The Civilian Oversight Commission Wants Sheriff Alex Villanueva to Step Down

Earlier this week, the panel tasked with keeping an eye on the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department demanded Villanueva’s resignation

The war between Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the Civilian Oversight Commission kicked up yet another notch this week, with the committee unanimously adopting a resolution condemning Villanueva’s leadership and calling for the sheriff to resign immediately.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, the commission initially planned to resolve that Villanueva had neglected to cooperate with its recommendations, and promise to take further action if he continued to “facilitate dysfunction” in his department.

The commission members then decided to amend the document to include a vote of no confidence, before ultimately ramping the resolution up to DEFCON 1, declaring that they had “lost confidence in Sheriff Villanueva’s ability to effectively govern the sheriff’s department,” and that, “He should resign immediately.”

Noting that some committee members had already said Villanueva should call it quits last month, commission chair Lael Rubin suggested adding the resignation demand, telling the other members, “I don’t think he has any intention of making anything better.”

“One would have hoped that during the last month, with all of that discussion and public comment and comments in news articles that he would take some of that to heart,” she added. “He obviously has not.”

Commissioner Priscilla Ocen also voiced her disdain for Villanueva, accusing him of “lies” and “cover-ups,” and saying that he has made an already troubled department even worse through “his willingness to defend indefensible actions by deputies.”

“He fails to take responsibility for problems in his department, blaming everyone else,” Ocen said. “He blames everyone else, including the former sheriff, for the problems he’s responsible for.”

For his part, Villanueva has said that the Oversight Commission is simply packed with political stooges put in place by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and that they “act like it.”

Calling for panel members to be elected rather than appointed, Villanueva has said that it’s difficult for him to work with the committee because “[t]heir political philosophies are they really, really hate cops or they slightly hate cops or they’re not too sure.”

Relations between Villanueva and both the Oversight Committee and the Board of Supervisors have be fraught since he took office two years ago. Early in the pandemic, the Board of Supervisors removed Villanueva from his position as head of emergency operations, replacing him with former County CEO Sachi Hamai. Hamai later accused Villanueva of “unrelenting and brutal” harassment, which resulted in the county offering her a $1.5 million settlement. In addition to the outrage that’s resulted from several high-profile deputy-involved shootings, including the September killing of Dijon Kizzee in South L.A., Villanueva’s department has been further besmirched by allegations that deputies are forming violent gangs within the department.

Ultimately, Villanueva is an elected official and the commission has no power to force his resignation. So he’s decided to shrug his shoulders and carry on. “I’m just going to ignore it and move on,” he said. “I’m going to continue serving the community, and I just have to set that aside.”

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