Leadership within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is proving that “brass ideas” aren’t always the best, squandering $300k of much-needed overhaul funds to switch the silver buttons and belt buckles on all their equipment to brass in an effort to match their badges and tie clips.
Sheriff Jim McDonnell has determined to spend the money in order to make minor cosmetic changes, all while the LASD struggles with equipment woes, staff shortages and a recurring budget deficit.
For several years, the department’s 9,100 deputies have been about 300 men short, with a deficit in over 1,000 professional staff. Due to the low number of hired personnel in the field, deputies are often forced to work back-to-back shifts.
For union leaders, the spending of so much on a mere uniform change is preposterous.
“This [expenditure] is something that would be better suited to a department that’s running like a well-oiled machine, but not a department that’s in turmoil,” said Det. Ron Hernandez, president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs.
McDonnell has defended the expensive plan to switch over the buttons on equipment, implying that a better-matching uniform conveys more control from deputies in the eyes of suspects.
“The first impression somebody gets of one of our deputies in the field is what they look like when they approach. Are they squared-away looking? Do they have their gear in place? Are they physically fit?” McDonnell said. “Often our deputies are in situations where they’re all by themselves, and they need to exude command presence.”
This “command presence” issue reportedly exists at a time when officer are short of Tasers, backup and dated equipment.
“The whole thing would be no big deal if the sheriff corrected all the other things wrong with our department,” Lieutenant Brian Moriguchi told the LA Times, citing the deputy shortage. “But it becomes a big deal because people look at how you haven’t changed all the other things except the color of our belt buckle.”
Meanwhile, Sheriff McDonnell has told his naysayers to button up, saying professional appearance is the key to proper law enforcement.
“It’s professionalism, at the end of the day,” he said.