Re-Elect Sheriff McDonnell

FACT CHECK

Villanueva’s Claim:
Electing him is the only way to “ensure our streets are safe from extreme policing”.1

The Facts:
Villanueva doesn’t want to hold deputies accountable for excessive force resulting from a “simple tactical mistake” because “there is no reason to put them through the grinder and destroy a career, which costs the taxpayers in the end.” 2 Villanueva also wants to roll back use of force reporting requirements “so that supervisors don’t have to write so many reports.” 3

Villanueva proposes that deputies only be held accountable for wrongful use of force that is proven to be a “mistake[] of the heart” 4 : “However, if it’s a mistake of the mind, a tactical mistake, a mistake for lack of training…then that’s not something that should be met with the harsh hand of discipline, because that’s a disincentive for people to actually perform.”5 Expanding on his proposal to only discipline excessive force committed with “malicious intent”, Villanueva said:

The deputies are going to make mistakes, tactically and issues, and if it’s just a simple tactical mistake, a policy mistake, no malicious part on their part, malicious intent on their part, there is no reason to put them through the grinder and destroy a career, which costs the taxpayer in the end. …Guess what, two, three years later they do get their job back, and it costs the taxpayers a fortune in the process, and the attorney fees, damages, all these things, plus the lost productivity, and now you have to rehire the angry bitter deputy who lost his career over nothing.6

When the deputies’ union that endorsed Villanueva 7 and pledged money to his election 8 asked him: “Would you be willing to revamp the force policy to allow deputies to handle resistive persons by control holds without it being force? Simply said, if you don’t strike or spray someone it’s not force.” 9 Villanueva responded: “I have a simple answer for that. Yes.10

Contrast this with Sheriff McDonnell, who, shortly after taking office in January 2015, implemented a review process for deputies involved in multiple shootings to evaluate whether they should be removed from the field, among numerous other reforms described below. Villanueva wants to roll back the policies and reporting requirements for use of force incidents that Sheriff McDonnell put in place. Villanueva’s plans “include a proposal to streamline use of force guidelines so that supervisors don’t have to write so many reports, a move Villanueva says is a forward-thinking effort to focus on policing rather than paperwork.” 11

Sources:

1 Link: Alex Villanueva for Sheriff

2 Link: Stonewall Spotlight with special guest Alex Villanueva, Stonewell Democratic Club (May 30, 2018) Beginning at 15:45. 

3 Link: Maya Lau, A historic election shock gives a longshot the chance to topple L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, L.A. Times (July 3, 2018)

4 Link: LA Sheriff McDonnell debates November opponent Villanueva in downtown, ABC 7 (July 24, 2018) Beginning at 8:30.

5 Link: LA Sheriff McDonnell debates November opponent Villanueva in downtown, ABC 7 (July 24, 2018) Beginning at 8:30.

6 Link: Stonewall Spotlight with special guest Alex Villanueva, Stonewell Democratic Club (May 30, 2018) Beginning at 15:45. 

7 Link: Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS), News Release: ALADS Endorses Alex Villanueva for Los Angeles County Sheriff (Aug. 8, 2018)

8 Link: Alex Villanueva, ACLU Elect Your Sheriff Los Angeles Forum, ACLU of Southern California (Sep. 15, 2018) Beginning at 01:03:53. 

9 Link: Sheriff Candidate Alex Villanueva at ALADS PEC, ALADS online (June 15, 2018) Beginning at 4:30. 

10 Link: Sheriff Candidate Alex Villanueva at ALADS PEC, ALADS online (June 15, 2018) Beginning at 4:30. 

11 Link: Maya Lau, A historic election shock gives a longshot the chance to topple L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, L.A. Times (July 3, 2018), 

Villanueva’s Claim:
On his website, Villanueva calls himself “a bonafide reformer” and promises to “reform[] the organization around the principles of community policing and ethical standards of conduct.”

The Facts:
Villanueva said he opposes Sheriff McDonnell’s jail reforms because they “micromanage every single thing deputies are doing,” 12 even though these reforms have reduced violence against inmates and made the “most severe sort of injuries ‘virtually non-existent’.” 13 Villanueva called for using more weapons in jails, saying he wants “better distribution of tasers” and “pepper spray.” 14

Villanueva wants to dismantle Sheriff McDonnell’s policies to reduce violence against inmates in the jails 15  – which have made the “most severe sort of injuries ‘virtually non-existent’” among inmates. 16

Under the policy implemented in 2014, the Daily News reported that “investigators will consider how officers acted prior to an incident when determining whether they acted properly. Previously, they were just supposed to focus on the moment when force was used.” 17

Villanueva explained his plan for use of force in the jails:

“I want to give the deputies, the staff that work in custody, all the tools they need to defend themselves. The huge, long five-cell thing that needed a wheel to drag along, I’m not a fan of that one. However, the shorter version of that, I would definitely take that into consideration. Along with the better distribution of tasers, pepper spray—I don’t care what size the pepper spray is. But we definitely need to defend ourselves better. There’s too much indecision going on in the jails now. The deputies are afraid to make decisions and they have to, they’re being taught literally to just freeze and wait for the senior, the sergeant to come by and tell them what to do…. That means adding the metal flashlight back in, by all means we will.” 18

Sources:

12 Link: LA County Sheriff’s race interview: Alex Villanueva, SCPR (May 10, 2018) Beginning at 2:10. 

13 Link: Use of force incidents decrease at Los Angeles County jails, A.V. Community News (June 14, 2018) 

14 Link: Sheriff Candidate Alex Villanueva at ALADS PEC, ALADS online (June 15, 2018) Beginning at 16:10.

15 Link: LA County Sheriff’s race interview: Alex Villanueva, SCPR (May 10, 2018) Beginning at 2:10.

16 Link: Use of force incidents decrease at Los Angeles County jails, A.V. Community News (June 14, 2018) 

17 Link: Thomas Himes, L.A. County Sheriff’s Department revising use of force policies, The Los Angeles Daily News (Apr. 15, 2014), 

18 Link: Sheriff Candidate Alex Villanueva at ALADS PEC, ALADS online (June 15, 2018) Beginning at 16:10.

Villanueva’s Claim:
The “Brady List”—a list of deputies with histories of misbehavior—is not legitimate because it was created by disgraced former officials Lee Baca and Paul Tanaka. 19

The Facts:
The “Brady List” is a confidential roster of 300 deputies who, according to internal investigators, have lied, falsified evidence, or committed other misconduct. 20 This list was generated by interim Sheriff John Scott in 2014 after the departure of Baca and Tanaka and after “officials combed through officers’ histories for misconduct involving ‘moral turpitude’”. 21 Villanueva wants to keep the Brady List from prosecutors—just like the deputies’ union that endorsed Villanueva 22 and pledged money to his election. 23

The “Brady List” is a confidential roster of 300 deputies who, according to internal investigators, have lied, falsified evidence, or committed other misconduct. 24 Villanueva has tried to undermine the Brady List by associating it with former disgraced department officials Lee Baca and Paul Tanaka. 25 However, the LA Times reported that the Brady List was “compiled in 2014 under McDonnell’s predecessor, interim Sheriff John Scott, to keep track of officers with histories of misconduct that might affect their credibility in court…after Baca stepped down”. 26 Simply put, neither Baca nor Tanaka initiated any effort to create a Brady list of any sort. Not until after Baca and Tanaka left the department did the Professional Standards Division begin identifying department employees with potential Brady material in their personnel files.

The LA Times also reported that “McDonnell, who took over as sheriff that December, ramped up the effort to develop the Brady list.” Those “added to the list were found by internal investigators to have made false statements, written false reports, misappropriated property, obstructed an investigation, engaged in discrimination or harassment, accepted bribes or other improper gifts, used unreasonable force or been violent with a family member.” 27

Villanueva has “criticized McDonnell’s effort to give prosecutors the ‘Brady List’” 28. This mirrors the position of the deputies’ union that endorsed Villanueva 29 and pledged to spend money on his campaign. 30 The same union “went to court last year to block McDonnell from disclosing the list to the district attorney’s office. The matter is now before the California Supreme Court.” 31

A full timeline of actions regarding the Brady List appears below:

July 2015 In People v. Superior Court (Johnson), 61 Cal. 4th 696 (2015), the California Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors did not have an obligation to access a law enforcement agency’s personnel records absent a court order. However, protocol in San Francisco whereby law enforcement agencies provide lists of names of individuals with potential Brady material to prosecutors so that Pitchess/Brady motions can be filed to seek court orders for the information was referred to as “laudable.”
Oct. 2015 Attorney General Kamala Harris issued an opinion (No. 12-401) holding that, “To facilitate compliance with Brady v. Maryland, the California Highway Patrol may lawfully release to the district attorney’s office the names of officers against whom findings of dishonesty, moral turpitude, or bias have been sustained, along with the date of the earliest such conduct.”
Oct. 2016 After the Professional Standards Division finalized its compilation of individuals who may have potential Brady material in their personnel files, the Sheriff sent letters to sworn personnel describing his intent to provide their names only (no personnel files) to the DA, but advising them to contact the Department if they believe the letter was sent to them in error.
Nov. 2016 ALADS filed a lawsuit in Superior Court requesting an injunction prohibiting the Sheriff from providing any names to the DA.
Jan. 2017 The Superior Court judge ruled that the Sheriff cannot provide a list of names proactively to the DA, but can provide names of deputies with potential Brady material in their personnel files for pending criminal cases.
Jan. 2017 The DA’s Office changed its policy to provide that it would accept a list of the names of officers with potential Brady material in their personnel files.
Feb. 2017 ALADS filed a writ in the Court of Appeal and a stay of the Superior Court opinion is issued.
July 2017 The Court of Appeal, in 2 -1 decision (ALADS v. Superior Court, 13 Cal. App. 5th 413 (2017)), ruled that the Sheriff cannot provide the names of individuals with potential Brady material in their personnel files even on pending criminal cases.
Aug. 2017 The Sheriff filed a petition for review before the California Supreme Court. The case has been fully briefed and is pending oral argument. Amicus briefs in support of the Sheriff’s position were filed by the Attorney General, the California District Attorneys’ Association, the San Francisco District Attorney, the San Francisco Police Department, the Federal Public Defenders, the Public Defender of Riverside, the Public Defender of San Francisco, the American Civil Liberties Union, the League of California Cities, Law School Professors throughout California, and California Attorneys for Criminal Justice.

 

Sources:

19 Link: Alex Villanueva, ACLU Elect Your Sheriff Los Angeles Forum, ACLU of Southern California (Sep. 15, 2018) Discussion begins at 00:42:22 and 00:52:23.

20 Link: Maya Lau, Sheriff McDonnell was not aware of some misconduct, says list of problem deputies is key to reform, LA Times (Dec 19, 2017)

21 Link: Maya Lau, Ben Poston, and Corina Knoll, Inside a secret 2014 list of hundreds of L.A. deputies with histories of misconduct, LA Times (Dec. 8, 2017)

22 Link: Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS), News Release: ALADS Endorses Alex Villanueva for Los Angeles County Sheriff (Aug. 8, 2018)  

23 Link: Alex Villanueva, ACLU Elect Your Sheriff Los Angeles Forum, ACLU of Southern California (Sep. 15, 2018) Beginning at 01:03:53. 

24 Link: Maya Lau, Sheriff McDonnell was not aware of some misconduct, says list of problem deputies is key to reform, LA Times (Dec 19, 2017)

25 Link: Alex Villanueva, ACLU Elect Your Sheriff Los Angeles Forum, ACLU of Southern California (Sep. 15, 2018) Beginning at 00:52:23. 

26 Link: Maya Lau, Ben Poston, and Corina Knoll, Inside a secret 2014 list of hundreds of L.A. deputies with histories of misconduct, LA Times (Dec. 8, 2017)

27 Link: Maya Lau, Ben Poston, and Corina Knoll, Inside a secret 2014 list of hundreds of L.A. deputies with histories of misconduct, LA Times (Dec. 8, 2017)

28 Link: Maya Lau, A historic election shock gives a longshot the chance to topple L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, L.A. Times (July 3, 2018)

29 Link: Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS), News Release: ALADS Endorses Alex Villanueva for Los Angeles County Sheriff (Aug. 8, 2018) 

30 Link: Alex Villanueva, ACLU Elect Your Sheriff Los Angeles Forum, ACLU of Southern California (Sep. 15, 2018) Beginning at 01:03:53.  

31 Link: Maya Lau, A historic election shock gives a longshot the chance to topple L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, L.A. Times (July 3, 2018)

Villanueva’s Claim:
I would “clean house from the top to the bottom” if elected. 32

The Facts:
Villanueva described the firing of deputies who committed policy violations as “indefensible,” even if the termination is justified.33 Villanueva explained that even if “the county would prevail” in a termination lawsuit, it’s better to keep misbehaving deputies on the payroll and avoid a lawsuit because “legal cost avoidance is a major issue.” 34 He also refuses to give prosecutors a list of deputies with histories of misconduct. 35

Villanueva claims he would “clean house” once elected Sheriff. 36 But Villanueva opposes firing misbehaving deputies and believes that “When you have an incumbent who’s bragging about how many people he’s fired, you’re not going to attract people and hire them.” 37

The fired deputies Villanueva wants to keep on payroll include officers found “to be untruthful or lacks integrity or committed acts of theft, insubordination”, and similar misdeeds. 38

Villanueva repeats that “you’re not going to attract people, hire them, by firing them.” 39 But his criticism ignores the reason why the deputies in question have been fired. In Sheriff McDonnell’s first year, “90% of deputies found to have made false statements were fired. In the preceding three years, half were fired, with the other half receiving suspensions or demotions, according to department statistics.” 40

The LA Times reported in 2016 that “Since taking office in December, McDonnell has made honesty among his 9,000 sworn deputies a centerpiece of his reform agenda. He has tightened the penalties for lying on the job, fired deputies who made false statements and is reviewing the assignments of those found to have lied in the past. Some could be required to work under special conditions, such as recording all their interactions with the public. McDonnell’s tough approach contrasts with that of former Sheriff Lee Baca, who let some proven liars off with remedial classes.” 41

Even if cleaning house “from the top to the bottom” was Villanueva’s true intent—and it is not—Villanueva displays a fundamental misunderstanding of the civil service system.

Some of the deputies fired by Sheriff McDonnell for their misbehavior have been reinstated by the County Civil Service Commission, a five-member commission appointed by the Board of Supervisors that reviews the discipline cases of county employees. This includes reinstating “a deputy who lied about whether he had tried to take a photo under a woman’s skirt and another deputy found to have falsely asserted that he had not witnessed a colleague beat up a jail inmate.” 42 Sheriff McDonnell stands by his decisions to protect the public from problem deputies. The LA Times reported that, “McDonnell’s efforts to challenge those decisions and two others involving false statements mark a significant change from the past. In the previous five years, the Sheriff’s Department did not appeal any civil service decisions of any type.” 43

Disciplinary statistics are published on the Department’s public website and can be accessed at http://www.lasd.org/public_data_sharing.html. The Civil Service Commission publishes annual reports relating to the number of cases from the Sheriff’s Department that were upheld at http://civilservice.lacounty.gov/.

Sources:

32 Link: Alex Villanueva, ACLU Elect Your Sheriff Los Angeles Forum, ACLU of Southern California (Sep. 15, 2018) Beginning at 00:44:29.

33 Link: Alex Villanueva, ACLU Elect Your Sheriff Los Angeles Forum, ACLU of Southern California (Sep. 15, 2018) Beginning at 1:41. 

34 Link: Alex Villanueva, ACLU Elect Your Sheriff Los Angeles Forum, ACLU of Southern California (Sep. 15, 2018) Beginning at 1:41. 

35 Link: Maya Lau, A historic election shock gives a longshot the chance to topple L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, L.A. Times (July 3, 2018)

36 Link: Alex Villanueva, ACLU Elect Your Sheriff Los Angeles Forum, ACLU of Southern California (Sep. 15, 2018) Beginning at 00:44:29.

37 Link: Alex Villanueva, NewsConference: Villanueva seeks to be LA County Sheriff, Interview with Conan Nolan (Sep. 17, 2018) Beginning at 00:03:10. 

38 Link: Cindy Chang, L.A. County sheriff’s deputies who lied continue to draw paychecks, LA Times (Mar. 8, 2016)

39 Link: Stonewall Spotlight with special guest Alex Villanueva, Stonewell Democratic Club (May 30, 2018) Beginning at 7:01. 

40 Link: Cindy Chang, L.A. County sheriff’s deputies who lied continue to draw paychecks, LA Times (Mar. 8, 2016)

41 Link: Cindy Chang, L.A. County sheriff’s deputies who lied continue to draw paychecks, LA Times (Mar. 8, 2016)

42 Link: Cindy Chang, L.A. County sheriff’s deputies who lied continue to draw paychecks, LA Times (Mar. 8, 2016)

43 Link: Cindy Chang, L.A. County sheriff’s deputies who lied continue to draw paychecks, LA Times (Mar. 8, 2016)

IMMIGRATION

Villanueva’s Claim:
“I am going to cut [] off [ICE] completely. I am going to physically kick ICE out of the county jail system”; “I am not going to talk to them at all.”.44

The Facts:
Villanueva stated he “will march [inmates] out ourselves to the secure courtyard” and “give them to ICE outside of the view of the other inmates.” 45 So in fact, ICE would be allowed in Sheriff’s facilities if Villanueva is elected.

Villanueva has repeatedly claimed he will not cooperate with ICE: “I am going to cut it off completely. I am going to physically kick ICE out of the county jail system”… “I am not going to talk to them at all.” 46 But when asked about this issue by journalist Conan Nolan, Villanueva made it clear that he will in fact transfer inmates to the custody of ICE, and on Sheriff’s property. In response to Nolan, Villanueva said, “I am going to use SB 54 criteria and I am going to make the determination if they qualify or not according to state law. And if they qualify, then I will transfer them to the custody of ICE outside of our jail, but I’m not going to allow ICE physically in.” 47

Villanueva further explained at an ACLU forum that he “will march [inmates] out ourselves to the secure courtyard”— “adjacent to Men’s Central Jail in the old inmates’ reception center”— “and then give them to ICE outside of the view of the other inmates.” 48 Villanueva says he won’t let ICE in the jails, but really, Villanueva would hand inmates over to ICE officials in the jail’s courtyard—the only difference being that this handoff would supposedly be outside of the inmates’ line of vision because “Visual and the optics are everything”49

Villanueva’s deceptive plan is also fundamentally flawed: This “secure courtyard” is a high-traffic area in which inmates are transferred by bus to courts, prisons, or other facilities across the state. Having an ICE bus parked there would be highly visible to other inmates, as would deputies “march[ing]” inmates out to these ICE buses.

Sources:

44 Link: Alex Villanueva, NewsConference: Villanueva seeks to be LA County Sheriff, Interview with Conan Nolan (Sep. 17, 2018) Beginning at 00:05:10. 

45 Link: Alex Villanueva, ACLU Elect Your Sheriff Los Angeles Forum, ACLU of Southern California (Sep. 15, 2018) Beginning at 00:20:32. 

46 Link: Alex Villanueva, NewsConference: Villanueva seeks to be LA County Sheriff, Interview with Conan Nolan (Sep. 17, 2018) Beginning at 00:05:10. 

47 Link: Alex Villanueva, NewsConference: Villanueva seeks to be LA County Sheriff, Interview with Conan Nolan (Sep. 17, 2018) Beginning at 00:06:01. 

48 Link: Alex Villanueva, ACLU Elect Your Sheriff Los Angeles Forum, ACLU of Southern California (Sep. 15, 2018) Beginning at 00:22:00. 

48 Link: Alex Villanueva for Los Angeles County Sheriff, Villanueva for LA Sheriff 2018

49 Link: Alex Villanueva, ACLU Elect Your Sheriff Los Angeles Forum, ACLU of Southern California (Sep. 15, 2018) Beginning at 00:22:00. 

Villanueva’s Claim:
“My opponent unfortunately has blurred the lines” between local law enforcement and federal immigration. 50

The Facts:

Sheriff McDonnell—a son of immigrants—abides by SB 54 a California law that prohibits ICE from accessing county jails, except to apprehend inmates convicted of specific crimes, such as serious or violent offenses. 51 Villanueva has simply adopted McDonnell’s position that the department must abide by SB 54. 52

Sheriff McDonnell—a son of immigrants—abides by SB 54, a California law that prohibits ICE from accessing county jails, except to apprehend inmates convicted of specific crimes, such as serious or violent offenses. 53 Before SB 54 was signed by Governor Brown, Sheriff McDonnell worked with the governor and Senator de León to shape SB 54 to balance public trust with public safety. Villanueva has simply adopted McDonnell’s position to abide by SB 54, explaining that: “I believe ICE should be present only to the extent that they can remove the people that we’ve identified as being a threat to the community. And those are the 800 separate categories that were identified by SB 54.” 54

Under McDonnell’s tenure, more immigrant crime victims and witnesses are coming forward to apply for U visas. 55 U visas provide victims of crime with legal status in exchange for assisting with criminal prosecutions. The number of U visa applications submitted to the Sheriff’s Department has nearly tripled since McDonnell took office. And the percentage of applications the department has certified for federal review is up by 50 percent.

Sources:

50 Link: Alex Villanueva, ACLU Elect Your Sheriff Los Angeles Forum, ACLU of Southern California (Sep. 15, 2018) Beginning at 21:48

51 Link: Debbie L. Sklar, LA Sheriff McDonnell fan of Senate Bill 54 making CA ‘Sanctuary State?’, My News LA (Sep. 16, 2017)

52 Link: Alex Villanueva, ACLU Elect Your Sheriff Los Angeles Forum, ACLU of Southern California (Sep. 15, 2018) Beginning at 00:20:32. 

53 Link: Debbie L. Sklar, LA Sheriff McDonnell fan of Senate Bill 54 making CA ‘Sanctuary State?’, My News LA (Sep. 16, 2017) 

54 Link: Alex Villanueva, Do you think ICE should have a permanent presence in LA County jails, YouTube (Feb 22, 2018) Beginning at 2:12. 

(“I believe ICE should be present only to the extent that they can remove the people that we’ve identified as being a threat to the community. And those are the 800 separate categories that were identified by SB 54. And those are your child predators, rapists, murderers, all the people that have been convicted of violent crimes and pose a threat to the community. To that extent, yes, and SB 54 already allows for that degree of cooperation, and that was the one flaw that it had at the very beginning when it was being written. And my beef with McDonnell was that he took the time to grandstand against it, and what that did is brought a lot of concern and a lot of fear in the immigrant community. There have been three separate studies already that have shown that as a result of ICE director Homan and also Trump’s communications about the illegal immigrant community, that a lot of crimes, serious crimes, particularly crimes against women, such as rape, domestic violence, are being underreported, because now illegal immigrants who are in this country are afraid to come forward and report that they are a victim of a crime. So what we are doing is creating a new generation of victims, more victims, so we’re not improving public safety, we’re actually taking a step backwards. And that is why I oppose that effort. ICE has a purpose and we want to cooperate with them to the degree that the people that we’ve identified, we give them to them, and they are on their way, but we’re not going to be enforcing federal immigration laws at all.”).

55 Link: Klarize Medenilla, LA County Sheriff highlights department reform transparency in re-election campaign (Sep. 18, 2018) 

REFORMING THE LASD

Villanueva’s Claim:
Villanueva claims that Sheriff McDonnell has the same command staff as disgraced former officials Lee Baca and Paul Tanaka. Villanueva said there is “no change at all, he kept all the same players in place.” 56

The Facts:
Since Sheriff McDonnell took office, 100% of the top executive team has turned over (Undersheriff and Assistant Sheriffs). Additionally, more than 90% of Commanders, more than 70% of Division Chiefs, approximately 50% of Division Directors, and 80% of Captains have also turned over.

Sheriff McDonnell led a tremendous and historic turnover for an organization with 18,000 employees, over half of which are sworn: 100% of the top executive team (Undersheriff and Assistant Sheriffs), more than 90% of the rank of Commanders, more than 70% of Division Chiefs, approximately 50% of Division Directors, and 80% of Captains have changed since McDonnell took office.

Sheriff McDonnell’s executive command is also one of the most diverse in the nation; nearly one-third of his Chiefs are female. In fact, the two Chiefs who run the critical Custody operation are female.

Source:

56 Link: Immigrant advocates endorse bilingual candidate Alex Villanueva to unseat LASD Sheriff Jim McDonnell, ABC7 (Sep. 25, 2018) Beginning at 1:31.

Villanueva’s Claim:
Sheriff McDonnell has made no reforms and the department uses the “same exact apparatus as we had in 2014” before McDonnell took office.” 57

The Facts:
Since becoming Sheriff, McDonnell created the Audit & Accountability Bureau 58 , established the Civilian Oversight Commission with the Board of Supervisors 59 , hired two Constitutional Policing Advisors to maintain accountability and ensure compliance with constitutional policing requirements,60 led the way to an MOU with the Office of Inspector General granting access to personnel records and documents from pending investigations,61 furthered investment in transparency by reporting data on deputy-involved shootings and use of force on the LASD Public Data Sharing Project,62 increased penalties for lying and falsifying reports,63 increased CCTV cameras in the jails, increased training in best practices, dramatically reduced serious use of force in jails facilities and—according to the Department of Justice—created a “sea change in the culture” inside the jails.

On NBC Los Angeles, Villanueva said, “All the reform measures that the employees of the organization were expecting, never happened. It all is the same exact apparatus we had in 2014, and now the problems are that much greater.” 64 It is difficult to overstate how inaccurate his statement is.

The L.A. Times reported that Sheriff Jim McDonnell “inherited a Department rotted by corruption.” 65 Hernán Vera, a business litigator and member of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission said when interviewed by the Times, “I think he’s done a fantastic job, to be honest with you… He inherited a department in utter chaos. The morale was super low. The leadership was really in disarray. … I think that he has gained the respect of the rank and file.” 66

The LA Times’ Editorial Board likewise wrote in January 2016 that Sheriff “Jim McDonnell has de-Tanakafied the L.A. Sheriff’s Department”, stating, “It’s hard to think of someone more qualified to fix the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department than Jim McDonnell, a former assistant chief of the Los Angeles Police Department and chief of police in Long Beach. During his tenure in Long Beach he served on a commission that delved into beatings of jail inmates by L.A. County sheriff’s deputies and made wide-ranging recommendations to revamp the Sheriff’s Department’s management, structure and oversight.” 67

Sheriff McDonnell has indeed made tremendous progress: McDonnell created the Audit & Accountability Bureau, 68 established the Civilian Oversight Commission with the Board of Supervisors, 69 led the way to an MOU with the Office of Inspector General granting access to personnel records and documents from pending investigations,70 furthered investment in transparency by reporting data on deputy-involved shootings and use of force on the LASD Public Data Sharing Project, 71 increased penalties for lying and falsifying reports, 72 increased CCTV cameras in the jails, increased training in best practices, dramatically reduced serious use of force in jails facilities and—according to the Department of Justice—created a “sea change in the culture” inside the jails.

He also hired two Constitutional Policing Advisors who “are tasked with enhancing internal accountability, ensuring the Department is in compliance with constitutional policing, formulating, and processing internal procedures and policies, and establishing and maintaining effective relationships with the Office of Inspector General, the Office of the County Counsel, the District Attorney’s Office, the National Association of Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement and other public and private agencies.” 73

Reform is ongoing at the LASD. Sheriff McDonnell and the LASD continue to work to increase accountability and transparency in the department. Examples of these efforts include Sheriff McDonnell’s fight in the California courts to seek clarity as to whether the LASD should turn over a list of around 300 deputies with histories of misbehavior to prosecutors in accordance with Brady obligations and defendants’ constitutional right to exculpatory evidence. 74 Villanueva opposes providing this list to prosecutors 75 , as does the deputies’ union that endorsed him 76 and pledged money to his election77 Sheriff McDonnell has also had to fight to even fire dishonest deputies; the LA Times reported that Sheriff McDonnell “has clamped down on dishonesty and fought in court to make sure some misbehaving officers don’t win their jobs back.” 78

Sources:

57 Link: Alex Villanueva, NewsConference: Villanueva seeks to be LA County Sheriff, Interview with Conan Nolan (Sep. 17, 2018) Beginning at 00:01:30. 

58 Link: Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Audit and Accountability Bureau, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

59 Link: Adam Elmahrek, After years of scandal, a new panel will oversee the L.A. Sheriff’s Department in an effort to restore trust, LA Times (Nov. 2, 2016), 

60 Link: Constitutional Policing Advisor Position Bulletin, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department 

61 Link: Adam Elmahrek, After years of scandal, a new panel will oversee the L.A. Sheriff’s Department in an effort to restore trust, LA Times (Nov. 2, 2016)

62 Link: Public Data Sharing, Los Angeles Countty Sheriff’s Department 

63 Link: Maya Lau, Ben Poston, and Corina Knoll, Inside a secret 2014 list of hundreds of L.A. deputies with histories of misconduct, LA Times (Dec. 8, 2017)  

64 Link: Alex Villanueva, NewsConference: Villanueva seeks to be LA County Sheriff, Interview with Conan Nolan (Sep. 17, 2018) Beginning at 00:01:30.

65 Link: Maya Lau, Sheriff McDonnell inherited a department rotted by corruption. His reform effort is a work in progress, LA Times (May 24, 2018)

66 Link: Maya Lau, Sheriff McDonnell inherited a department rotted by corruption. His reform effort is a work in progress, LA Times (May 24, 2018)

67 Link: LA Times Editorial Board, Jim McDonnell has de-Tanakafied the L.A. Sheriff’s Department. Will that be enough?, LA Times (Jan. 10, 2016)

68 Link: Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Audit and Accountability Bureau, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department 

69 Link: Adam Elmahrek, After years of scandal, a new panel will oversee the L.A. Sheriff’s Department in an effort to restore trust, LA Times (Nov. 2, 2016)

70 Link: Adam Elmahrek, After years of scandal, a new panel will oversee the L.A. Sheriff’s Department in an effort to restore trust, LA Times (Nov. 2, 2016)

71 Link: Public Data Sharing, Los Angeles Countty Sheriff’s Department

72 Link: Maya Lau, Ben Poston, and Corina Knoll, Inside a secret 2014 list of hundreds of L.A. deputies with histories of misconduct, LA Times (Dec. 8, 2017)

73 Link: Constitutional Policing Advisor Position Bulletin, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

74 Link: Maya Lau, Sheriff McDonnell was not aware of some misconduct, says list of problem deputies is key to reform, LA Times (Dec 19, 2017)

75 Link: Alex Villanueva, ACLU Elect Your Sheriff Los Angeles Forum, ACLU of Southern California (Sep. 15, 2018) Discussion begins at 00:42:22 and 00:50:19.

76 Link: Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS), News Release: ALADS Endorses Alex Villanueva for Los Angeles County Sheriff (Aug. 8, 2018)  

77 Link: Alex Villanueva, ACLU Elect Your Sheriff Los Angeles Forum, ACLU of Southern California (Sep. 15, 2018) Beginning at 01:03:45.

78 Link: Maya Lau, Sheriff McDonnell was not aware of some misconduct, says list of problem deputies is key to reform, LA Times (Dec 19, 2017) 

Villanueva’s Claim:
Villanueva has stated that “the very individuals in Antelope Valley, they were the cause of that consent decree, are now in the command staff of McDonnell. They’re the ones that actually created the problem and they were placed in charge of overseeing the solution to the problem that they created. That’s his command staff.” 79

The Facts:
“Quite the opposite,” states Constitutional Policing Advisor Diana Teran, a former member of the Office of Independent Review (OIR). Villanueva is referring to the former Captain at Palmdale Station and the Commander of North Patrol Division. Villanueva claims they caused the consent decree, but according to Teran, these individuals “were instrumental in developing a solution and working closely and openly with staff from the OIR to identify the issues. They assisted in the implementation of new progressive policies and best practices, and they held personnel accountable for violations of policies and protocols in place to prevent racial discrimination and uphold individuals’ Fourth Amendment rights.”

Villanueva claims that “the very individuals in Antelope Valley, they were the cause of that consent decree, are now in the command staff of McDonnell. They’re the ones that actually created the problem and they were placed in charge of overseeing the solution to the problem that they created. That’s his command staff.” 80

Villanueva is seemingly referring to the Captain of Palmdale Station and the Commander of North Patrol Division, but they were not the cause of the consent decree. “Quite the opposite,” states Constitutional Policing Advisor Diana Teran, a former member of the Office of Independent Review (OIR), “They were instrumental in developing a solution and working closely and openly with staff from the OIR to identify the issues. They assisted in the implementation of new progressive policies and best practices, and they held personnel accountable for violations of policies and protocols in place to prevent racial discrimination and uphold individuals’ Fourth Amendment rights.”

For more details, see “Eye on the Antelope Valley,” Office of Independent Review’s Tenth Annual Report. 81

Sources:

79 Link: Alex Villanueva, ACLU Elect Your Sheriff Los Angeles Forum, ACLU of Southern California (Sep. 15, 2018) Beginning at 44:05.

80 Link: Alex Villanueva, ACLU Elect Your Sheriff Los Angeles Forum, ACLU of Southern California (Sep. 15, 2018) Beginning at 44:05.

81 Link: “Eye on the Antelope Valley,” Office of Independent Review’s Tenth Annual Report (Sep. 2012)

Villanueva’s Claim:
Villanueva claims that “recruitment numbers keep falling” at the Sheriff’s Department. 82 Villanueva also says that “the chief problem in the recruitment of the department…is Jim McDonnell.” 83

The Facts:
Sheriff McDonnell has hired over 2,000 deputy trainees since taking office in 2015. This is a significant increase from the years before McDonnell’s election—for example, in 2010, only one deputy trainee was hired. 84 In fact, the number of vacant deputy positions has been cut in half—from over 1,200 vacancies in July 2013 to about 600 now.85 The Sheriff’s Department received more than 11,300 applications so far this year, an increase of 7.8% from last year.” 86

Villanueva paints a misleading picture that recruitment is falling at the Sheriff’s Department. 87 In reality, the Sheriff’s Department hires more recruits in a single Academy class (90) than many large police departments hire in an entire year. 88 The department hired 444 deputies already this year, and a new recruit class started in early September. 89 And the department is attracting more and more applicants with over 11,300 applications submitted this year so far—an increase of 7.8% from last year90

While recruitment is up under McDonnell, recruitment was low before his election in November 2014. In 2010, the department only hired one trainee, followed by a mere 120 hires in 2011. 91 Since McDonnell took office, the department has averaged 618 new deputy hires per year for the last three years (573 in 2015, 689 in 2016, and 593 in 2017). 92

Although hiring is up, standards remain high. Only 4 in 100 applicants meet the department’s high bar to proceed with training—a reflection of the department’s mission to set the national standard for best practices. 93

Sources:

82 Link: Sheriff Candidate Alex Villanueva at ALADS PEC, ALADS online (June 15, 2018) Beginning at 00:56.

83 Link: LA Sheriff McDonnell debates November opponent Villanueva in downtown, ABC 7 (July 24, 2018)

84 Link: Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (June 2, 2018) 

85 Link: #LASDJustTheFacts Recruitment Update, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (Aug. 27, 2018) 

86 Link: #LASDJustTheFacts Recruitment Update, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (Aug. 27, 2018) 

87 Link: Sheriff Candidate Alex Villanueva at ALADS PEC, ALADS online (June 15, 2018) Beginning at 00:56.

88 Link: #LASDJustTheFacts Recruitment Update, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (Aug. 27, 2018) 

89 Link: #LASDJustTheFacts Recruitment Update, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (Aug. 27, 2018) 

90 Link: #LASDJustTheFacts Recruitment Update, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (Aug. 27, 2018) 

91 Link: Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (June 2, 2018) 

92 Link: Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (June 2, 2018)  

93 Link: Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (June 2, 2018)