About 30 percent of the County's workforce and budget is dedicated to public protection, one of the most important functions of local government. Because of its sheer size -- 10.3 million residents, 4,084 square miles, and thousands of daily visitors (tourists and workers) -- providing these services is a challenge.
The County is involved with every aspect of law enforcement -- making the arrest, investigating the crime, determining cause of death, deciding whether to file charges, prosecuting those arrested, defending those who don't have the money to hire their own attorneys, housing those accused or convicted of crimes, supervising those released on probation, and rehabilitating the criminals. The Fire Department is also an important component of public safety, protecting life, property and the environment.
The Coroner's Department inquires into and determines the cause, manner and circumstances of death in all unnatural, suspicious, unusual, violent, sudden and unattended deaths. The department is also responsible for correctly identifying the deceased and for making proper disposition of remains.
The District Attorney's Office is the largest local prosecution agency in the nation. It prosecutes individuals charged with felony and misdemeanor crimes; handles specialized felony cases involving narcotics, gang-related crimes, sex crimes, child abuse, child abduction, consumer and environmental protection, domestic violence, major frauds, insurance frauds and elder abuse. It assists crime victims and witnesses, and conducts office hearings to resolve neighborhood disputes and minor criminal complaints outside the criminal court system.
The Fire Department provides services to more than 4 million residents and properties within its 2,296-square-mile jurisdiction, including 58 cities and all unincorporated area. It protects the public health and the environment from accidental releases of hazardous substances, storage, disposal of hazardous materials through a coordinated effort of inspections, emergency response enforcement and site mitigation. In 2006 it handled 10,333 fire calls, 193,528 medical emergencies, and 94,963 false alarms, vehicle accidents and other types of calls. Its lifeguards protected 45,541,636 beach visitors and responded to 14,044 medical calls.
The Ombudman, assists individuals who have complaints involving the Sheriff's Department and Office of Public Safety. It determines the status of complaint investigations and reviews unresolved or unsubstantiated complaint investigations to ensure thoroughness and objectivity.
The Probation Department is the largest probation department in the world. It conducts investigations for the adult and juvenile courts and makes recommendations for sentencing. It supervises adults and juveniles placed on probation by the courts, assisting in collecting and disbursing restitution to victims, collecting fines, deterring recidivism, and enforcing orders of the courts. It provides secure detention for delinquent minors in juvenile halls and control and rehabilitation programs in camps.
Public Defender and Alternate Public Defender
The Public Defender and Alternate Public Defender provide legal representation in criminal proceedings to those who are financially unable to hire their own attorney. The Public Defender's 38 field offices handle 420,000 misdemeanor, 100,000+ felony, 41,000 juvenile, and 11,000 mental health cases annually. The Alternate Public Defender provides legal representation to indigent defendants the Public Defender is unable to represent, due to a conflict of interest or unavailability.
The Sheriff's Department is the largest sheriff's department in the world. Its 17,000 employees provide direct law enforcement services to 2.7 million residents in unincorporated areas and 40 cities that contract for police services. It provides protection to nine community colleges, the Metropolitan Transportation Agency, and 48 Superior Courts. It houses, feeds and medically treats and secures about 19,000 inmates in eight custody facilities. In 2006 there were 65,047 violent crimes in the County, 18,427 of which were in the jurisdiction of the Sheriff's Department.