Endorsement: Robert Luna for sheriff
Former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna is an accomplished law enforcement professional, a proven leader and easily the better of two candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot for Los Angeles County sheriff.
It is no knock on Luna to acknowledge that this important election is less about him than the incumbent, Alex Villanueva, whose tenure has been disastrous for the people of Los Angeles County, public safety, the rule of law and, whether or not they realize it, the nearly 10,000 deputies in the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
From the time he took office in 2018, Villanueva has substituted personal grievance and umbrage for leadership. He has rarely missed an opportunity to alienate officials and would-be partners who have vital stakes in the safety of county residents and the success or failure of his department: county supervisors, the district attorney, city leaders, reporters, and even his own leadership team. At nearly every step, his poor judgment has backfired on him and the department.
Questioned early in his term as to why he would rehire a deputy who had been fired for suspected domestic abuse, he lectured the Board of Supervisors on his interpretation of sexual harassment (a non sequitur) and on his supposedly unfettered authority over department personnel. He was wrong on the law, lost the battle, and attracted new scrutiny from county lawyers and personnel managers over his hiring practices.
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He claimed to have established a “truth and reconciliation” process ostensibly to permit residents who had been unfairly treated or injured by the Sheriff’s Department to air their complaints, as well as to give fired deputies a chance to regain their jobs. But he broke his commitment to have procedures vetted by the Civilian Oversight Commission, and revealed by his actions that the purpose of “truth and reconciliation” was solely to reinstate fired deputies.
He fired his budget staff, claiming he could manage the department’s finances better without them, and ended up mismanaging an inherited shortfall so completely that the supervisors put the department on a carefully managed spending plan.
He fired the officials who advised the department on policies and conduct that run afoul of the Constitution. He criticized rules for reporting minor uses of force. He called for the return of metal flashlights for deputies to use as weapons against jail inmates. He called for an end to rules limiting force against inmates.
He hurled an ethnic slur against a county supervisor, baselessly called the inspector general a Holocaust denier, defended deputies who improperly arrested a reporter (and repeated demonstrably false statements about the incident) and accused virtually everyone who has questioned or criticized him of being part of a left-wing, “woke” cabal out to get him. He turned much of his weekly social media presentations into gripe-fests against his critics and perceived adversaries.
The Civilian Oversight Commission called for his resignation two years ago, which to Villanueva merely demonstrates that it is yet one more tool of the woke left, filled with ivory-tower academics and law enforcement defunders.
L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva may act deranged but most likely he’s merely dishonest. His irresponsible statements offer a window into his character.
That typically clueless analysis misses the fact that it was commission member Robert Bonner — a former federal judge, federal prosecutor, commissioner (in the wake of the 9/11 attacks) of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency, and hardly an antagonist of law enforcement — who first called on the Oversight Commission to act against Villanueva because of the sheriff’s erratic and dangerous actions.
James P. Harris, a retired Los Angeles County sheriff’s lieutenant, agreed. So did Lael Rubin, a retired prosecutor and former special counsel in the office of L.A. Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley. So did every other member of the Oversight Commission.
It is not merely Villanueva’s perceived lefty rabble who want him out. It is also L.A. leaders devoted to the rule of law and to defending the integrity of law enforcement.
It appears to also be the inclination of voters of Los Angeles County, more than two-thirds of whom rejected Villanueva in the June 7 primary. Luna received more votes than any other challenger, and for good reason.
Luna won praise for his leadership of the Long Beach Police Department in his seven years as chief after having spent his entire career in the department. He supported civilian oversight of the type the current sheriff resists or rejects. He demonstrated an ability to work with elected leaders for the benefit of city residents and, not incidentally, his officers.
He is a professional of sound judgment, deep experience and respect for the law. And he comes from outside a department that has become even more troubled and diminished because of Villanueva. If the pieces can be put back together, Luna has the best chance of doing it.
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