Inspector General Max Huntsman on demanding transparency from LA Sheriff’s Department

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Black Lives Matter and community members protest in front of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Departments South Bureau. South Bureau LA County Sheriff’s deputies shot and killed Dijon Kizzee during a traffic stop while he was riding his bicycle. The LA Sheriff’s Department is under FBI investigation for internal gang activity. 9/5/2020, Los Angeles, CA. Photo by Ted Soqui/SIPA USA.

Protestors gathered in South LA again on Wednesday night to demand justice for Dijon Kizzee. 

LA County Sheriff’s Deputies shot and killed Kizzee, a Black man, in the Westmont neighborhood last week. He was riding his bike when those deputies stopped him for what they say was some unspecified violation. 

That tragic event comes just a couple of months after deputies shot and killed another man, 18-year-old Andres Guardado, outside an auto parts shop in Gardena. 

The Kizzee and Guardado families aren’t the only ones looking for answers and transparency from Sheriff Alex Villanueva and his deputies. 

“We want to monitor the active investigations of the Sheriff's Department, particularly when they’re investigating themselves,” says LA County Inspector General Max Huntsman, the chief watchdog for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Huntsman says he’s used to dealing with politicians who resist cooperating with internal investigations. But he has noticed a retrenchment under Villanueva’s administration. 

“Reforms have been backed away from. [The] sheriff won't comply with subpoenas. ... Is there a code of silence that is enforced from the level of management? Yes.”

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra has the authority to remove an elected official if they’re breaking the law. But Huntsman says he hasn't asked Becerra to investigate Villanueva’s actions.

“It's not my job to tell him how to do his job,” he says. “It's my job to report publicly on what the sheriff does. What other elected officials and the district attorney does, they have to decide.”