[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Cloudy
Cloudy
47°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
February 20
1906 - L.A. County accepts Mr. H.C. Register's bid to build (Old) Newhall Jail for $2,237 [story]


By Martin Macias Jr.

LOS ANGELES – When Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva took office Monday, he didn’t address how he would fulfill promises to reform a scandal-ridden department and ensure his officers serve all residents, including immigrants, equitably.

Villanueva, a Chicago-born retired LA County sheriff’s lieutenant who first joined the force in 1986, is the first Democrat and first Latino to wear the sheriff’s badge in the county in more than 130 years. He was the first to unseat an incumbent LA County Sheriff in 104 years.

Villanueva’s come-from-behind underdog victory surely benefited from strong Democratic voter turnout in the Nov. 6 election, but also hinged on progressive campaign promises to increase diversity in the ranks and “reform, rebuild and restore” the department.

But the usual campaign rhetoric shifted toward unusually progressive positions for a sheriff candidate.

Villanueva, 55, said he would cut ties with federal immigration authorities, promote diversion programs to lower the county jail population and oppose a $3.5 billion jail expansion.

Esther Lim, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California’s jails accountability project, said in an interview the progressive promises “are points that advocates clung to” but they’ll be quick to drop their support if Villanueva doesn’t follow through.

“It doesn’t end with the election,” Lim said. “Accountability will be important.”

Frank Zerunyan, an attorney and public policy professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, agrees.

“It’s one thing to run a political campaign and another thing to govern.” Zerunyan said in an interview.

Villanueva began work immediately, removing or demoting the undersheriff, eight chiefs and other department leaders in his first action.

At the ceremony Monday in front of a packed East Los Angeles College auditorium, Villanueva pinned stars on the collars of his new department leaders who he said “reflected the values and diversity of the county.”

Villanueva was not available for an interview, but his spokesperson Danny Leserman told Courthouse News the staff changes are part of a promise to review things meticulously and make the department “more efficient and accountable.”

At his swearing-in – which had the air of a political rally – Villanueva told the crowd he would kick U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement out of the county jail system, the largest in the country. The promise earned him endorsements from labor unions and community organizations like the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles.

“[Voters] have decided to make real a new vision for what law enforcement in our community should look like,” Villanueva said Monday. “This office belongs to [the people].”

Leserman said “ICE has no business being in the jails,” but added those in jail who are considered dangerous would be handed over to federal agents.

Former Sheriff Jim McDonnell firmly defended county collaboration with federal immigration officials during his time in office and opposed Senate Bill 54, which limits local police collaboration with ICE. Some say that position led to his defeat.

McDonnell initially refused to concede until vote tallies three weeks after the election showed Villanueva with an insurmountable 52 percent lead. McDonnell, who outraised Villanueva 8 to 1, became the first incumbent sheriff in over a century to be ousted in an election.

In a Nov. 27 farewell speech, McDonnell called himself “as apolitical as a person can be” and said Villanueva’s partisan rhetoric during the campaign was unnecessary and a distraction.

“Partisan politics has no place in policing,” McDonnell said. “It would be naive to say our work is not political, but you can’t have an agenda tied to a political party.”

But the sheriff’s seat was already politicized according to Mark Gonzalez, chairman of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, which endorsed Villanueva for sheriff in the race – a first for the party.

“When you had a former sheriff who allowed ICE into jails and who took a negative stance on the Sanctuary State bill, that’s when the office was politicized,” Gonzalez said in an interview.

The party backed Villanueva with robocalls and on-the-ground volunteers to knock on doors across the county.

“This was about reform and holding [McDonnell] accountable,” Gonzalez said, adding voters wanted a change from the McDonnell’s “Trump-esque” values.

Zerunyan, an Armenian immigrant who served three terms as mayor of the LA County town of Rolling Hills Estates, called the county’s collaboration with ICE a “political” issue that Villanueva will have to learn to navigate.

“Should law enforcement collaborate with the feds on issues of criminal conduct? Absolutely,” Zerunyan said. “But when the conversation goes into the political spectrum it quickly becomes immigrant versus nonimmigrant. [Villanueva] is in a predominant Democratic county that is sympathetic to that political message.”

Zerunyan said he followed the race closely and found the level of politicization “unprecedented.”

“I’ve never heard a sheriff’s candidate mention political affiliation, nor should it be important,” Zerunyan said. “There should be no such thing as Democrat or Republican in public safety.”

Still, an air of uncertainty looms over Villanueva’s agenda and how progressive it will actually be.

He backed out of a campaign promise to hold a first-day press conference with community activists to highlight transparency and building trust with communities.

As part of his leadership changes, Villanueva removed two constitutional policing advisers from the department whose consultation was critical for the department’s review of police shootings.

“Getting rid of that oversight is problematic,” said the ACLU’s Lim. “We believe that any oversight, especially internal, is incredibly important and we hope [Villanueva] will take misconduct seriously.”

Villanueva has said he opposes granting subpoena power to the Civilian Oversight Commission, an independent watchdog group overseeing the department.

In a campaign questionnaire, he said the commission is “a stakeholders committee, not an investigation committee.”

LA County voters will decide the issue in the 2020 election.

Lim said that while subpoena power “won’t be a fix-all” since the commission can only make recommendations and has limited access to department disciplinary documents, it would be a significant victory for police accountability activists who want stronger oversight.

In the coming months, the ACLU and other community organizations will present Villanueva with an “accountability document” listing his proposed reforms and questions about when they will be implemented. The document and Villanueva’s responses will be made public.

“Campaign promises don’t always mean reality when someone steps into office,” Lim said. “It’s hard because there is a lot of hope about what (Villanueva) has promised.”

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

0 Comments

You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment


SCV NewsBreak
LOCAL NEWS HEADLINES
Wednesday, Feb 20, 2019
Newsom Vows Money, Lawsuits to Ease California Housing Crisis
Governor Gavin Newsom promised leaders in Southern California on Tuesday the state would back them financially if they build their share of affordable housing to stem the state’s affordability woes.
Wednesday, Feb 20, 2019
President Demands Return of Federal Dollars Spent on Bullet Train
Adding to the long list of obstacles blocking California’s bullet train designs, the Trump administration announced Tuesday it was nixing $929 million in federal funding for a project meant to connect the state’s largest cities by high-speed rail.
Tuesday, Feb 19, 2019
Woman Killed in Collision on I-5 Truck Route
A woman was killed after her car went underneath a semi truck on the northbound side of Interstate 5 Tuesday, according to CHP officials.
Keep Up With Our Facebook

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
Governor Gavin Newsom promised leaders in Southern California on Tuesday the state would back them financially if they build their share of affordable housing to stem the state’s affordability woes.
Newsom Vows Money, Lawsuits to Ease California Housing Crisis
Adding to the long list of obstacles blocking California’s bullet train designs, the Trump administration announced Tuesday it was nixing $929 million in federal funding for a project meant to connect the state’s largest cities by high-speed rail.
President Demands Return of Federal Dollars Spent on Bullet Train
1906 - L.A. County accepts Mr. H.C. Register's bid to build (Old) Newhall Jail for $2,237 [story]
Members of the SCV Water Agency board, who found themselves saying goodbye to two of their fellow directors this past year, have called a special meeting Tuesday to talk about obtaining permission to reduce the size of the board should there be any more attrition.
SCV Water to Discuss Reducing Board Size
The next regular meeting of the Governing Board of the William S. Hart Union High School District is set for 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, February 20, at the Administrative Center, 21380 Centre Pointe Parkway, Santa Clarita 91350.
Feb. 20: Hart District Governing Board Regular Meeting
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a motion Tuesday authored by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley-Thomas to phase out the use of oleoresin capsicum spray (pepper spray) in County juvenile facilities.
SUPES Approve Motion to Phase Out Pepper Spray in Juvenile Facilities
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) announces that the full amount of CalFresh benefits for March will be issued on March 1, 2019 to eligible households.
County to Issue Single-Day CalFresh Benefits
LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Health Officer is extending a Cold Weather Alert due to the National Weather Service’s forecast for low temperatures. Wind chill temperatures are expected to be below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Affected areas include:
County Officials Issue Cold Weather Alert for SCV
Castaic Union School District is proud to announce the recipients of the Castaic Schools Teacher of the Year Award.
Northlake Hills Teacher Named Castaic Union’s Teacher of the Year
A woman was killed after her car went underneath a semi truck on the northbound side of Interstate 5 Tuesday, according to CHP officials.
Woman Killed in Collision on I-5 Truck Route
Stars continue to line up to present on the Oscars - the year’s most-watched, live entertainment event - on Sunday, February 24, announced show producer Donna Gigliotti and co-producer and director Glenn Weiss.
Academy Announces New Round of Oscar Presenters
College of the Canyons has created a Continuing Education Survey to identify the unique and specific needs of the Santa Clarita Valley community.
COC Requesting Community Input on Continuing Education
Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital is hosting its third annual CARE SCV, a Cancer Awareness & Resource Expo, at the College of the Canyons Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center on Saturday, March 2, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
March 2: CARE SCV Cancer Awareness, Resource Expo at COC
Princess Cruises, the world’s largest international premium cruise line, is growing and today major milestones for three ships under construction at the same time were celebrated, at Fincantieri Shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy.
Princess Cruises Highlights Progress of Three of Its Newest Ships
LANCASTER – The University of Antelope Valley Pioneers (2-9-1) fell to the Warriors of Lewis-Clark State College (4-4-1) in game one on Sunday, 13-6, and the two teams would finish game two in a 2-2 draw in non-conference NAIA baseball action at the Hangar.
Pioneers Face Off Against Lewis-Clark State College
Payless ShoeSource joins the line of retail chains soon to close down in the United States.
Payless Closing All 2,100 Stores
Senator Scott Wilk, (R-Santa Clarita), announced Tuesday that he has introduced Senate Bill 333 (SB 333), a measure to address California's homeless crisis by requiring the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council (HCFC) to develop and implement a long-term, strategic plan to combat homelessness across the state, complete with specific goals and benchmarks.
Wilk Intros Bill Addressing Statewide Homeless Crisis
Washington, DC – Vice Chair of Oversight and Government Reform Committee Congresswoman Katie Hill, (D-Santa Clarita), introduced H.R. 1064, a bill that allows whistleblowers to report concerns about classified programs directly to their supervisors and up their chain of command.
Hill’s Whistleblower Bill Passes House
1803 - Indian family members removed from Caamulus (Camulos) village, Piru area, are baptized at San Fernando Mission [record]
California Governor Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Xavier Becerra, leading a 16-state coalition, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Monday challenging President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency and his attempt to divert funding appropriated by Congress for other purposes.
California, 15 More States File Challenge to National Emergency Declaration
The University of British Columbia lost a pair on Saturday when The Master's University received two excellent performances from its starting pitchers in a double-header sweep of the Thunderbirds.
Superb Pitching Leads Mustangs Past British Columbia
The Master's women's basketball team turned the ball over on its final possession, when it trailed by two, and fell 49-46 to Westmont inside Murchison Gym.
Women’s Hoops: TMU’s Win Streak Snapped in Santa Barbara
The No. 10-ranked Mustangs beat Westmont, 97-81, on Saturday, moving into a tie with Vanguard for first place in conference standings.
Men’s Hoops: TMU Beats Westmont, Moves Into Tie for First Place
The College of the Canyons Sports Medicine Program and Valencia High School Medical Science Academy will host the 2019 Sports Medicine Professions Fair at the college's Valencia Campus on Saturday, Feb. 23, from 10 a.m. to noon.
Feb. 23: 2019 Sports Medicine Professions Fair at COC
Seema Shah, executive director of the North Los Angeles County Volunteer Center (formerly HandsOn Santa Clarita) for the past seven years, is stepping down as ED to work with children to help them develop leadership and social entrepreneurship skills.
Shah Exits North LA County Volunteer Center
The Canyon Country Advisory Committee will hold its next meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 20 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Feb. 20: Canyon Country Advisory Committee Meeting
In celebration of National Heart Month, the Los Angeles County Departments of Public Health, Health Services, and Fire are partnering with the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross and the Los Angeles Fire Department to train 100,000 individuals in Hands-Only CPR.
Be a Heart Hero: Learn Hands-Only CPR
College of the Canyons defensive back Michael Nacnac became the latest Cougar to sign with a four-year school, with the Hawaii native committing to Clarke University earlier this week.
Cougar Safety Nacnac Signs With Clarke University
College of the Canyons golfers took the first two spots in the individual standings but carded a five-man score of 400 at Bakersfield Country Club on Monday to finish second in its first Western State Conference tourney of the season.
Cougars Men’s Golf Team Swings to No. 2 at WSC Bakersfield
U.S. Rep. Katie Hill (D-Agua Dulce) is in Germany attending the 2019 Munich Security Conference and visiting NATO Headquarters and the seat of the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium as part of a congressional delegation led by the Speaker of the House.
Hill Among Congressional Delegation at Munich Security Conference
The Lady Cougars remain in the hunt for the Western State Conference, South Division crown after an important 74-63 victory over Bakersfield College on Sophomore Night in the Cougar Cage.
Lady Cougars Stay in the Hunt with 74-63 Win Over Bakersfield
Three people were arrested and five firearms plus ammunition seized by authorities during a two-day compliance operation in the Santa Clarita Valley, according to SCV Sheriff's Station officials.
Three Arrested in SCV Gun Law Compliance Sweep
All lanes of Interstate 5 are now open after closure due to snow and ice.
I-5 Reopened in Both Directions Through Grapevine
For the second straight year, developers wanting to build 70 homes on The Old Road, near Parker Road, in Castaic, are appealing to regional planners for a one-year time extension.
Lake View Estates Developer Seeks Time Extension
Rep. Katie Hill, D-Agua Dulce, announced Thursday she will join fellow legislators on the Freshmen Working Group on Addiction, a bipartisan effort to promote policies that attempt to end the nation’s addiction crisis.
Hill Joins House Working Group on Addiction
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station deputies arrested a 22-year-old Santa Clarita man on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and possession of a loaded gun Wednesday night, the station reported Sunday.
Deputies Arrest Santa Clarita Man on DUI, Weapon Charges