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

Inside
Weather
Santa Clarita CA
Clear
Clear
74°F
 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
July 22
2000 - Historic Larinan house in Pico Canyon burns down [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, Jul 19, 2019
Bridge to Home Secures $840K Toward Year-Round Operations
Bridge to Home, the primary homeless services provider in the Santa Clarita Valley, has secured a Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority contract in the amount of $840,000 which will fund three-quarters of the annual cost of providing 60 beds, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Friday, Jul 19, 2019
LA County OK’s $53M Settlement in Jail Strip Search Suit
Los Angeles County has agreed to its largest-ever largest payout -- $53 million -- to settle a 2010 class-action lawsuit over strip search practices of prisoners at the Sheriff’s Department’s Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood.
Friday, Jul 19, 2019
Valencia Man Accused of Ramming Tractor, Threatening Neighbor
A neighbor dispute over yard work ended with one man allegedly ramming his neighbor’s trailer with a tractor, resulting in his arrest on suspicion of making criminal threats and vandalism.
Keep Up With Our Facebook

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
2000 - Historic Larinan house in Pico Canyon burns down [story]
1952 - 7.5-magnitude Kern County earthquake devastates Tehachapi; damage spread from San Diego to Las Vegas [story]
quake map
2001 - Then-Assemblyman George Runner introduces legislation to memorialize the historic Ridge Route. Enacted Oct. 4. [story]
Ridge Route
CalArtians are nominated for the 71st Emmy Awards in numerous categories this year, including Acting, Picture Editing, Lighting Design, Production Design, Sound Editing and Animation.
CalArtians Nominated for 2019 Emmy Awards
Bridge to Home, the primary homeless services provider in the Santa Clarita Valley, has secured a Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority contract in the amount of $840,000 which will fund three-quarters of the annual cost of providing 60 beds, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Bridge to Home Secures $840K Toward Year-Round Operations
The Valley Industry Association’s Advocacy Committee has been in hot pursuit following the changes, amendments and carve-outs of Assembly Bill 5, which passed the California Assembly floor on May 29, and the Senate’s Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee on July 10.
Establishing Carve-Outs for Assembly Bill 5, the ‘Gig-Work’ Bill
The Santa Clarita Public Library will celebrate the end of its 2019 Summer Reading Program with a free event called the “Stellar Finale with Guest Performer: BubbleMania!” at the Old Town Newhall branch on Saturday, July 27, from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
July 27: Library to Wrap Summer Reading Program with ‘BubbleMania’
Matt Hearn picked up two hits to extend his hitting streak to 16 games, but the JetHawks lost, 9-1, to the Stockton Ports on Thursday night at Banner Island Ballpark.
Hearn Extends Streak in JetHawks Loss to Ports
Los Angeles County has agreed to its largest-ever largest payout -- $53 million -- to settle a 2010 class-action lawsuit over strip search practices of prisoners at the Sheriff’s Department’s Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood.
LA County OK’s $53M Settlement in Jail Strip Search Suit
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is investigating a confirmed case of measles in a county resident that is linked to four cases reported earlier this month.
Public Health Investigates Another Case of Measles
Speaking before the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Planning and Programming Committee on July 17, Santa Clarita Mayor Marsha McLean advocated for the Antelope Valley Line Study to be presented to the full Metro Board.
McLean Urges Metro Board to Review Antelope Valley Line Study
A neighbor dispute over yard work ended with one man allegedly ramming his neighbor’s trailer with a tractor, resulting in his arrest on suspicion of making criminal threats and vandalism.
Valencia Man Accused of Ramming Tractor, Threatening Neighbor
A jury trial is slated to begin next month for L.A. rapper Blueface, who was arrested in connection with an alleged vehicle-to-vehicle shooting in Newhall last fall.
Jury Trial for Rapper Blueface Set for Aug. 16
The Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District has confirmed a West Nile virus-positive mosquito sample collected from a trap in the city of Long Beach (90803 zip code), the first confirmation of the presence of the virus in mosquito populations within the county this year.
West Nile Virus Mosquito Sample Confirmed in LA County
Fifty years ago, on July 20, 1969, the world stopped to watch in awe as Apollo 11 astronauts walked on the moon. The semi-centennial has rekindled NASA’s interplanetary ambitions. Tapping into a vibrant U.S. space industry, it’s eyeing the moon as a stepping stone to Mars.
50 Years After Moon Landing, NASA Eyes Trip to Mars
1915 - Ince, Griffith, Sennett form Triangle Film Corp.; it produces & distributes early William S. Hart films [story]
Triangle Films
Internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter Tony Galla is heavily influenced by the soulful sounds of artists like B.B. King and Ray Charles. Tony developed his own bluesy sound and unique passionate style quickly becoming the lead singer of the blues band, Raven.
Jazz & Blues Concert Series Continues Friday with Tony Galla & The Blues Shuffle Band
Mike’s Diner in Castaic was recently visited by everyone’s favorite yellow sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea. Yes, that’s right. SpongeBob SquarePants came to Castaic in a recent special live-action episode.
Castaic Diner Featured in SpongeBob Special Live-Action Episode
STOCKTON – Ryan Vilade gave the JetHawks the lead with a home run in the fourth inning, but the Stockton Ports allowed only the one run and rallied to win, 5-1, on Wednesday night at Banner Island Ballpark.
JetHawks Drop Series Opener to Ports
As the retail industry continues to rapidly evolve, join Westfield Valencia Town Center Senior General Manager, Corrine Barchanowicz, as she provides insights into how a multi-national company like Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield is implementing changes at our local shopping center to elevate the retail shopping experience.
July 24: NextSCV Presentation, ‘Relevant Retail’
Arts for Santa Clarita is looking for artists – musicians, actors, writers, visual artists and more – to participate in the next Artquinoxen event scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 21, at Eureka Village, the home of SCV Adventure Play Foundation.
Artists Needed for ‘Artquinox’ Event in September
The Los Angeles County Community Development Foundation (LACDF) awarded $28,000 in Housing Authority Resident (HAR) Scholarships to 28 public housing and Section 8 participants attending a four-year university, community college, or vocational program.
County Awards $28K in Scholarships During 2019 Reality Check Conference
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to make a series of changes in traffic regulations that affect some areas in the Santa Clarita Valley.
New Traffic Regulations Slated for Stevenson Ranch, Castaic
Foster care and foster-adoption are meaningful ways for individuals and couples to fulfill their dream of parenting. There are approximately 64,000 children in foster care in California.
Aug. 17: Children’s Bureau Foster Care Monthly Information Meeting
%d bloggers like this: