Cash-Strapped LASD Spends Taxpayer Funds to Fix Fashion Faux Pas

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell is receiving some harsh criticism for the way he’s decided to spend $300,000 in taxpayer funds. Despite staffing shortages and a $250-million budget shortfall, the sheriff has set his sights on deputies’ wardrobes, with a plan to switch all belt buckles and other metallic wear from silver to gold. That way, they’ll match the lapel pins and six-pointed star badges they wear.

The sheriff insists it’s an issue of professionalism, but given the 1,300 vacant staff and deputy positions, the move appears tone-deaf to some.

“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 Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs.

Don’t underestimate the value of a proper uniform, counters the department’s clothing coordinator Sgt. Mike Ramirez.

“A consistent uniform appearance is part of the tactical package,” he said. “The first impression you give can add to your credibility and your safety.”

The city’s police department already has matching metallic wear—part of a much more attractive getup than the one donned by LASD. That can lead to greater respect and increase the efficacy of officers' interactions, McDonnell’s supporters say.

Some $100,000 has been spent on belt buckles and snaps for LASD deputies so far. Another $200,000 from the general fund will soon go towards rings and key holders.

No word on when those vacant positions will be filled.