By The Signal Editorial Board
Tuesday, Feb. 8, could turn out to be a day to remember.
Tuesday, Feb. 8, might be a day to look back on as the day the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to allow crime to rise and run rampant in L.A. County without proper Sheriff’s Department protection.
Tuesday, Feb. 8, is the day L.A. County Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Holly Mitchell decided to help Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón in aiding criminals in the county by possibly removing 4,000 sheriff’s deputies from duty.
The supervisors voted 4-0 to take the employment decision away from Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva because he has refused to terminate up to 4,000 deputies who have not been vaccinated. The motion brought by Kuehl and Mitchell proposes giving the county personnel director overriding authority to discipline any employees who fail to comply with the COVID-19 vaccination requirement. This would take the termination decision away from Villanueva. The sheriff has refused to fire up to 4,000 deputies who have not been vaccinated.
Villanueva, just like this editorial board, is not anti-vaccination. In fact, the sheriff and every member of this editorial board have been fully vaccinated, but we believe that there should be freedom of choice, and everyone should make that decision for themselves after consulting with their own doctors and medical advisors.
This motion by Kuehl and Mitchell goes farther than vaccinations. It impacts public safety as it takes the employment decisions away from the sheriff, for the sole reason of enforcing the vaccine mandate, and will cause the immediate dismissal of up to 4,000 deputies when the LASD is already grossly understaffed due to the supervisors’ defunding of the department by 20%.
In a telephone call to the supervisors at Tuesday’s meeting, Villanueva condemned the proposal, calling it a “death blow to public safety.”
The authority to discipline or terminate employees who violate the mandate currently rests with individual department heads, such as the sheriff, who is elected by the voters of L.A. County.
Villanueva said it would decimate the ranks of what he calls an already depleted department. He said deputies should have the option of undergoing regular testing rather than being forced to get vaccinated.
He said 9,881 department members are fully vaccinated, and in the last 30 days, 342 have tested positive, for a 3.46% positivity rate. Among the 5,766 unvaccinated members, 221 tested positive in the last 30 days, for a 3.83% positivity rate.
“Your motion is going to seek to basically cause us to actually lose 4,000 employees, for a grand total of 0.4% improvement in positivity rate,” he said. “(That) is not exactly benefit to public safety. We’re coming off two years of a historically high 94% increase in homicide rate, 64% increase in grand theft auto. And this is just not sustainable. The current situation is not sustainable. The hiring freeze is not sustainable.”
“This is ill-advised, illogical and probably in the long run illegal,” Villanueva said. “And by the time we figure out the legality of it, we’re going to be past the pandemic, which will make the result irrelevant. I urge you to de-escalate, dial back the rhetoric and find some common ground.”
Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents us here in the Santa Clarita Valley, has been the lone voice of reason on many issues against her fellow supervisors, but she abstained from voting on this motion after voicing concerns in a heated debate with Kuehl.
The motion comes back to the Board of Supervisors for a final vote on March 15.
We urge the Board of Supervisors to work with the Sheriff’s Department to find solutions, to encourage deputies to get vaccinated, short of termination.
We urge the Board of Supervisors to reject this motion.
We urge you to let your voices be heard and tell the supervisors that public safety is important to you, and you will not allow 4,000 deputies to be fired.
We are hopeful that Feb. 8 will NOT be a day to remember.