Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva comes from a unique background which helps shape his views on public safety, and the importance of creating sound policies, to address internal issues, that could spill into the streets.
Having living in Chicago, Rochester, and Puerto Rico, he has always lived alongside Black people, with a first hand view of the brutality launched against them at the hands of law enforcement.
2UrbanGirls asked the Sheriff how did he begin his career choice in law enforcement?
By accident. When Reagan killed my Pell Grant when I was at the University of Puerto Rico, I enlisted in the Air Force and wound up in California. I loved the experience and when I returned to college during the summer of 85 (Night Stalker) I saw the LASD as an opportunity to continue my career in public serviceSheriff Villanueva
After leaving the Air Force, and moving into the Sheriff’s department, he led a community policing task force (COPS) program in the Marvailla Housing Project, similar to the LAPD programs in Skid Row and Watts. The Sheriff is supported by Deon Joseph, who serves on the Skid Row task force, that were highlighted by the White House for “building on-the-ground relationships with public housing residents”. According to the federal report officers assigned to community policing teams did so for five years and, offered more pay.
The TIMES brought up a good point about the difference in community response to police brutality against minorities.
Although Latinos have protested police brutality against their community for decades in Southern California and beyond, the issue rarely generates the same level of widespread anger as similar cases that have long played out in the Black community. Not only that, there’s never been a case of a Latino killed by law enforcement that has galvanized Americans the way too many cases of slain Black people have and continue to do.
I asked Villanueva to respond to this discrepancy.
From the TIMES:
He mentioned slavery, redlining, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Ku Klux Klan and “so much trauma from way back when to the present time” that explained the Black community’s sustained distrust of law enforcement. Latinos, he reasoned, didn’t have that same historical experience with the American government.
It was a progressive analysis, and one that surprised me.GUSTAVO ARELLANO, Los Angeles Times
Sheriff Villanueva has implemented progressive reforms such as implementing a ban on deputy gangs, and outfitting deputies with body-warn cameras.
The deputy gang issue continues to plague every candidate for Sheriff going back to 2014.
Jim McDonnell was given the same mandate and did nothing. The jails became safer, but no one has created any policy that would help rebuild community trust by placing a ban in affect that according to Cecil Rhambo “have existed long before Villanueva was elected”.
Rhambo went further to admit to a reporter “he was aware of the gangs and never reported them”, and didn’t mind hanging out with a member of a white supremacist gang. What Black man does that?
Although Rhambo took off his shirt during a newscast, to dispute he had a gang tattoo, one could ponder his dragon is a cover up.
Implementing body-worn cameras allows the family and public the opportunity to see controversial shootings, in real-time, other than taking law-enforcements word for it.
Case in point, Alesia Thomas, who died in LAPD’s custody in 2015.
After Thomas’ death, the media were quick to jump on LAPD’s account of what happened to her, and ran the story nationwide. Activist Najee Ali put out a request that the media attend the trial of ex-LAPD officer Mary O’Callaghan, to view footage of her arrest.
2UrbanGirls showed up, wrote our story, and every article published on the events surrounding her death were pulled. O’Callaghan’s wa convicted and received three years, but her conviction was overshadowed by the release of Ezell Ford’s autopsy report.
I said all of that to say, Villanueva is a different type of Sheriff. He is educated in public administration, and has first hand knowledge as a minority living of how policing in certain communities are different, but the way you tackle those issues is through the creation of public policy.
If policies don’t exist you can not hold people accountable.
Max Huntsman can identify all the tattoos he wants, however, he has to prove they received them in a manner that attaches criminal activity to it. And as a former district attorney he understands that.
A recent deposition from a Sheriff’s deputy centered around his attending several tattoo inking parties.
From the TIMES:
He [Juarez] testified that he has participated in deciding who can get a tattoo — and a majority of deputies involved in the conversation have to agree. The last time he took part in one of those discussions, he said, five people were involved in the decision.
“The line deputies, the deputies that work patrol … they decide if they feel a deputy who is a leader at the station, who conducts themselves in a professional manner, who served the public and the department with honor and respect, they conduct ethical police work, they’re a leader, they step up during critical incidents, they mentor younger deputies,” Juarez testified. “Those are the deputies they decide on.”Deputy Jaime Juarez
He continues to move the needle towards a more progressive department, and his actions shows where the rubber meets the road.