Lieu­tenant en­ters race for sher­iff against McDon­nell

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Maya Lau maya.lau@la­times.com Twit­ter: @may­alau

Three years ago, can­di­dates for Los An­ge­les County sher­iff jos­tled over who had the best claim to be the type of “out­sider” who could clean up a depart­ment mired in jail abuse and cor­rup­tion scan­dals.

Alex Vil­lanueva says it’s time to flaunt be­ing an in­sider again.

Stand­ing next to the East Los An­ge­les sta­tion where he once served as a young deputy, Vil­lanueva, now a lieu­tenant, said Wed­nes­day that his three-decade ten­ure with the agency gives him the in­sight needed to im­prove the depart­ment.

He is the first to chal­lenge in­cum­bent Jim McDon­nell in next year’s elec­tion. McDon­nell, who had served as Long Beach po­lice chief af­ter a long ca­reer with the Los An­ge­les Po­lice Depart­ment, was the first out­sider in a cen­tury to win the sher­iff’s job in 2014.

That shift — in an in­su­lar agency where long-serv­ing sher­iffs were known to hand­pick their suc­ces­sors — came af­ter a jail abuse con­tro­versy that ul­ti­mately ended in con­vic­tions for nu­mer­ous depart­ment of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing former Sher­iff Lee Baca. Baca was sen­tenced this year to three years in prison for his role in ob­struct­ing an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion of his jails.

Vil­lanueva, 54, says he had been hope­ful McDon­nell would de­liver on a pledge to bring “fresh eyes” to the trou­bled depart­ment. Three years into McDon­nell’s term, Vil­lanueva says too many of­fi­cials who fu­eled the cor­rupt cul­ture of the agency are still in high­rank­ing po­si­tions.

He says it takes an in­ti­mate knowl­edge of the depart­ment to reshuf­fle its play­ers. In try­ing to get rid of wrong­do­ers, McDon­nell has been dis­ci­plin­ing only lowlevel deputies, Vil­lanueva said.

“It’s man­age­ment by ‘gotcha,’ ” he said.

McDon­nell, through a spokes­woman, de­clined to com­ment.

Vil­lanueva says he would add 3,000 deputies to the depart­ment’s pa­trol oper­a­tion, in part by re­mov­ing deputies from roles that don’t in­volve polic­ing and as­sign­ing them to work the streets. Among the pro­grams he would shrink are the depart­ment’s public re­la­tions cam­paigns. Vil­lanueva also said he would look for op­por­tu­ni­ties to as­sign civil­ians to some jobs cur­rently be­ing per­formed by deputies.

A La Habra Heights res­i­dent, Vil­lanueva ran and lost a City Coun­cil race there in 2015. He’s now an ap­pointed plan­ning com­mis­sioner in that city, in ad­di­tion to serv­ing as a watch com­man­der at the Sher­iff’s Depart­ment’s Pico Rivera sta­tion.

Af­ter start­ing in the county jails in 1986, he went on to work at sev­eral pa­trol sta­tions and be­came an acad­emy in­struc­tor. Prior to join­ing the depart­ment, he served a year in the U.S. Air Force and has also served in the Cal­i­for­nia Army Na­tional Guard.

Francine Orr Los An­ge­les Times

ALEX VIL­LANUEVA says it’s time to f launt be­ing an in­sider again.

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