Villanueva, Diez hold SCV law enforcement town hall

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva
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During a virtual town hall meeting, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Capt. Justin Diez discussed new policing policies, body cameras for deputies and budgetary cuts.

One of the key points discussed during the Thursday meeting, outside the new “8 Can’t Wait” policies adopted by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors for the LASD, was the discussion of implicit bias training.

“A lot of people don’t like to call the police because they’re so afraid of being treated like they’re the suspect,” said Barbara White, one of the callers during the town hall. “But I pay tax dollars, so, of course, if I have a problem I’m going to immediately call. Do you guys do implicit bias training, because it’s not like it doesn’t happen, it does happen.”

Diez said each deputy at the station is given implicit bias training when they first become LASD employees, and that they must receive an annual refresher course. He added the SCV Sheriff’s Station has deputies who largely live in the SCV, which can help when it comes to an issue of profiling.

“But you got to keep us on our toes; we need people that, if something happens, please speak up,” said Villanueva over the call. “Let us know about it, we can address it. Don’t suffer in silence.”

When asked what the station’s response had been to the protests over the last two weeks, in regard to any potential changes to policy, Diez said the Sheriff’s Station was in a constant state of revision.

Villanueva pointed out that the Board of Supervisors had called on LASD to adopt the “8 Can’t Wait” policies, which include prohibitions including a ban on shooting at moving vehicles and comprehensive reporting on both use-of-force incidents and threat-of-force incidents.

“Our policies are in a constant state of revision, if you will. We’re always looking for ways to improve policies,” said Diez.

In regards to the threats the station had reportedly received in the runup to last week’s protests — which resulted in hundreds of additional sworn deputies and the National Guard being called in — Diez said the station had received several threats, including a threat to burn down the police station or burn deputy vehicles.

“Stuff flies around on social media and as far as assessing the credibility, that’s a very difficult thing to do,” the captain said. “So yes, we did, in fact, receive quite a few threats … but again it’s very difficult to determine which ones of them are immediate or actually legitimate.”

Diez emphasized that no vandalism, property damage or use of force was reported as a result of the protests, and no protesters had been arrested.

“And I think that’s a testament to not only the peaceful protesters, but you know, of course, the personnel that we brought out: highly trained, highly disciplined.”

Vilanueva also touched on the issues he saw with the upcoming year’s budget for the department. He had stated a need for a $4.9 billion budget; the Board of Supervisors countered with $4.5 billion.

“Our station is still running strong,” said Diez. “We’ve got multiple special teams at the station for everything from traffic, to gang enforcement, to crime impact teams to community relations — and our budget cuts on the department won’t be affecting any of those special teams.”

Diez said the patrol ranks in the SCV would not feel the impacts of the budget cuts.

“I can’t speak certainly for the rest of the department, but our station is in a very good place right now,” said Diez.

Diez said commendations or complaints could be lodged with the station, and that the station would look at these comments on how to change or continue doing what they’re presently doing at the station.

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