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February 19, 2019

Letter protests his rehiring of deputy accused of domestic violence and his immigration and jails policies

LOS ANGELES — Alex Villanueva ran an underdog campaign for Los Angeles County Sheriff, vowing to bring sweeping reforms to the Sheriff's Department if he was elected. He won, much to the joy of many community groups and activists who worked hard for his election at a time pundits gave him no chance of succeeding.

But Villanueva has betrayed the very groups and activists who fought for him. In less than three months since his swearing in, he has not only turned his back on many of his campaign promises, he has also in some instances even thrown out reforms made by previous sheriffs.

Today, organizations and individuals including the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, Justice LA, Dignity and Power Now, Youth Justice Coalition, Patrisse Cullors, Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels, Rev. Larry Foy, Geri Silva, and many others joined forces to send a letter of fervent protest to Villanueva's troubling actions. It specifies "blatant disregard for the pledges you made on the campaign trail as well as the people who believed them and voted you into office."

The letter focuses on three areas.

Reinstatement of Deputy Caren Carl Mandoyan:

Villanueva promised to root out cronyism from the department, and yet he reinstated his campaign buddy Mandoyan who had been fired by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department after an internal investigation into domestic violence. The allegations were so troubling that not only the department but also the Civil Service Commission County Appeals Board agreed Mandoyan should not be on the force, but not Villanueva, who took the age-worn tactic of questioning the female survivor's credibility.

His stance is all the more troubling in that as sheriff, he's tasked with ensuring that deputies respond appropriately to domestic violence and sexual assault. The letter asks that Villanueva rescind the reinstatement of Mandoyan.

Violence in the Jails:

During his campaign, Villanueva disdained former Sheriff Lee Baca and former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, both of whom were convicted on charges stemming from a culture of unreasonable force by deputies against those incarcerated in county jails. Moreover, a significant number of sheriff's personnel were convicted not only of using unreasonable force but also filing false reports to cover up their actions.

And yet, astonishingly, Villanueva as sheriff has called the court-ordered reforms put in place to curb those abuses a "social experiment," and he used faulty statistics to characterize the deputies as the victims.

The letter asks that Villanueva commit to ensure deputies abide by obligations under the consent decree in Rosas v. Baca, a key case addressing jails violence.

Immigration Policies:

During his campaign for sheriff, Villanueva promised he would reform the department's stance and policies in regard to cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). And yet, his actions since the election have barely deviated from the past.

"You have made it clear that you intend to continue the destructive practice of transferring people from your jails to ICE," the letter says. His plan to allow ICE contractors instead of ICE agents for transfers "is a cosmetic difference with the same result."

The letter asks that if Villanueva plans to continue with ICE transfers and notifications that he "only do so for serious or violent felony convictions with a washout period of three years."

Read the letter to Villanueva here: