Villanueva could do what decades of police reformers could not: Place limits on L.A. County sheriff departments.
“We’ve got to do something,” Villanueva said at a Jan. 20 news conference, when he proposed a two-year moratorium on sheriff hiring while he explored reforms to the L.A. County sheriff’s department. “There are some departments that don’t seem to be able to function.”
Villanueva, who has served as the county’s top cop since 2001, said the department would make mistakes when it hires new officers, which would mean discipline and possible termination, but he also said they could learn lessons from the mistakes and hire new officers who are good at crisis response and good at working with mentally ill residents.
“Now there is a big discussion. It’s going to take a couple of years to look at things,” said Villanueva, who said he did not want to make his proposal public at the time. But, he said, “I’m making it public today because I think it’s important.”
A few days later, a Los Angeles Times investigation found that at least 16 different departments in the county had not hired anyone as of December 2017. Villanueva called that figure “alarming” and said, “We have to do something.”
The investigation also showed that the department had failed three recent tests, and the Times uncovered new evidence that the department was allowing officers accused of domestic violence to continue working with the fear that the criminal proceedings against them could be expanded to sexual assault and other cases.
Villanueva’s proposed measures “all represent, at least in part, what the county should be doing,” said David Mote, executive director of the Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury. “He’s right to look at everything that’s wrong with the sheriff’s department.”
In a statement, Sheriff Alex Villanueva apologized for the county’s response to the Times findings. (Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department)
The Times’ own investigation found that the department’s leaders ignored the department’s own internal standards when they hired officers, instead relying too heavily on the recommendation of hiring supervisors and department