Civilian oversight commission demands L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva to resign

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The Los Angeles County Civilian Oversight Commission Thursday unanimously approved a resolution calling for the immediate resignation of Sheriff Alex Villanueva, the commission said.

“The resolution highlights that L.A. County residents deserve a Sheriff’s Department that is cooperative, respectful, transparent, accountable, trustworthy, and amenable to change,” Brian K. Williams, director of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, said in a news release following the panel’s virtual meeting Thursday.

The commission initially planned to adopt a resolution that blasted Villanueva’s administration, accused the sheriff of failing to cooperate with the oversight panel and vowing to hold him accountable, the news release said.

Following a discussion, however, commissioners decided to update the language to underscore their lack of confidence in the sheriff’s leadership and demanded his resignation, the commission said.

Commission Chair Lael Rubin made the initial request to add a resignation demand. She also noted that other members of the panel and county supervisors had previously called for the sheriff’s resignation.

“The ad hoc committee spent a lot of time trying to come up with a resolution that would signal to the Sheriff that we’re serious and the ball would be in his court to make things better,” Rubin said during the virtual meeting.  “I don’t think he has any intention of making anything better.”

Villanueva, who was elected to his position in 2018, has repeatedly dismissed criticism from the civilian oversight panel and board members, who have accused him of rehiring officials with controversial backgrounds and jeopardizing police reforms instituted after a massive corruption scandal that brought convictions to several commanders and former Sheriff Lee Baca. 

The sheriff has criticized the panel for being anti-law enforcement, calling its members’ attempts to oversee his department as part of a “proxy war” by the Board of Supervisors, with whom he has repeatedly clashed on budget and other issues. The board, meanwhile, appoints the members of the oversight panel.

The resolution adopted by the commission Thursday concluded that Villanueva “enables a culture within the sheriff’s department of deputy impunity, disregards the constitutional rights of Los Angeles County residents, disdains other elected officials, and disrespects the will of voters who support robust civilian oversight.”

Despite the commission’s ultimate call for Villanueva’s resignation and vote of no confidence in his administration, the panel still said it was committed to implementing “constructive reforms” and wished to see Villanueva “succeed in rebuilding the sheriff’s department.”

The oversight commission has no legal authority to force Villanueva, an elected official, out of office or force him to resign. 

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