By The Signal Editorial Board
When we choose a county sheriff, we should be looking for someone who takes law enforcement seriously, and will fight to protect the safety of both the community and the deputies who are on the front lines of policing.
We look for someone who will stand up to politicians to protect the interest of public safety.
We look for someone who believes in enforcing the laws, not coddling criminals.
And in L.A. County, we are fortunate to have just such a sheriff. That’s why we are endorsing Alex Villanueva for re-election.
In his first term as sheriff — and especially over the past two years — Villanueva has shown himself to be someone who is willing to fight the good fight.
The COVID-19 pandemic. A homelessness crisis. The “defund the police” movement. A district attorney who stands on the side of criminals over victims. A Board of Supervisors that is, at times, downright hostile toward his mission.
Villanueva has faced all of these challenges and his approach to them has been consistent: He’s on the side of public safety, and enforcing the laws that were enacted to keep us all safe.
Examples abound. When the Board of Supervisors threatened to require the firing of deputies who refused the COVID-19 vaccine, he stood behind his deputies because it was both the right thing to do and also because a dramatic reduction in the county police force would only embolden criminals.
When an off-duty cop was shot, the sheriff knew District Attorney George Gascón wouldn’t prosecute the case aggressively — so he took it directly to federal authorities.
When it became clear that L.A.’s elected officials and the L.A. Police Department were allowing homeless people to set up camp in public spaces like Venice Beach, Villanueva intervened and dispersed the camps, even though it was not technically his responsibility, as Venice is primarily under LAPD jurisdiction.
The homeless need help, we all agree on that — but encampments also should not be allowed to run roughshod over public spaces and create public health and safety hazards.
For his courage in facing down the other elected powers of L.A. County, Villanueva has earned the endorsements of both the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs — which represents the deputies under Villanueva’s charge — and the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association.
In a statement released by ALADS, the organization said: “The board’s consideration was heavily influenced by the members’ input, which we believe was largely driven by the sheriff’s support of the deputies throughout the pandemic. ALADS looks forward to working with the sheriff and all of our community partners as we confront the challenges of 2022 and beyond.”
LAAPOA President Marshall McClain also issued a statement, saying, in part: “Sheriff Villanueva was voted into office by the citizens of Los Angeles County by an overwhelming margin, and despite the attempts by certain special interest groups, politicians and activists to derail his work, he has been a champion for law and order.”
McClain added: “He has been more accessible than any previous sheriff, regularly hosting town hall meetings and hearing directly from the people rather than from those groups that do not truly speak for the people. Sheriff Villanueva stands by his convictions and has no problem with speaking truth to power, whether it’s by supporting the recall of District Attorney George Gascón or calling out the county Board of Supervisors’ defunding of the police and refusal to lift the hiring freeze for deputy sheriffs.”
We concur with Villanueva’s colleagues in law enforcement —and it bears noting that the office of sheriff is not a partisan one. Villanueva is a Democrat. We tend to favor Republican policies and it’s fair to say we endorse more Republicans than Democrats.
But this is not about partisan politics. This is about having the right top cop in charge in L.A. County — someone who values community safety, advocates for the rights of crime victims and his deputies, and believes laws are actual laws, not recommendations.
Villanueva is that top cop — and he’s more than deserving of a second term.