Letters to the Editor: L.A. voters are terrible at electing sheriffs. Just look at Alex Villanueva

Alex Villanueva
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva speaks at a swearing-in ceremony in Monterey Park on Dec. 3, 2018.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

To the editor: The last sentence of Erika D. Smith’s column — “It’s enough to make me wonder why we elect sheriffs at all” — is spot on.

In Los Angeles County alone, the history of our last four elected sheriffs is proof enough that voters stink at selecting a sheriff. Jim McDonnell was without major scandal but was beaten by the current sheriff, Alex Villanueva, whose refusal to allow oversight makes me believe he will be the most corrupt and worst of all.

Voters do the best they can, but limited time and knowledge coupled with campaign ads bought by special interests make choosing the right sheriff difficult.


The best solution is to appoint sheriffs. Then-Harvard law professor Jed Shugerman did extensive research on the best way to select judges and found in 2012 that elected judges were typically worse compared to those who were appointed.

He believes the best solution is to have merit selection, which involves vetting by a panel of professionals and executive appointment to a first term, followed by retention elections.

For the sheriff, a panel should vet various candidates, and the Board of Supervisors should make the final selection. Four years later, the voters can decide if the board made a good choice.

Marri Derby, Laguna Beach

The writer is a criminal defense attorney.


To the editor: Smith hit the nail on the head. After concentrating on Villanueva, she reported on outrageous behaviors by sheriffs in Sacramento and Trinity counties.

But she didn’t need to travel so far from Los Angeles County. In Riverside County, Sheriff Chad Bianco on June 9 told the Board of Supervisors, “The transparency of me and of my department, quite honestly, it can’t be questioned.” He also said, “Quite frankly, I don’t think — it’s not your job to tell me what to do.”


He said this because his department’s policies and procedures are all online, available to anyone. Well, it’s one thing to have policies and procedures and quite another thing to actually enforce them.

I’m fairly certain that the Minneapolis Police Department’s policies and procedures would not allow kneeling on a man’s neck until he died. But, while it took a little less than nine minutes for officer Derek Chauvin to kill George Floyd, it took the local district attorney days to charge him.

Public heat, not policies and procedures, led to the charges.

“It’s enough to make me wonder why we elect sheriffs at all,” Smith concludes. I’ve been wondering the same thing.

Denys Arcuri, Indio