Please attribute the following statement to Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California (ACLU SoCal):
ACLU SoCal is deeply troubled by Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell’s reaction to news that his chief of staff, Tom Angel, sent out racist and sexist jokes on his work e-mail account when Angel was with the Burbank Police Department. We feel that the only appropriate response is Angel’s resignation or dismissal.Contact: Sandra Hernandez, 213.977.5247, firstname.lastname@example.org Tony Marcano, 213.9775242, email@example.com
Sheriff McDonnell ran for office vowing to clean up a department plagued by decades of corruption, violence and impunity. He has pledged to seek out “the right people with the right moral compass in hiring, promotions, training, mentoring and supervising our people.” Yet here, he has chosen to ignore behavior that is contrary to those goals.
In Angel’s view, forwarding derogatory jokes is regrettable, but something “anybody” might do from time to time. By failing to take quick and decisive action, McDonnell implicitly condones that viewpoint and perpetuates the culture he has repeatedly said he’s trying to clean up.
Further, it’s disturbing that Angel’s attempt to apologize was couched in a denunciation of the Public Records Act. "I apologize if I offended anybody,” he told the Los Angeles Times, “but the intent was not for the public to have seen these jokes."
McDonnell has pledged to promote greater accountability and transparency. How, then, can his chief of staff get away with hiding behind “intent” when any high-ranking public agency official should know full well that all workplace activity is subject to public scrutiny?
Even if we were to accept McDonnell’s excuse that these were just jokes, or Angel’s contention that his emails weren’t meant for public consumption, how can McDonnell justify keeping on an employee whose attitudes contradict the department’s efforts to tamp down the racial and ethnic biases that have long been a stain on law enforcement?
McDonnell deserves credit for efforts he has made to clean up a corrupt and abusive jail system and for his zero-tolerance stance on officers who cover up their own wrongdoing. But zero-tolerance must mean just that – zero. No tolerance whatsoever, for anything that compromises reform efforts and undermines the hard work of the dedicated sheriff’s department employees who carry them out.
That leaves McDonnell just one choice. He has to find a new chief of staff. If Angel really wants to do right by the department, he’ll voluntarily step down and allow McDonnell to begin the search. If not, McDonnell must let him go.