According to recent data obtained by the Los Angeles Public Press through a lawsuit against LA County, close to 40% of over 9,500 sworn LA County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) employees do not live in the County. At least 51 of them do not live in the state of California. 

San Bernardino County is home to the vast majority of the sworn LASD employees who dwell outside of LA County, with 1,349 taking up residence in the area. Just under a quarter of them live in Rancho Cucamonga. Riverside and Orange counties ranked next in popularity for deputy residences. Some have even settled as far north as Alameda and Contra Costa counties. 

Sworn officers have the power to make arrests, use force, and carry firearms, while non-sworn personnel do not.

Outside of the Golden State, Idaho and Arizona have 16 and 12 sworn officers living in them respectively. Half of Idaho’s current LASD residents live in Ada County. A recent Los Angeles Times investigation found the 83616 zip code is home to more members of CALPERS, California’s main public employee retirement system, than any other out-of-state locale. Other states with LASD commuters include Kentucky, Montana, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Washington. 

Several local organizers in LA County were shocked with the number of sworn LASD personnel that do not live within LA County.  

“I think that’s outrageous,” said Melina Abdullah, co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter Grassroots. “Not that I want them living near me, but I don’t know how they could possibly have any investment if they don’t even live in the state.” 

Raquel Deffler, co-chair of Cancel the Contract Antelope Valley agrees. “They don’t have the day-to-day connections with a diverse community. They are going to stay in their little bubble. Those biases are going to be reinforced by the people that they associate with, even outside of work.”

The LA Sheriff’s Department told LA Public Press they could not verify the percentage of sworn employees outside LA County given “the short deadline.” The department was given 3 days to respond to the data. The zip code data came from the department itself as part of a settlement agreement resulting from litigation related to a public records request for the information. 

“Like the diverse communities we serve, our personnel come from various backgrounds, ethnicities, and reside in different areas; however, that doesn’t impact the dedication and unparalleled service that we provide to our community in Los Angeles County,” the department said in a statement. “Crime has no jurisdictional boundaries, and our deputies are deeply committed and focused on ensuring the public’s safety and solving crimes regardless of borders. The department continues to build collaborative partnerships within the community and apply community-based policing strategies to prevent crime.” 

A retired LASD sergeant told the Los Angeles Times that he lived in Southern California for most of his life, but had grown to view the state as a toxic stew of crime, homelessness and liberal policies that made police work seem thankless. Now he and his two adult children live in Idaho. One of them is a real estate agent whom he says has sold about 20 houses to colleagues from the LASD, some still working. He said they have arranged their schedules so they can make the commute.

Not a new phenomenon

In the early 1990’s, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) began studying Los Angeles Police Department officers who lived outside of the city. In 1994 the organization published a report entitled “From the Outside In,” which found that more than 83% of LAPD officers did not live within city limits. 

“The racial and ethnic diversity in which officers and their families reside, socialize and go about their personal routines generally bear little resemblance to the city the officers police,” the report stated. It also said that the high percentage of officers living in the suburbs contributes to the LAPD’s image as an “army of occupation in the urban communities.” 

The phenomenon has continued across the decades and departments. In LASD, 65% of the communities outside of Los Angeles County that sworn personnel live in are majority white. Los Angeles County is 47.9% Hispanic or Latino, according to the United States Census Bureau. 

For Abdullah and others, the idea that well-paid county employees opt to not live in the diverse areas they work in may be a result of a belief that LA County, and its residents, are inferior. 

“You do see the people that you’re policing as outsiders. It enables a kind of othering of the community that you’re policing,” she said. “Maybe you already see Los Angeles County – which has more Black and brown people and poor people and is one of the most diverse counties in the country – maybe you already see it as less than. And maybe that’s why you live in an outside county. Or, because of what you do, maybe that caused you to aspire to live in a whiter and more affluent community.” 

However, locally sourced sworn personnel are an issue for other LA County residents. Derfler points to longstanding racism in the high desert as a reason to be concerned with how deputies perceive community residents. 

“The brass in the sheriff’s department talking about how they try to get deputies that are from the community they’re serving because they’re more familiar or they somehow understand the community better,” Derfler says. “I would say that’s a good thing if we have officers that are people of color. If we’re talking about officers that are white, that is not is not comforting to me.”

Derfler says she recently met with a captain at the Lancaster station, who is a lifelong resident of the Antelope Valley. 

“My antenna went up like, ‘Oh, great,’” she said. “You are the problem right there, bam, because you were born and raised here and you have that capability of a white individual that was raised in the Antelope Valley.”

For the organizers, the place of residence of sworn LASD employees is indicative of wider issues within the department, and policing as a whole. 

“There is bias in policing,” said Paula Minor, organizer and Police Accountability Team Leader for Black Lives Matter Los Angeles. “When that bias is allowed to continue,  then there’s going to be that harsh them versus us attitude.”