Riverside County Supervisor Bob Buster has long been the lone liberal on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. He's supported spending taxpayer money to give clean hypodermic needles to drug addicts, he was the only County Supervisor to favor President Obama's national health care legislation, and he's consistently worked to undermine the safety of the people he's been elected to represent.
Given that history it shouldn't come to a surprise to any of us dear readers that Supervisor Bob Buster is proposing cuts to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department and the District Attorney's Office that will have a devastating impact on public safety throughout Riverside County. A trial balloon of how this scheme will be received was floated out by County CEO Bill Luna "The Tick" in today's local media outlets.
Bob Buster, the Chairman of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, has a budget plan to reduce funding for sheriff's patrols in Riverside County which are already at a dangerously low level. Former Sheriff Larry Smith had wisely increased patrol strength during the 1990's so that there were 1.2 deputies on duty for every 1,000 residents in county policed territory. Buster went along with the plan even though he was not an adamant supporter of such a strong police presence.
Once the Great Recession hit, Buster was able to stop hiding behind the facade of supporting law enforcement and was able to bring the cuts he salivated to make forward with the help of Riverside County's under-qualified and uniquely inept CEO Bill Luna. The Board of Supervisors cut funding to the Sheriff's Department and reduced the deputy to resident ratio from 1.2 to 1 deputy per 1,000 residents.
Most law enforcement experts agree that 1 cop per 1,000 residents is the minimum staffing required to maintain law and order in a community and keep crime at bay. Such expert opinion has never been able to stifle Bob Buster's Harvard hippie mentality where "every cop's a criminal."
Disguising his cuts as a "hiring freeze" Buster's budget plan will effectively cut the number of deputies on the streets of Riverside County. On top of that, Buster's budget will prevent Sheriff Stan Sniff from being able to put deputies into the Banning Jail which has been expanded to relieve the overcrowding of inmates.
So what will the consequences of Bob Buster's budget proposal be? While it's impossible to predict the future, dear readers, its not hard to see how this will play out if Buster gets his way.
If the Riverside County Board of Supervisors reduces the Sheriff's patrol strength AND fails to properly staff the Banning Jail then crime will likely go up. Criminals in the unincorporated communities will be able to do as they please since deputies will only be responding to 9-1-1 calls and won't be able to do any pro-active policing that has helped drive crime to historic lows.
Things will only get worse as the criminals on the street are joined by inmates given early release from the County's Jails because they were released to relieve over-crowding. And if Governor Jerry Brown releases another 30,000 felons from the state prison that will only make things spectacularly worse.
The Board of Supervisors has a major choice to make tomorrow as they deliberate Riverside County's 2010-2011 Budget. Do they follow Supervisor Bob Buster's ludicrous scheme and make these dangerous and unnecessary cuts? Or do they stand on their principles and vote on the platforms they all ran for office on - to always make public safety their top priority?
County Supervisor John Benoit has already signaled his willingness to go with Buster and make the cuts. Supervisors Marion Ashley, Jeff Stone, and John Tavaglione are all on the fence at the time of this posting.
Our prediction dear readers is that Bob Buster will prevail on a 3 -2 vote. Marion Ashley and John Tavaglione who are rumored to be retiring after their current terms will give speeches about how they hate to do it, but its the only option they have.
Supervisor Jeff Stone will drone on and on and on, then vote against the plan simply because he wants one more term on the Board. His election will be next June and he desperately wants to prove that the thumping he took in the 2008 race for the State Senate was nothing but a fluke.
Which leaves John Benoit who we believe will show his chameleon self on this issue. He'll make strong arguments for the cuts to the Sheriff's Department and the DA's office, providing the cover for Tavaglione and Ashley to vote with Buster. But then at the end Benoit will say that as a 30 year CHP veteran he just can't conscience these cuts and vote against Buster's plan even though he supports it.
We'll keep you posted on how this one turns out dear readers, but no matter how you slice Riverside County's budget it's going to be an interesting year.