Santa Barbara sheriff critical of budget cuts

SANTA BARBARA – Sheriff Bill Brown, appearing before the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Friday, criticized the board’s approval of a final budget calling for the immediate loss of 50 sheriff’s department positions.

With a significant media presence in the boardroom, Brown stood before the supervisors and expressed his dissatisfaction with the budget approved for his department.

Sheriff Bill Brown

“I am deeply disappointed at the budget adopted today. The cuts to the sheriff’s office are severe and follow three years of continuing reductions,” he intoned. “The funding approved…falls far short of allowing us to provide the level of public safety service that the citizens of this county expect and deserve.”

The bottom-line effect of the budget reduction will see the sheriff eliminating 13 percent of the overall workforce since 2007, with this year’s elimination of the gang team, four narcotics detectives, a high-tech crimes detective and rural crimes deputies, and the reduction of service hours at the Santa Maria branch jail to three days per week.

“These cuts will affect virtually every segment of the largest law enforcement agency in the county,” said department spokesman Drew Sugars, including court services and the training of staff and deputies.

Services additionally targeted in the newly-approved 2011-12 budget include reduction of the sheriff’s air support unit and the elimination of three positions therein, shutting down the CAL-MMET operation targeting methamphetamine crimes, elimination of the district attorney liaison deputy, closing the Community Services Bureau, and the de-funding of a jail cook position.

For their part, county supervisors justified the reductions as part of an overall effort to reduce the local government operating deficit of $72 million now on the books.

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