Relations between embattled LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the Board of Supervisors have hit a new low. It’s a level of acrimony that longtime political observers say is unprecedented.
LA Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley Thomas have called on Villanueva to resign, along with several members of the Sheriff's Civilian Oversight Commission.
This comes after deputies shot and killed a Black bicyclist named Dijon Kizzee last month, and then faced criticism for firing less-lethal projectiles into nightly demonstrations outside the South LA station.
The Sheriff’s Department is also under scrutiny for the rough arrest of KPCC reporter Josie Huang while covering a protest. The department’s version of events in the arrest have been contradicted by video. Dozens of media organizations are calling on the Sheriff’s Department to drop the citation. And the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press accused deputies of violating Huang’s First Amendment rights.
The calls for Villanueva to step down started with Robert Bonner, a former federal prosecutor who also sits on the Civilian Oversight Commission.
“It is with great reluctance that I call on Sheriff Villanueva to resign,” Bonner said during the commission’s meeting Thursday. “The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deserves better and so do the people of Los Angeles County.”
Some have noted that Bonner is hardly anti-law enforcement. He’s a former U.S. District Court judge, and under George H.W. Bush, led the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Villanueva responded to political opponents during a recent press briefing: “There is a fine line between being a watchdog and an attack dog, a political attack dog. And that’s pretty much the line they’ve crossed.”
As an elected official, Villanueva added he plans to ignore these calls for resignation and “just move on.”
Inspector General Max Huntsman oversees investigations into the sheriff. Huntsman said in an interview with KCRW that he’s been thwarted by Villanueva at every turn. And Huntsman said Villanueva has threatened him personally and put him under criminal investigation as an act of retaliation.
What should we make of all these developments? Raphe Sonenshein, the executive director of the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State LA, says “there’s never been anything like this.”