WEST VALLEY : 4 Area Cities Face Possible Sheriff Cuts


Although they pay for their sheriff’s patrols by the minute, four West Valley cities could get less law enforcement service next fiscal year if proposed cuts in the Los Angeles County budget are approved.

About two-thirds of the $12-million budget at the sheriff’s Lost Hills/Malibu Station comes from contracts with Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Westlake Village and Malibu. The rest is made up by the county, which may cut 16% of the sheriff’s budget next year.

“If those cuts go through, it’s going to be bad for everybody--even the incorporated cities,” said Lt. Jim Pierson of the Lost Hills/Malibu Station. “They will still get what they pay for in terms of the day-to-day business. But in an emergency . . . we may not have enough resources and have to wait for backups before we go in.”


Air rescue and some drug and other specialized units that operate countywide may also be cut, and response time in the unincorporated areas could be slowed if the proposed layoffs of up to one in 10 of the department’s employees are approved, sheriff’s spokesman Bill Wehner said.

Officials in Calabasas, Agoura Hills and Malibu said preliminary budgets very probably will maintain current levels of funding for their respective sheriff’s services with, in some cases, slight cost-of-living increases.

Westlake Village City Manager Ray Taylor said he will recommend that the City Council look closely at the $1.2-million Sheriff’s Department contract, which represents about 40% of that city’s general fund. Hidden Hills, which earmarked $80,000 for law enforcement this year, has yet to begin budget negotiations.

But several city officials said that with a regionwide recession and an unresolved state budget, the future of their sheriff’s contracts remains uncertain.

“Public safety will continue to be our highest priority,” Agoura Hills Councilwoman Fran Pavely said. “But there’s certainly a balancing act: How far do you reduce or eliminate other areas of service in order to maintain . . . the sheriff’s protection.”

The nearly 70 deputies who patrol the 180-square-mile region each 24 hours often back each other up in case of an emergency or large event. But their ability to do so could be further weakened if any of the five cities cuts its sheriff’s contract.


“It’s all a carefully woven situation,” Pierson said. “The cities do rely on each other for coverage, so if you start chopping in one place, the whole thing can start to come undone.