Here is an example of where I am going with this. Yesterday the SM Patch posted an article about women in the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. It is an obvious feel good puff piece designed to help create some positive feelings about the county mounties, with most of the content likely sourced from the LASD itself. Public relations being important to a law enforcement organization as large and pervasive as this one. Here is some of what was said:
Meet the First Female Patrol Deputies of LASD: The Sheriff's Department will celebrate the 100-year anniversary of women in the Department.
When Carole Freeman joined the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in 1970, women could not work in the field, so she took a post at the jail. But that changed two years later when the Police Foundation selected the LASD to take part in a national pilot program training female deputies for patrol duty.
There is little doubt that what this article is describing was a significant step forward for women in Los Angeles County, and we can all take pride in that. However, since Sierra Madre has its own police force and has not, at least as of today, contracted with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, what does it really have to do with us?
And this is hardly the first instance of where the L.A. Sheriff's Department has been the subject of some very sunny coverage on the storied webpages of the Sierra Madre Patch. On July 17 they posted an article titled, "LASD Offers Advice on Preventing Identity Theft." Quite an important issue in a town that had fallen victim to the still unsolved EVG pump skimming case, the largest instance of identity theft ever in our little town's history.
There have been others as well. On May 11 an article entitled, "Had a Bike Stolen? The Sheriff May Have It," dealt with another sensitive issue as bike theft is hardly unknown here. And on August 8 Patch ran something called, "7 Steps to Earthquake Safety: LASD offers tips to prepare for a major earthquake." Other articles in a similarly helpful vein can be found on the Sierra Madre Patch as well.
Now, and as well-informed Sierra Madre Tattler readers already know, there is a bit of a situation going down between the Sierra Madre Police Department and the L.A. County's Sheriffs. The lawsuit happy SMPD, which currently devours 53% of our city's General Fund budget, is exerting some strong pressure on City Hall for even more money, along with enhanced benefits. The SMPOA (or is that SMPA?) even recently sent out a mailer strongly hinting at the possibility that unless they get more dough and some increased benefits, many of its more highly trained officers will leave and take jobs elsewhere.
Something that I am not certain very many people living here either believe or even care about.
The situation is this. The Sierra Madre Police Department is quickly becoming a very expensive and troublesome proposition for a town as small as this. During good economic times the sacrifice was considered an acceptable one, if only to assuage the vanity of a certain segment of Sierra Madre's resident population, along with the political needs of some our more disingenuous politicians.
However, the economy has been heading south for some time now, and coupled with the loss of CRA funding due to a recent much publicized Sacramento property tax clawback, Sierra Madre finds itself in increasingly troublesome financial straits. Water infrastructure needs alone threaten to break the piggy bank. There is also a strong possibility that utility taxes will sunset here as voters seem unlikely to sanction a renewal of UUT rates that are the highest in California.
And when you throw in all of those misguided SMPOA lawsuits, which in my opinion are designed more to enrich the greedy law firm controlling our cop union than anything else, the financial hit of maintaining the SMPD as it now exists begins to seem even harder to justify.
When Sierra Madre's City Council went out for an RFP on law enforcement services a few years back, it was discovered that this City could save as much as $1.5 million dollars per year should it jettison the SMPD and contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. It was also determined that we would then have more and better trained officers (or is that Deputies?), along with access to such things as helicopters, SWAT units, jails, and increased paramedic support.
It is entirely conceivable that the current financial pressures upon Sierra Madre could force the City Council to once again take a good hard look at the costs of law enforcement services here. Without the wherewithal to maintain things as they always have been there would no longer be a choice. The politics of law enforcement would at last become irrelevant.
Which could be why the LASD has been getting their publicity releases placed in the Sierra Madre Patch. They are introducing themselves to some potential new consumers of their services.
The war for the hearts and minds of Sierra Madre residents may have already begun.