Editor’s note: Today’s opinion page featured guest columns from each of the two candidates for L.A. County sheriff. The column by Luna’s opponent, Sheriff Alex Villanueva, can be found here.
I’m running for Los Angeles County sheriff to reduce crime and bring new leadership and accountability to the Sheriff’s Department.
Alex Villanueva has brought scandals, chaos and dysfunction to the Sheriff’s Department, which has put our public safety at risk.
Unfortunately, under this sheriff, crime is on the rise in Santa Clarita, and throughout L.A. County.
In Santa Clarita, violent crime and property crime have both increased by more than 20% this year. Across all areas patrolled by the Sheriff’s Department, violent crime has increased by 15% and property crime has increased by 13% this year.
Instead of developing an effective strategy to reduce crime, the sheriff has refused to take responsibility, blamed others and ruined relationships with community stakeholders who want to help.
We can do much better.
Unlike the current sheriff, who was a lieutenant with no management experience prior to his election, I have been a law enforcement executive for the past 20 years in the county’s second largest police department.
As police chief of Long Beach for the last seven years, I have a proven track record of success, making more than 100 policy changes that both increased public safety and public trust.
During my tenure as chief, violent crime decreased by 6.5% and property crime decreased by 10% in Long Beach.
At the same time, we increased police accountability, with a 33% decrease in officer-involved shootings, 28% decrease in use of force, and 33% decrease in citizen complaints.
In my 36-year career in law enforcement, I was promoted through every rank of the Long Beach Police Department, and have worked with police agencies across the nation on the executive board of the Major Cities Chiefs Association.
If elected, my priorities as your next sheriff will be to:
1. Reduce violent crime.
2. Address homelessness.
3. Restore public trust and eradicate deputy gangs.
4. Reform and modernize the Sheriff’s Department and jails.
5. Improve deputy and employee wellness.
To reduce crime, we must hold habitual offenders accountable for their actions. The Sheriff’s Department must embrace a data-driven approach, be relentless in investigations, and be surgical with interventions. In addition, we must coordinate with prosecutors to create a plan for habitual offenders, especially for individuals accused of gun violence.
We must invest in long-term solutions to reduce crime, including prevention strategies like community engagement and social services. In Long Beach, I created a program called the Neighborhood Walks in a high-crime neighborhood. In the program, officers were tasked to walk their beats, and build relationships and trust within the community, which resulted in a decrease in service calls and a decrease in shootings.
I also understand the complexities of homelessness and the solutions we need.
In Long Beach, I worked with the Guidance Center to create an innovative jail clinician program to deal with habitual offenders. The LBPD’s “Clinician in Jail” program provides specialized mental health counseling with the goal of breaking the cycle of homelessness to incarceration. As sheriff, I will make sure that case management and diversion programs are offered on our streets, in our jails, and also in our courtrooms.
Finally, as sheriff, I will reform Sheriff’s Department’s culture and policies to support the well-being and safety of the brave women and men who chose to serve their community. This includes being attentive to equipment and uniform needs, providing mental health care, and creating peer counseling and mentoring programs. And, just as importantly, I will work to reduce any stigma associated with mental health care to ensure that all deputies take full advantage of these services.
I’m proud that all seven of the candidates who ran for sheriff in the primary have endorsed my candidacy. Together, these candidates and I combined to receive 70% of the vote in the primary, showing how much L.A. County voters want change.
I am also honored to receive endorsements from a bipartisan coalition that includes Kathryn Barger and all five county supervisors, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, Los Angeles Times, Daily News and Southern California News Group, Los Angeles County Business Federation, Los Angeles County Labor Federation, along with Mayor Robert Garcia and entire City Council of Long Beach.
Growing up in East Los Angeles, patrolled by the Sheriff’s Department, opened my eyes to examples of both good and bad policing, and inspired my 36-year career in law enforcement.
My bottom line: As sheriff, our service always needs to be effective, respectful and constitutional.
I would be honored to earn your vote.
Robert Luna is a candidate for Los Angeles County sheriff. His campaign website is LunaForSheriff.com.