Sheriff Villanueva Responds to the RAND Report and Discusses Reforms in the Sheriff’s Department
On Wednesday, September 22, 2021, Sheriff Alex Villanueva held a press conference at the Hall of Justice to respond to the recent RAND Report. Sheriff Villanueva read 188 pages of the report and under his “Rebuild, Reform, and Restore” campaign, out of the 37 recommendations that were identified, LASD had 30 of those recommendations actively in place prior to the release of the report. The remaining 7 are under review and some of them involve training which requires funding. It is important to note that the cost of providing 8 hours of training to the Department is approximately $7.2 million, and the current budget does not allow it.
Sheriff Villanueva noted that implementing significant reforms does not happen overnight and correcting 50 years of failed leadership will take time. He focused on reforms that have taken place under his leadership such as the Deputy Cliques Policy (MPP3-01/50.83). It is a policy that did not exist before and it took effect on February of the year 2020.
As a result of the George Floyd murder, the Duty to Intervene Policy (MPP 3-01/030.14) was implemented. The Department had a policy that was subject to interpretation but this new policy leaves no doubt that Department members shall intervene and report an incident when they observe a serious violation of any Department policy. Failure to intervene may result in criminal prosecution.
Other important policies that have been initiated are:
- Whistleblower Protection Policy – (MPP 3-01/30.22)
- Protections Against Retaliation for Reporting Misconduct Policy – (MPP3-01/030.22)
- Threat Assessment of Department Personnel Following Involvement in Significant Incidents (Detective Division Order 21-2)
- Transparency Promise (all information the Department can lawfully share is on the website)
- Body Worn Cameras (20 out of 23 stations are now using body worn cameras and in two more months, all stations will have them.)
Sheriff Villanueva announced that a total of 874 personnel have been disciplined from December 3, 2018 to September 13, 2021, and out of that number, 120 have been given Letters of Intent to Discharge. He emphasized that he has held employees accountable, but one thing he does not do is prosecute, as that is the job of the District Attorney. LASD is responsible for criminal investigations and those are turned over to the D.A. and those investigations sometimes sit with the D.A. for years.
He also noted the report contradicted itself, stating at one point deputy cliques were still actively adding members (p.xi), while later saying they did not seem to be actively adding members (p.97). Print news media widely used the first statement while completely ignoring the latter.
“With all the negative press associated with the deputy subgroups, with the efforts that I’ve done, my administration has done, putting the policy, enforcing the policy, creating a video that every single member of the department had to see, they had to sign an attestation form, and it goes into each individual’s personnel jacket. None of this was mentioned in the RAND study. Why? Because they were not interested in the truth, that’s the sad reality,” said Sheriff Villanueva.
Sheriff Villanueva pointed out a statement he found troubling: “Community leaders and members were mostly critical of current department leadership, expressing concerns about a lack of transparency, a lack of trust, and a culture of aggressive policing” (p.161, p.xii). “I read through the entire report and did not find a single reference comparing current Department leadership and past Department leadership, not one, So, how did they come up with one?” asked Sheriff Villanueva.
It was later discovered that the Civilian Oversight Commission, which is appointed by the Board of Supervisors, provided people who had participated in focus groups in the process of gathering information. If the information had been drawn from the public at large, it would have been a rather fair report but the information came from people that were biased against the Department.
The RAND Report is the first of its kind entirely devoted to LASD sub-groups. The actual cost of the report was over $1 million and there was also a $1.5 million in property tax forgiveness that the County bequeathed to the Santa Monica-based RAND Institute.