By Jon Ortiz
Published: Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 1A
An embattled state union is fighting to save hundreds of state law enforcement jobs that lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown say must fall under the budget ax.
The California Statewide Law Enforcement Association says the $36 million cut would compromise public safety by eliminating 170 special agents and 30 support staff members who fight drug trafficking gangs and conduct complex criminal investigations.
The CSLEA is the same union that played a prominent role in an embarrassing gaffe by Brown’s 2010 campaign, and there’s some suspicion that Democrats Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris are settling scores. Last year CSLEA supported GOP candidate Meg Whitman for governor and Republican Steve Cooley for attorney general.
Critics of the cuts won’t talk publicly about the possibility of a political vendetta playing out a year after the election.
“That’s a good question,” said Mike Loyd, president of the Association of Special Agents, a CSLEA subset. “There’s been a lot of finger pointing. … I’m not sure who to believe any more.”
Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said the notion that the cuts were the governor’s revenge against the union is “baseless” and put the blame on Republicans who refused Brown’s proposal to put a series of tax measures before voters.
The governor didn’t propose the cuts in his draft budgets, Palmer noted, but the administration “made it clear in the May revision summary what the consequences would be if we had to get to an all-cuts scenario.”
GOP Assemblyman Dan Logue of Linda said the Department of Justice budget cuts are “a symptom of a much larger problem” and not Republican intransigence on taxes. Republicans were willing to support a tax initiative, Logue said Friday, but only if Brown also had been willing to put a government spending cap and business-friendly regulation reforms on the same ballot.
The cuts will fall heavily on special agents in the department’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, which works with state, local and federal law enforcement on drug cases and complex investigations.
The bureau also coordinates 52 regional task forces that orchestrate joint city and county crime-fighting efforts. The budget cuts threaten to wipe out 34 of the task forces, with the remaining 18 operating with federal money, said Larry Wallace, chief of the department’s Division of Law Enforcement.
Yolo County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. Lance Faille said officials are trying to figure out what they’ll do if the state no longer provides leadership and money for the Yolo County Narcotic Enforcement Team.
“Right now, all the agencies are trying come up with a plan to continue with the task force,” Faille said. “We hope so, but we just don’t know yet.”
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