At a regular city council meeting on Monday, June 27, 2020, a motion made by Mayor Pro-Tem Sepi Shyne to reduce five West Hollywood Sheriff deputies within the next nine months, passed (3-2) during the City Manager’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The motion, seconded by council member John D’Amico, will reduce two sheriff deputies in 90 days and an additional three deputies in six months. The motion also adds 30 unarmed Block by Block Ambassadors and an additional entertainment policing team to the streets of West Hollywood. Council member Lindsey Horvath proposed the cut of the five Sheriff’s positions. Mayor Lauren Meister and council member John Erickson voted no on the motion.
“I was proud to fulfill the wishes of our residents and community for better and more equitable re-imagined public safety and social services by voting alongside my courageous colleagues,” tweeted Mayor Pro Tem Shyne the morning after the vote. She called out council members Lindsey Horvath and John D’Amico who voted in favor of the motion.
“Under no uncertain terms would I vote for a budget where any Sheriff’s deputies were being cut,” said Mayor Meister this morning via a statement. “While I am all for increasing foot patrols, unarmed security ambassadors can only supplement, not replace, sworn police officers. My colleagues pushed for the cuts, so I voted no. I was one of only two ‘no’ votes, with Councilmember Erickson joining me in opposition to a budget that cut sworn officers.”
Mayor Miester also pointed out that the city manager admitted that Block by Block would be unable to get 30 new security ambassadors anytime soon, and that they still haven’t filled current open positions.
“I have never been afraid to make bold policy decisions, but I worry about the trajectory and plan approved last night,” said council member John Erickson via social media. “I continue to remain optimistic about the work we do on behalf of our city, and I look forward to more debates centering around public safety and our community.”
Two members for West Hollywood’s own Public Safety commission spoke against defunding West Hollywood sheriff’s during Public Comments. Public Safety Commissioners Tod Hallman and Robert Oliver spoke against defunding sheriff deputies even though they both initially voted to defund it in what they say was an effort to bring the conversation before city council. They both say they changed their minds after hearing concerns from community members about safety and that defunding was not the answer to make West Hollywood safe.
Public Safety Commissioner Danny Roman stated during public comment that he doesn’t believe police are properly equipped to handle individuals who are experiencing a mental breakdown, “You wouldn’t send a psychologist to respond to a home invasion, they aren’t properly equipped,” he said. “So why would you send a police officer to handle a mental issue? It’s a waste of resources to have the police respond to such calls. It’s not fair to them. It’s not fair to us and it’s not fair to those to whom the police are responding.”
During the meeting Mayor Miester looked to the city’s neighbors and the number of officers they employ and what they pay for their police:
“I can’t wrap my head around the fact that we have 60 sworn officers for 35/36 thousand people at a cost of 22 million or 24 million, and Culver City has a 115 sworn officers at a cost of 51 million, and Beverly Hills just approved 105 million dollar-budget for 104/5 sworn officers and they have about the same amount of residents that we have,” she said. “I don’t understand why West Hollywood is getting picked on when we have the lowest budget of the group for sheriffs for policing and we have the most residents per deputy.”
The city budget brought to a head months of heated discussion from both sides of the fence supporting and condemning defunding West Hollywood sheriffs.
“We are disappointed that as part of the approved city budget, [five] deputies will be cut in the upcoming months,” reads a statement from the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station. “We would like to thank all the residents who were opposed to this vote and responded in its opposition. It appears outside activists had more weight than the residents of West Hollywood.”