.
McGinness: “I completely and totally understand the fact that we are going to take a hit.  I support that.  We’ve already begun the process internally.  My objection is to the extent to which we’re hit.” 
County administrators say the sheriff is facing a far smaller cut than most other county services.
Finally, the district attorney’s 21 percent reduction would mean a sharp drop in prosecutions to all but the highest-profile crimes.
The budget hearings continue Thursday; supervisors will hear about cuts to the county’s health and social services.  A vote is expected sometime next week.