The most pressing issue the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department faces is that it is understaffed. In our previous blog, we outlined CARP, a plan initially conceived under the Baca and Tanaka administration to eliminate overtime and cut the budget, but it quickly morphed into a "solution" for chronic short staffing. This game of musical chairs jeopardized public safety and was not a solution to the pressing issue of a lack of sworn deputies.
Here is a perfect illustration of how a CARP assignment can go well beyond an eight-hour shift and impact the ability of detectives to solve their assigned cases. During a detective's reassignment to patrol, the detective had to work two hours over shift writing reports related to two separate incidents involving individuals taken into custody. The reports were required to be completed prior to the detective going off-duty. No overtime was paid to the detective; instead, the detective was required to adjust work to account for those hours.
As a result of writing the reports, the detective may now have to appear in court to testify regarding the incidents, which could potentially consume at least half a day in court per incident - and that is just for the preliminary hearings. More days may be required if there are continuances of the preliminary hearings, or trials in the cases. Further, detectives are all expected to work their CARP assignment in their regular 40-hour workweek. If, for example, they work a 10-hour CARP shift, they only have 30 work hours left in the week to work on their detective caseload.
The effect of CARP is also underestimated in the department's evaluation because management does not take these hours into consideration when calculating the numbers or hours associated with CARPing. The hours spent CARPing, means that thousands of detective hours are lost and leads on murders, burglaries, thefts, assaults and other serious crimes become stale or are lost. Most importantly, a delay can result in the commission of more crimes by a suspect, meaning more innocent people are victimized before the suspect is brought to justice.
Detectives have conveyed to ALADS, examples of multiple other instances where CARP has negatively affected public safety because of reassignment to patrol. In one case, a search warrant service for two burglary suspects had to be delayed several weeks because personnel were not available, or out of hours due to CARP, allowing the suspects to remain free and potentially commit more crimes. Another search warrant for an identity theft suspect was delayed, and when finally served, it was learned the potential suspect had moved out a couple of weeks before. On a daily basis, search warrants, surveillance, parole/probation searches, and other routine detective tasks, which remove criminals from the streets, have been delayed or shelved due to CARP. Once again, this may allow criminals to stay on the street longer to victimize more people and to continue their criminal activities.
The patrol function is on of the pillars of the Sheriff's Department, with deputies working their local beats multiple times a week and becoming familiar with and to the community. The department's patrol function is where front-line deputies (the visible portion of the department), deter crime, respond to calls for service by the public, and provide a sense of security. The importance of patrol is one of the reasons why the department has been cannibalizing other units to try to staff this crucial position.
However, patrol isn't just an assignment to parachute into for a shift and then leave for the remainder of a work week to perform another assignment. Constant training is needed to be an effective deputy, be it in tactics, use of force, or techniques to solve volatile situations. While those assigned from a detective or another administrative position certainly have had prior patrol experience, they are not receiving constant in-service training on crucial patrol functions.
For example, one area that has come into public focus most recently is dealing with mentally ill subjects. The county recently announced a program to spend $4.7 million to add 25 staff members to the department's mental health team, as the current short-staffed team might take hours to respond to a call for their assistance. However, in our view, the best solution is to have patrol deputies receive training - both initial and refresher - on the most effective ways to deal with mentally ill subjects. It is patrol deputies who routinely are in contact with mentally ill subjects, without the luxury of time to wait for a special team to respond to assist. Unfortunately, a department that runs on the Band-Aid approach of CARP can scarcely staff patrol functions, let alone provide this type of necessary training.
CARP is a shell game, not a solution, and is a large contributor to low morale within the department that in turn affects the retention of deputies. The county is well aware of the detrimental impact of CARP which is why in 2013, the Board of Supervisors approved funding for a two-year plan to end CARP. A total of $36.6 million dollars were allocated for the department to hire and make the necessary changes to eliminate CARP, with quarterly reports required. In a "Final Report" dated July 21, 2015, the department reported that "As of July 1, 2015, CARPing has been eliminated throughout the Department."
Only months later, in a complete disservice to the department and the communities we serve, CARP, with all its detrimental qualities, was re-implemented.
In our next blog, we will discuss some solutions ALADS believes will allow the department to end CARP and ensure that Los Angeles County will have a fully staffed Sheriff's Department.