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Sheriff Asked to Set Timeline for Cost Savings

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors asked the Sheriff’s Department on Tuesday to come up with a timeline to implement a number of cost-saving measures--with possible savings of up to $22 million per year after a five-year implementation period--as outlined in the most extensive independent audit of the department in memory.

“At least now we have a road map,” Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said of the audit, which was ordered by the board last year after a Times report raised questions about the department’s spending habits.

Undersheriff Jerry Harper told the board that his department--for the most part--supports the findings set forth in the report, which was prepared by private accounting firm Peat Marwick.

Some of the cost-saving measures include closing unneeded operations, privatizing medical and food services in the county jails, and hiring more civilians to take over tasks now performed by deputies. Harper said some of the recommendations are already being implemented. But he cautioned that the potential savings would not be realized overnight.

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Although the potential savings represent a small fraction of the department’s $1.1-billion budget, the money could translate into more patrol cars and jail beds, Harper said.

“All of us have a better understanding of how these savings might be reapplied,” Harper said. “If these savings result in being able to put another radio car on the street or reopen another jail, that is basically what the money should be used for.”

The report is the second of three Sheriff’s Department audits that were ordered by the Board of Supervisors last fall. Although the department fell “well within law enforcement industry practices” in most areas, the report found that the sheriff needed to invest in long-term solutions for a number of pressing issues--including developing an adequate computer system to track inmates.

Under the resolution adopted by the board Tuesday, the Sheriff’s Department and the county’s chief administrative officer will be expected to provide the supervisors with progress reports every six months on the implementation of the recommendations.

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