By: Emilie St. John
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna held a press conference Feb. 15 about his creation of a Constitutional Policing office. He was expected to announce definitive action being taken against alleged deputy gang members which didn’t happen.
Luna spoke consistently and repeatedly on the campaign trail that the allegations of deputy gangs were “well documented” but when a female reporter asked him if he had “specific names, numbers” of deputy gangs that he acknowledges are in the department, he had none.
That translates to no one is being held accountable for Luna’s repeated assertion that deputy gangs exist.
Luna was also asked about the department’s Public Integrity Unit, which he said he disbanded because he felt it served no need.
“I didn’t see a need for what they were doing and as I sat down with other law enforcement partners, like District Attorney George Gascon, and I want to make it clear that if there is public corruption we’re not looking the other way we are just going to work on it in collaboration with partners which will be much more effective.”
He was also asked if he was able to determine if the unit was involved in politically motivated investigations.
“Walking in…and when I was campaigning it was obvious that that office was creating a lot of distrust within our community and so coming in our new Undersheriff April Tardy was tasked with looking at it and evaluating what was going on…and looking at each case …and we wanted to get as much information as we possibly could to make sure we weren’t missing anything and that more importantly any critical cases would be referred to the appropriate agencies (State AG, DA, FBI) so to answer your specific question about ‘political witchhunts’ I didn’t see anything that I’ve read so far…I am learning things every day.”
Related: ‘Witch Hunt’ Accusations Fly After Deputies Raid County Supervisor’s Home
It was alleged that former Sheriff Alex Villanueva was going after his “political opponents” for their attempts to paint the department as gang infested. Villanueva, as all law enforcement are empowered to do, investigates fraud, waste, and abuse. His office received a complaint about corruption inside of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority that became an award-winning expose by Fox 11 Los Angeles.
Instead of Huntsman focusing on the jails, which are now the central focus of Robert Luna, four Senators pointed out the conditions remain appalling. Huntsman, who is appointed, was only focused on carrying out the Board of Supervisors directive to go after Villanueva under the guise of deputy gangs. Huntsman made local headlines for having a list of 41 names of alleged deputy gang members and when Luna was asked about it during the Feb. 15 press conference he said he had no names.
Related: Senators fault Department of Justice for ‘appalling’ conditions in Los Angeles jails
2UrbanGirls had a chance to ask Villanueva to weigh in on his thoughts of the effectiveness of Huntsman who was brought in after the department went under a consent decree in 2015 over the conditions of the jails.
“Max Huntsman still remains a named felony suspect on TWO cases now pending before the state attorney general’s office. The first is a data breach of LASD personnel files initiated by Max Huntsman the day after I advanced past the primary in the June 2018, race for LA County sheriff. His claims of having permission run afoul of any documentation that supports that, on top of former sheriff Jim McDonnell taking the fifth on answering that key question of access. The second case stems from the search warrants executed in September of 2022 at the home of Sheila Kuehl and Peace Over Violence director Patti Giggans residences,” said Villanueva. “Supervisor Kuehl admitted on live tv that she was warned by Max Huntsman the night before the search warrants were executed, which constitutes a felony crime known as obstruction of justice. As a result of the second case, Mr. Huntsman’s access to all department facilities and databases were suspended pending the outcome of the AG’s investigation. It would be inappropriate to allow a felony suspect access to sensitive law enforcement material, and until the matter is resolved Mr. Huntsman has no place working in the capacity of Inspector General. Every other member of the OIG remained in good standing with the LASD and retained the appropriate level of access to do their work. Both Sheriff Luna and Mr. Huntsman falsely claimed that the OIG itself was unable to do their work when in fact it was only Mr. Huntsman who was appropriately barred and treated like any other LASD employee who is accused of a felony crime.”
“The fact that Mr. Huntsman remains as the Inspector General, in spite of his legal troubles and his inability to provide objective reports on the performance of the LASD, disqualifies him from ever continuing in that capacity. He has hopelessly disqualified himself as an objective and ethical analyst of LASD policies and actions taken. It is painfully obvious he is just another political attack dog for the Board of Supervisors, and has zero credibility within the LASD. #FactsMatter.”
Back in October, deputies served search warrants on former County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and her campaign donor Patti Giggans who received a lucrative contract with Metro that was the subject of the complaint. As deputies searched her home, Kuehl said she received a “tip” from Inspector General Max Huntsman and County Counsel that her home was to be raided. The investigation was then removed from the Sheriff and sent to CA Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office.
If Luna and Gascón both found nothing improper in their review of the activities of the former public integrity unit, where is Bonta on the status of the two cases pending in his office?