Sheriffs, Rep. Capps give spending cuts thumbs down

SANTA MARIA — Rep. Lois Capps and the sheriffs representing San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties voiced their opposition Tuesday to proposed legislation that would cut two law enforcement programs that help pay for jailing undocumented workers and support other services.

Capps, D-Santa Barbara, said that lawmakers are considering a bill that likely will be voted on in September by the House of Representatives that could cut funding to the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program and Community Oriented Policing Services programs.

Last year, Santa Barbara County received $576,500, and San Luis Obispo County received $175,000, from the SCAAP program.

“I strongly believe the federal government should be picking up the tab for these programs,” Capps said outside the Sheriff’s Department office in Santa Maria. She was backed by San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson and Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown at the news conference.

The funding pays for jailing undocumented criminal suspects who account for about 4 percent of San Luis Obispo County Jail’s inmate population and about 19 percent of Santa Barbara County Jail’s inmates.

If the proposed funding is slashed, San Luis Obispo County also would lose funding for a mental health counselor at the jail. Three counselors currently serve the mentally ill behind bars.

Parkinson said that position is vital especially in a year when three homicides occurred involving mentally ill defendants.

San Luis Obispo County stands to lose an estimated $350,000 if funding is cut from the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program this year; Santa Barbara County could lose more than $700,000.

Some of the county programs that receive funding for community-oriented policing include tattoo removal for gang members, law enforcement equipment and homeland security needs.

The community-oriented policing programs received a range of funding depending on specific programs, which last year included about $430,000 for law enforcement equipment and $10,000 for gang removal funds.

“The two programs both have such importance in the community,” Parkinson said. “If anything, we should be increasing the funding provided, not taking it away.”

Capps said that the bill is still working its way through the legislative process, and she’ll do all she can to maintain the funding.

“Funding for public safety programs makes a difference in our communities and has long enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress, and I am disappointed that is not the case this year,” Capps said. “I will be working to restore these cuts going forward.”