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

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Clear
Clear
63°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
August 24
1974 - Pyramid Lake opens to the public [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
Friday, Aug 23, 2019
Metrolink Upgrades to Include More Double-Tracking in Saugus
Extending double-tracking and upgrading the Santa Clarita train station platform in Saugus are among the proposed infrastructure improvements to the Metrolink Antelope Valley Line approved by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority on July 25.
Friday, Aug 23, 2019
Waste Companies Sentenced in Santa Paula Explosion
Corporate defendants Santa Clara Waste Water Company and Green Compass Environmental Solutions, LLC were sentenced to three years' formal probation and ordered to pay restitution to victims of a November 2014 hazardous waste explosion in Santa Paula.
Friday, Aug 23, 2019
Santa Clarita Mother of 5 Survives Heroin Overdose
A 36-year-old Santa Clarita mother of five children survived a heroin overdose Thursday, revived by Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station deputies armed with Narcan.
Keep Up With Our Facebook

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
1974 - Pyramid Lake opens to the public [story]
Extending double-tracking and upgrading the Santa Clarita train station platform in Saugus are among the proposed infrastructure improvements to the Metrolink Antelope Valley Line approved by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority on July 25.
Metrolink Upgrades to Include More Double-Tracking in Saugus
Corporate defendants Santa Clara Waste Water Company and Green Compass Environmental Solutions, LLC were sentenced to three years' formal probation and ordered to pay restitution to victims of a November 2014 hazardous waste explosion in Santa Paula.
Waste Companies Sentenced in Santa Paula Explosion
The JetHawks were unable to complete a sweep of the Inland Empire 66ers after they fell in the series finale, 3-2, on Thursday night at San Manuel Stadium.
Sixers Come Back to Spoil JetHawks Sweep
The Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District has confirmed seven additional samples of mosquitos testing positive for West Nile virus, or WNV.
County Finds More West Nile Virus-Positive Mosquitos
A 36-year-old Santa Clarita mother of five children survived a heroin overdose Thursday, revived by Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station deputies armed with Narcan.
Santa Clarita Mother of 5 Survives Heroin Overdose
A year after jurors failed to reach a verdict in the case of a former Disney executive charged with engaging in lewd acts with a child, a brand new jury is scheduled to hear closing arguments in the man’s retrial on the same charges.
Closing Arguments Due Monday in Child Sex Case Retrial
Santa Clarita has seen significant trends in its housing market and population demands over the last 20 years, and with a continued need for expansion across California cities, the time has come to update its housing production goals in order to comply with state requirements.
Santa Clarita Aims at State Housing Goals
Deputies from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station handed out 74 citations in a bicycle and pedestrian safety operation Thursday morning.
SCV Deputies Cite 74 in Bike, Pedestrian Operation
1963 - First stretch of Antelope Valley 14 Freeway opens from east of Solemint Junction in Canyon Country to Red Rover Mine Road in Acton. [story]
AV Freeway
The JetHawks got on the board with four runs in the first inning and went on to beat the Inland Empire 66ers, 10-5, on Wednesday night at San Manuel Stadium.
JetHawks Cruise to 4th Straight Win
SACRAMENTO – The California Transportation Commission (CTC) allocated more than $1.1 billion for a total of 133 State Highway Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP) projects throughout California, including almost $994 million for 47 fix-it-first projects funded by Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.
SB 1 Funding Allocates Nearly $315M to LA County Highway Projects
S.T.R.E.A.M (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts, and Manufacturing) Kids Expo, a local nonprofit that wants to prepare kids today to face the challenges of tomorrow, will host a Kids Conquer Challenge, Saturday, Aug. 24, from 8:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m., at the former Sears parking lot.
Aug. 24: Kids Conquer Challenge
This week, LBW Insurance and Financial Services was deemed one of the Best Places to Work in Los Angeles by the Los Angeles Business Journal.
Valencia-Based Insurance Agency Named Among Best Places to Work in LA
The Michael Hoefflin Foundation is currently accepting auction item donations for its 26th Evening Under the Stars Gala Dinner & Charity Auction on Sept. 21.
Michael Hoefflin Foundation Accepting Donations for Annual Gala
California Credit Union is inviting all Los Angeles area teachers who have a great class project idea to apply for a credit union grant through its bi-annual Teacher Grant Program.
LA County Teachers Encouraged to Apply for Credit Union Class Project Grant
Santa Clarita residents are invited to bring their unwanted household hazardous and electronic waste to the free Household Hazardous/E-Waste Roundup on Saturday, Aug. 24.
Aug. 24: Free Household Hazardous/E-Waste Roundup
A total of 263 single-family homes changed owners during July, an increase of 22.3 percent from a year ago and the highest monthly total since June 2018, the Southland Regional Association of Realtors reported Tuesday.
SCV Home Prices Up 5% on Year; Low Interest Rates Spike Sales
Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital is expanding the services it offers at its community Health Fairs.
Aug. 23: Henry Mayo Brings Health Fair to Newhall Community Center
The Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD) is pleased to announce the successful addition of three new pieces of basic life support (BLS) equipment to its inventory:
LACoFD Adds New Basic Life Support Equipment to Inventory
The city of Santa Clarita is seeking community feedback on a public safety grant proposal for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program.
City Seeking Community Feedback on Public Safety Grant Proposal
During the Wednesday night board meeting, Deputy Superintendent Mike Kuhlman was named the superintendent-elect after it was made known that Vicki Engbrecht was stepping down from the position at the end of the 2019-20 school year.
Hart District Names Mike Kuhlman Superintendent-Elect
One person was transported to a nearby hospital after a vehicle rammed a parked car into a home’s garage Thursday afternoon.
Driver Crashes Parked Vehicle into Home’s Garage
For more than 200 chronically ill patients in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys, doctors make house calls.
Study: Facey’s Palliative Care Program Helps Improve Patients’ Quality of Life
%d bloggers like this: