Why should California Sheriff’s reformers love Alex Villanuev?


Each time we receive information from election officials, it becomes clear how much Sheriff Alex Villanueva underestimated the people of Los Angeles County.

People like Helen Jones, the black woman who grew up in Watts, over-supervised.

In 2009, her son, John Horton, died in prison, just weeks after his twenty second birthday. Initially, the Sheriff’s Department called it suicide, saying it had hanged himself. But subsequent medical reports showed signs of severe physical trauma.

Jones desired to prosecute, but as a substitute filed a lawsuit for wrongful death. The county settled in 2016 for $ 2 million.

“The Sheriff’s Department is de facto untouchable,” she told me, “and that is how everyone all the time feels.”

That is what put Jones on the trail of activism. And this activism put her on the trail to joining the coalition that went after Villanueva and helped place Measure A that may authorize the Los Angeles County Board of Directors to remove the elected sheriff from voting this month.

“We actually need to get this through because for the time being there isn’t a one who really holds the Sheriff’s Department accountable,” Jones said. “And that is why they do what they do.”

These are the sorts of comments from people in regards to the sort of politics that Villanueva spent 4 years in office, dismissing with a condescending smirk or snort.

Well, now as many as 69% of LA voters – including me – backed Center A. That is Thursday night, with over 1.4 million votes. This percentage has remained remarkably stable since election night.

For this, I’m sure Villanueva has already prepared a blame list. Activists like Jones. Other elected officials, reminiscent of Inspector Holly Mitchell, who played a key role in persuading her colleagues to place measure A in front of voters.

But really, the sheriff should just look within the mirror. Or, return to what he said in his short speech on election night.

“We have done things nobody has ever done before,” he told the desperate supporters who’re probably much more depressed now. “We spoke the reality with the authorities.”

All right, Villanueva is telling his power truth.

To the Board of Supervisors. They control his department’s $ 3.8 billion budget, but that hasn’t stopped him from slurring them on Facebook or handing over a search warrant, dragging her outside along with her bare feet.

To Inspector General Max Huntsman, whom Villanueva blocked access to the Sheriff’s Department offices and computers, effectively stopping the County Overseer from doing his job.

To the Civil Oversight Commission, one member of which investigated the fabricated – intended puns – charges.

And after all LA County Dist. Atty. George Gascón, whose office began this week an investigation into whether Villanueva violated state law by making video begging MPs to donate to his re-election campaign.

“It’s as much as each of you who you wish to be the sheriff,” he pleaded. “We’ll win this thing, and the Lord permits, and if you wish to help, anything will help us get our message across, place our online and TV commercials, and send text messages.”

Indeed, Villanueva spent his entire first term as sheriff, breaking the principles and waging a war over who has and who doesn’t have the authority to carry him accountable. In doing so, he greatly underestimated how much it could remind voters of who really is in power: We have now.

For this reason he loses to retired Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna, in line with recent calculations starting from 58% to 42%. That is even worse than the margin on election night when Luna was within the lead from 57% to 43%.

“People,” said The Times on election night, Eric Strong, a division lieutenant who lost his sheriff candidacy within the June primaries, “are getting uninterested in Villanueva’s ridicule.”

Former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna, downtown, and his wife Celines, with supporters on election night outside his Long Beach home. Luna is within the race for the LA County Sheriff.

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

I do know that I’m.

The query is, when will voters in other California counties be as uninterested in the sheriffs as we’re of ours? And when will they demand power to make us truly responsible?

Because it is straightforward to disconnect from Villanueva and his many weaknesses and flaws, it’s important to do not forget that there are sheriffs throughout the state who openly abuse public trust without fear of repercussions.

For instance, just a few months ago I wrote in regards to the outgoing sheriff of San Mateo County Carlos Bolanosa.

He sent 4 members of his department all of the strategy to the small town of Logansport, Indiana, to research what happened to a custom Batmobile commissioned by certainly one of the campaign’s richest donors. They even had extradition warrants on what must be handled in a civil court.

The one reason this abuse of power got here to light was because a TV reporter came upon. This led to a flood of indignant phone calls and e-mails to the San Mateo County Supervisory Board, which in response ordered an independent investigation, but otherwise found there was nothing they may do.

The case was eventually dismissed.

“What we are able to do could be very limited,” Supervisor Don Horsley, who had been the County Sheriff for 14 years, told me then. That is the California Structure. The sheriff is the officer by alternative. We won’t get them out of the office.

The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors said the identical after the local Sheriff Scott Jones also shut down the offices and computers of the inspector general, leading to oversight being suspended.

Yet these alleged helplessness claims are usually not true.

While sheriffs are indeed elected and under the state’s structure can’t be fired just like the chiefs of town police, all charter counties can do what Los Angeles County does with agent A. San Bernardino County did it in 2002. Political will is enough. And if the sheriffs underestimated the California people, so did many of the boards.

In Los Angeles, Headmistress Mitchell said she pressed for what became Agent A when she joined the board last 12 months because people had told her for years that they didn’t trust the Sheriff’s Department. Who the sheriff was didn’t appear to matter, so a scientific change of the office itself was vital.

“Future sheriffs will understand that their authority isn’t uncontrolled,” Mitchell said. “And that we are going to and may create appropriate mechanisms to make sure accountability.”

Ultimately, nonetheless, real reform must come on the state level, as not all counties can do what Los Angeles and other charter counties can do.

“Let’s hope legislators concentrate to this vote. To LA with 1 / 4 of the population and the most important Sheriff’s Department within the country, ”said Andrés Dae Keun Kwon, a policy advisor and senior organizer at ACLU in Southern California who has been working on the difficulty for years. “However the more other counties can take meaningful motion as well – whatever they will do – that basically can hit the necessity for more accountability under state law.”

Jones, who has been keenly following the election results as he watched Villanueva sink and measure An increase, agreed that LA was a pacesetter whose authority shouldn’t be underestimated.

“People imagine nothing can change that way until it does,” she told me. “And when people see change, I think in a trickle in all places else. Really.”

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