Sheriff Villanueva discussES the recent allegations of an alleged cover-up involving Department personnel
On Tuesday, March 29, 2022, Sheriff Alex Villanueva held a press conference to discuss a series of events that occurred in recent days.
Sheriff Villanueva stated that on March 21, 2022, the Inspector General, Max Huntsman, announced that he had identified 41 deputies who allegedly belong to a “law enforcement gang” within the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD). The information had been known for approximately a year, yet it was decided that a good time to report it was before election time.
Following the announcement of the Inspector General, The Los Angeles Times published an article with the same year-old information. Subsequently, on March 24, the Civilian Oversight Commission, who was appointed by the Board of Supervisors, decided to launch a full-scale investigation into deputy gangs. Again, the Los Angeles Times reported that the civilian commission launched an independent investigation into “deputy gangs.”
Yet, more articles from Gustavo Arellano from the Los Angeles Times were published on March 24 and 25 with incendiary headlines such as: “Villanueva’s beef with firefighters, the L.A. Times, Gascón, ‘Latinx’, and more.” “L.A. County’s Sheriff has a strange obsession with how much media coverage Black people get.” “L.A. County’s Sheriff leans on his Latino identity. Does he exemplify our worst traits?” “Gustavo talks with Sheriff Villanueva: desmadre happens.”
On March 25, 2022, the L.A. Times published yet another article titled: “Fearing bad publicity, LASD covered up case of deputy who knelt on an inmate’s head.” It appears that the author of the article had the information for quite some time, and they were waiting for the right time to release it. Sheriff Villanueva shared that the author of the article sent a series of questions, but the article was published less than an hour after his office received the questions and gave the Department no time to answer them. The article included false information. The only accurate component of the article was an investigation on the use of force.
Lastly, on March 28, 2022, Spectrum News, who has an exclusive licensing cable with L.A. County by the Board of Supervisors, reported that the Oversight Commission launched a probe into deputy gangs within LASD.
Sheriff Villanueva discussed an incident that happened on March 10, 2021, at the San Fernando Courthouse in which a deputy knelt on an inmate’s head for approximately three minutes. A use of force investigation was initiated approximately during the time when it should have been investigated. However, a vetting of the case for a possible criminal investigation did not happen when it was supposed to have happened. Along the way, many people including senior executives saw the video and failed to act accordingly. The investigator reached a point where nothing else could be done except refer it for a criminal investigation, which required the approval of a division Chief. On November 18, 2021, Sheriff Villanueva was made aware of the incident and immediately ordered a criminal investigation into the deputy, who was relieved of duty. The department is waiting on the results of both the administrative and criminal investigations.
The Los Angeles Times claimed that Sheriff Villanueva saw the video shortly after it happened and that’s when an internal investigation was conducted by the Sheriff’s Chief of Staff. “My Chief of Staff reviewed information from the administrative investigation going all the way back to the start and came up with information that was very troubling to me. We took administrative action, and based on that, we’ve had a change in our senior command of the department,” said Sheriff Villanueva.
When he was asked by a reporter why the original incident wasn’t made public at the time, Sheriff Villanueva said it didn’t merit media coverage because no one involved was seriously injured.
Sheriff Villanueva concluded the press conference by stating that “we hold everyone accountable to the rule of law and to the policies of the Sheriff’s Department and I’m not going to sway regardless of who it is.”