By Jim Holt
Signal Senior Staff Writer
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is cleaning house, or to use the phrase he repeated during his election campaign — and again Wednesday at a “State of the Sheriff” news conference — “reform, rebuild and restore.”
Villanueva kicked off the conference inside the Hall of Justice by opening up the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s books for all to see — sharing several graphs that reflect the expensive cost of employing thousands of sworn officers.
He shared statistics on staffing, budget and internal administrative and disciplinary processes, and addressed the status of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents within the Los Angeles County jail system.
He shared statistics and facts, with a candid look at the current state of the LASD and how it got there.
In the news conference, which streamed live online, he outlined plans to reform areas of concern, rebuild the strength of the department and restore public trust.
Villanueva also addressed other topics, including underfunded contracts and the three dimensions of assault in the custody environment.
He emphasized the need for undocumented immigrants to feel comfortable contacting law enforcement officers, and articulated a commitment to fully comply with California’s “Sanctuary State” Senate Bill 54.
“We are (also) acknowledging where we are currently, in order to move forward in a positive manner,” said Villanueva.
The new sheriff did not shy away or deflect questions about the controversial reinstatement of a deputy previously discharged from the LASD over allegations of domestic abuse and stalking — a controversy that arose Tuesday at the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
“We don’t have a predetermined outcome,, which was a huge assumption of people. No,” he said. “In fact, in this particular case, if the evidence supports the determination, well then, he would not be back at work — period. So, our starting point is (in reviewing reinstatement cases), ‘Is the result supported by the evidence on hand?’
“So we have half a dozen cases and one in particular is even worse than this one,” he said, referring to the reinstatement case that sparked a challenge Tuesday by county supervisors.
“With this one (new) case, we’re probably going to be owing them a big apology. We’ve got to get them back (to work),” he said, noting “a lot of these cases — the majority of them — are minority employees.
“They’re female employees, Latino, African-American employees, and it impacts a lot of people, their families. So this drives a lot of different issues within the organization,” Villanueva said.
“It drives our ability to recruit successfully,” he said. “Because there is a perception that we have unfair employment practices.
“People don’t want to come to us,” he said. “It is hard to sell a product if people aren’t buying.”