L.A. County: Bell, Compton Should Not Have Own Police Departments

Two of L.A. County's most lawless little cities -- Bell for its politicians, Compton for its gangs -- want to deal with their criminals them gosh-darn selves. But that doesn't look likely -- not if county officials have anything to say about it.

Compton has already been under sheriff patrol for about a decade now. Its police department disbanded in 2000 for fiscal reasons; however, the City Council got antsy again last night, doing its best to push through a $2.6 million start-up fee to revive the city's force.

Coincidentally, Bell -- located just a couple towns over, in the notorious southeast circle -- is currently under threat of a similar sheriff takeover. However, Sheriff Lee Baca's spokesman tells the Weekly...

that L.A. County Auditor-Controller Wendy L. Watanabe (no, not that Wendy) -- the one to suggest the sheriff move into Bell -- has not even contacted him about the possibility.

He is, on the other hand, very sure about staying in Compton.

The Los Angeles Times reported from the Compton City Council meeting, where Baca told the council that now is definitely not the time.

"I believe the Compton Police Department could come back," Baca told the council. "I also say that in order to do this with the financial stability that is necessary, you probably shouldn't do it now."

Compton City Manager Willie Norfleet insisted the city could "create a new police department with the same cost we're paying the sheriff's department currently." Baca fired back with the embarrassing fact that the City of Compton usually runs its sheriff bill $20 million over what it actually ends up paying ($17.8 million).

Like most of California -- but with an embezzlement twist -- Bell is also in a financial crisis. After City Manager Robert Rizzo and the Bell City Council squandered the taxes of their 40,000-odd constituents into oblivion (and got caught), there's now a gaping deficit of several million dollars in the general fund. Reports the Times:

A draft audit by the Los Angeles County auditor-controller found that the city needs to make deep cuts in its budget, including possibly eliminating the Bell Police Department and contracting with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department as one option.

Auditor-Controller Watanabe could not be reached for comment.

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