Alameda Co. Sheriff outlines impacts of cuts

June 23, 2009 7:11:33 PM PDT
Police jobs are on the chopping block in Alameda County. County officials are dealing with a budget gap that has climbed to over $150 million. However, many believe the kinds of cuts being talked about are not only drastic, but dangerous.

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Alameda County needs to cut $40 million from public safety in order to close a massive budget gap.

"We obviously would have preferred to not make any cuts but that was not an option," says Sheriff Greg Ahern.

Sheriff Ahern has to chop more than $21 million from his department alone. In all,106 positions could be eliminated including deputies who work in gang, street crimes and narcotics units. If cuts to jobs at the crime lab pass, crimes in Alameda County could take longer to solve.

Staffing cuts could result in drastic changes at the county jails, minimum security inmates would no longer be able to exercise outdoors in the yard because there would be no one to watch them. Visiting hours for family members could be reduced from five to two days a week.

"We start cutting those programs, tensions start to rise within the jail population, and if crime continues to rise, then there'll be a higher jail population. Those two things put together could cause problems within our facilities," says Sheriff Ahern.

When supervisors begin their budget deliberations on Wednesday and take a final vote on Thursday, they will balance a $178 million deficit in Alameda County.

At a packed supervisors meeting Tuesday, tensions ran high. The county's chief probation Officer Donald Blevins said local cuts, coupled with even more drastic state cuts, could be devastating for juvenile hall.

"We know that we're going to be housing older, more criminal, sophisticated and gang-oriented and more violent offenders within juvenile hall," says Chief Probation Officer Donald Blevins.

The probation department needs to eliminate 49 jobs. Probation officers like Brandilyn Payne said that means hundreds of parolees will go unsupervised.

"It's going to impact everybody, everybody," says juvenile probation Officer Brandilyn Payne.

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