Activists protest Alameda County Sheriff’s Office budget increase, call for audit

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On Friday, community members, along with representatives from the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, protested outside the Alameda County Board of Supervisors building against the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office budget increase and called for an audit of Sheriff Gregory Ahern.

The sheriff’s office received a 5 percent budget increase for the 2018-19 fiscal year, according to Jose Bernal, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights senior organizer and advocate. Bernal argued that the money would be more effective if it went toward youth programs and solving homelessness and poverty.

“Since 2008, the (Alameda County) jail population has declined,” Bernal said. “We know that the population is going to decline further due to bail reform, but the sheriff’s budget is increasing.”

Under the 2018-19 Alameda County budget, the sheriff’s office received $404.75 million — about 12.76 percent of the overall budget.

Bernal said the campaign calling for an audit started in November in response to unanswered questions about how the sheriff’s office’s budget is spent. He added that he believes an audit is needed for transparency.

Alameda County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. Ray Kelly said he disagrees with those who feel the budget is not being used properly and that he feels the sheriff’s office is going “above and beyond” with its budget.

“We welcome the audit,” Kelly said. “What will be audited will be determined by the county administrator, and we are more than willing to do whatever is needed. I think the audit will show we do great with the resources we have — we do what is expected and go above and beyond.”

Bernal also said the Alameda County Board of Supervisors is already planning to audit the sheriff’s office through the California State Association of Counties and the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative. He stated that he believes this will not be effective since it is not an independent audit, and since it will only look at performance and only at 2 percent of the budget.

On May 29, Berkeley City Council passed a resolution supporting an audit of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

“It was a very powerful statement and reflected the values of the city,” Bernal said. “I hope other cities can follow the same principles and pass similar resolutions.”

Contact Suryan Bhatia at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @BhatiaSuryan.