Thursday, June 17, 2010

Compton City owes $5.7 million to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, From Bail Bondsman in Compton

The city also owes $100,00 in late fees for failing to pay its bill, which calls into question whether it has enough money to go ahead with the council's plan to resurrect its own police force.
The city of Compton owes the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department $5.7 million for law enforcement services and an additional $100,000 in late fees for failing to pay its bill, authorities said.

Compton's financial problems come as the city plans to eliminate its contract with the Sheriff's Department and reorganize its own police force. The city already has put away almost $20 million for startup costs.

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said Compton has ignored verbal and written requests from the department for payment. Of the more than three dozen cities that contract law enforcement services from the Sheriff's Department, Compton is the only one accruing late fees, Whitmore said.
Compton officials acknowledged that the city owes the money and will pay up, blaming the holdup on poor communication within the city bureaucracy. They also said the financial flap with the Sheriff's Department would not affect their plans of reactivating their own police agency.

Compton disbanded its local police force 10 years ago amid startlingly high violent crime rates, and tensions between elected officials and the old Compton Police Department.

Ever since, it has contracted with the Sheriff's Department for law enforcement services. During surges in violence, the sheriff has pumped extra resources into the community, often at no extra cost.

Sheriff Lee Baca expressed doubt that the city could manage its own department.

"What a city is doing today is a direct reflection of what they're going to do tomorrow," Baca said in a statement. "The city is not paying its bills today, how can it pay 20 million dollars or so for its own police department[?]"

Compton City Council members voted earlier this month to authorize the formation of an independent local police force, hoping to return a sense of pride and accountability to the city.

"We do owe them money and we will be paying," said City Manager Charles Evans. "It will have no impact on our ability to operate, run and maintain an effective police department, and we will do that."

Council members Yvonne Arceneaux and Willie Jones said the debt's existence had not been brought to the council's attention.

Critics of resurrecting the Compton Police Department say the debt puts into doubt the city's ability to complete the gargantuan task of forming its own police department.

"The elected leaders in the city of Compton are incompetent," said community activist Joyce Kelly. "I don't understand how we owe the sheriff millions of dollars, and there's still millions of dollars in holding to bring back the Compton police."

The debt dates to November, and includes general deputy services, along with extras, such as presences at the city's Christmas parade and other events. Late fees start to be applied after a two-month grace period, amounting to about 10% of the debt annually.

Whitmore said the department's concern existed before city officials voted to form their own police department.

"It's getting to the point where we are starting to get concerned," he said. "This is extremely rare to be this behind.... No other city, not even close."

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