Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department (LASD) deputies stand outside St. Francis Medical Center hospital following the ambush shooting of two deputies in Compton, in Lynwood, Calif., on Sept. 13, 2020. (Patrick T. Fallon/Reuters)
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is creating what a former long-time captain says is untenable working conditions—including excessive forced overtime—in an increasingly stressful environment fueled by the recent anti-law enforcement movement, leading to an exodus of deputies, he said.
According to media reports, the department is short 1,200 sworn officers. Current Sheriff Robert Luna, who was elected in 2022, has called the situation a “staffing crisis.”
Michael Bornman, a retired Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department captain who served for more than 30 years until 2015, agrees.
“There aren’t enough people to fill all the spots, and they are working their employees to death,” he said during a recent episode of Epoch TV’s “California Insider
According to Mr. Bornman, some deputies are working 16-hour days, multiple times a week, and are unable to see their families or recharge their batteries.
“It’s something that is untenable,” he said. “And you’re going to start seeing the chickens come home to roost, because people are just exhausted.”
He said this has led to more deputies leaving the department or retiring. Along with working double shifts, he said, those he is in touch with also say they feel unsupported and are being second-guessed when tense situations arise and go viral on social media.
Michael Bornman, a retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department captain who served for over 30 years, poses for a photo after an interview for EpochTV's "California Insider" in Irvine, Calif., on Dec. 1, 2023. (Taras Dubenets/The Epoch Times)
Mr. Bornman said that most people support law enforcement but “the ones that don’t are getting all the airtime these days. ... All we hear nowadays is anti-cop, anti-law enforcement rhetoric.”
The nearly one-hour episode was taped shortly after four department employees committed suicide
in a 24-hour period in November 2023, which Mr. Bornman called “unprecedented.”
He said such is the result of the demands being placed on the deputies today and that the forced overtime has been a problem for some time, but has become worse under Mr. Luna.
He said as a result, deputies are sleep deprived, their judgment is compromised, and they are less tolerant “of someone who is getting in their face.”
Mr. Bornman said due to the current shortage of deputies, some detectives in the department are having to put their investigations aside to work patrols. As a result, he said, some are only working their investigations a couple of days a week.
“What do you think that does to crime and getting cases filed in L.A. County?” he said. “It’s untenable and it’s unrealistic to keep doing that.”
“Folks are dropping like flies because they’re frustrated. They’re angry,” he said.
He said deputies today don’t feel supported by Mr. Luna, who he said has put politics over policing and has let his “personal beliefs interfere with the decision-making process.”
Los Angeles Sheriff Robert Luna attends an active shooter exercise on the campus of Biola University in La Mirada, Calif., on Feb. 28, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
“If something is a crime, darn it, it’s a crime,” Mr. Bornman said. “Enforce the law, that is all we ask.”
He recalled an incident in which deputies confronted a woman who had shoplifted from a store. She was uncooperative, he said, and ultimately had to be wrestled to the ground, which was captured on cellphone video footage and went viral on social media. Critics said the force was excessive and that the deputies were the bad guys.
Mr. Luna “was standing shoulder to shoulder with those who said anti-cop things,” Mr. Bornman said.
“What message does that send [to deputies],” when the sheriff has a knee-jerk reaction to an incident without it being investigated yet, he asked.
He said such incidents have also led to reduced morale in the ranks.
“Why would they want to respond to a call if they are going to get second- and triple-guessed like that?” he said.
He said deputies were also further demoralized after Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón failed to file death penalty charges against the man who killed Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer in September 2023.
Even though California Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in California in 2019, Mr. Bornman said Mr. Gascón should have filed the charges nonetheless.
“What does our sheriff do? Nothing. Crickets. Doesn’t say a word,” he said.
He also said the county’s pandemic-era policy of no-cash bail for certain crimes, which was made permanent in October 2023, is also leading to a lack of morale, as deputies are now just “writing a bunch of citations.”
He said he hears stories from deputies about criminals repeating crimes over and over again.
“Back and forth and back and forth. There’s no accountability for committing a crime,” he said. “People are just going through a revolving door, getting arrested, getting a ticket, getting arrested, getting a ticket. What does that say [about] how much you care about the folks in L.A. County that are having these crimes occur to them?”
Mr. Bornman said this has led to people in the county being afraid for their safety. He referred to a recent public service announcement from the department that implored residents to have a good holiday season but to not shop alone, in the wake of a series of so-called flash mob burglaries in the last year or so.
“When has that ever been a reality in L.A. County? This year,” he said. He added that “people are afraid not only on the streets, or in the parks, or in the stores, they’re afraid in their own homes. They’re getting followed home by people who rob them and beat them up.”
While he said former Sheriff Alex Villanueva—who often got into “dustups” with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors—could have been more effective if he had “fine-tuned his message and cut down on inflammatory rhetoric,” Mr. Luna is a less dynamic leader who doesn’t inspire his team, has no vision for the department’s future, and is too lax on criminals.
“People don’t want or need a sheriff who is Republican, Democrat, independent, conservative, liberal, Green Party. It doesn’t matter. They need a sheriff who will enforce the law. They deserve a sheriff who will enforce the law,” he said.
Mr. Bornman mentioned a video
uploaded to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s TikTok account, in which Mr. Luna indicates Mr. Gascón mentored him early in his career.
“That’s why he doesn’t stand up to the D.A. regarding the death penalty case or take a stand against no-cash bail. That’s why he stands with the advocate groups that want to burn down deputies and accuse deputies and get them fired and relieved of duty,” he said. “He has not taken one step outside what the D.A. is doing.”
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón speaks at a press conference in Los Angeles on Dec. 8, 2021. (Robyn Beck/Getty Images)
He said such is a “violation” of trust.
“I don’t want a ‘woke’ sheriff and I don’t want a crazy-right sheriff,” he said. All he wants, he said, is fairness and consistency enforcing laws and a sheriff who supports the department’s deputies.
“That’s his job. That’s what he is supposed to do and I don’t see him doing that,” Mr. Bornman said. “If you can’t support your people, you sure as heck can’t lead them.”
Cece Woods, a columnist who writes for various news outlets, including The Epoch Times, agreed with Mr. Bornman, saying that after talking with various sources within the department, she has come to the conclusion that it’s “in shambles.”
She agreed that a large part of the problem is excessive overtime, saying deputies are having a hard time functioning on such long shifts, compounded by commute times, as most can’t afford to live in the county.
“The morale is in the toilet,” she said during the “California Insider” episode. “And the reason morale is in the toilet is because they are not being supported by leadership.”
She said the department is quick these days to prosecute its own when there is a use-of-force incident.
“They don’t give them the benefit of the doubt, and deputies are feeling that,” she said. “They know their leadership does not have their back.”
Ms. Woods also agreed that is why so many are leaving the department, or taking their own lives. She said many have told her the job is just no longer worth it.
Mr. Bornman concluded the episode by saying the current sheriff could turn things around by standing up for his deputies, leading by example, and making sure the people of Los Angeles County know the department will protect them.
“It’s solvable,” he said. “But it will take time.”
Another solution, he says, is to no longer patrol the Los Angeles Metro system—whose leadership has recently made intonations it wants to move away from formal officers to citizen “ambassadors”—which could free up some deputies for general patrol.
He said the department should also consider partially or outright closing a couple of custody facilities and redirecting deputies from those locations into the field.
“I feel the department is far beyond the tipping point right now that something dramatic has to be done,” he said.
He added that more nonsworn officers—known as “custody assistants”—could work in the jails, freeing up more deputies to be on street patrol.
“That’s how you fill in where you have vacancies now,” he said. “It can be done, but it’s a tough road.”
Mr. Bornman said he’s vocal about his concerns about the department because it was his home and family for 36 years.
“I’m not turning my back on them,” he said.
Michael Bornman, a retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department captain, receives an award as a sergeant from then-Sheriff Sherman Block. (Courtesy of Michael Bornman)