12/05/2012 02:40 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

LASD Jail Reform Requires $34 Million, Says Sheriff Lee Baca

Sheriff Lee Baca has calculated he needs at least $34 million to beef up supervision at county jails and implement other reforms sought by the Commission on Jail Violence to prevent deputies from abusing inmates.

In a report to the Board of Supervisors, released Tuesday, Baca estimated the overall cost of implementing the blue-ribbon panel's 63 recommendations is at least $60.9 million.

To date, the department is absorbing almost half of that expense. Baca is working with the county's chief executive officer to try to come up with the rest of the cash.

Unless money is secured, several reforms may hang in the balance, such as the hiring of more than 100 supervisors to keep deputies from getting out of line, estimated to cost almost $20 million.

The department also plans to hire 160 custody assistants for $15 million; add several weeks of training for $12 million; and create a new internal audit and inspections division for almost $9 million.

Other so-far unfunded reforms include $771,000 to hire a new assistant sheriff for custody, an experienced manager whose sole responsibility would be to operate the jails.

The department did not immediately respond to questions on whether that amount represented a single person's salary, or included other expenses such as support staff.

The report noted Baca plans to choose a candidate by the end of the year.

One of the commission's most important recommendations -- creating an independent Office of Inspector General -- has yet to be assigned a dollar amount.

The cost of expanding the department's internal affairs investigations is also to be determined.

A top aide to Supervisor Michael Antonovich, Anna Pembedjian, said the department's math would have to be reconciled with that of the CEO, the independent monitor for the reforms, and jail consultants and experts.

"There is more than one way to get to the goals and recommendations of the commission," Pembedjian said. "What Supervisor Michael Antonovich wants is not to merely implement the recommendations expediently, but to implement them effectively and meaningfully in the long run."

"The taxpayers and citizens of this county expect the reforms," she added. "The supervisors want to make sure they, along with the sheriff, implement them in the most fiscally prudent fashion, and that may require prioritization (in the budget)."

According to the report, the department has already implemented some of the commission's recommendations, and is working on others.

The department is buying 20 body scanners at a cost of $175,000 to $220,000 each, to ensure inmates have not armed themselves with shivs and other weapons.

All of the county's eight jails and the inmate reception center will have at least one body scanner.

The department is also developing a shift rotation policy to prevent deputies from forming cliques, or what the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California has called gangs; and tracking inmate grievances against personnel to check for patterns of abusive behavior.

Meanwhile, members of the department's top brass, including Baca himself, are making announced and unannounced visits to the jails.

One of the commission's recommendations had been for Baca to be "personally engaged in the oversight of the jails." On Tuesday, he assured he was doing just that.

"I meet with Custody Division executives on a weekly basis to monitor the division's overall use of force, participation in the Education-Based Incarceration program, inmate complaint levels, inmate population issues, as well as other custody-related topics," he wrote in the report.

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