Protestors call for charter amendment to create a process for impeaching and removing an elected Sheriff from office.

A coalition of more than 70 community organizations, including labor unions, rallied in front of the Hall of Justice in Los Angeles Monday, Feb. 7, urging the LA County Board of Supervisors to place a charter amendment on the ballot to create an impeachment process for the elected office of LA County Sheriff.

In a public letter addressed to the Board, the coalition demanded a charter amendment be placed on the ballot to increase the Sheriff’s “accountability” and to “create a path for voters” to remove sheriffs for misconduct.

This call for action is directed at current Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who has repeatedly been admonished during his term for his refusal to be accountable for the increase of deputy shootings and the spread of “deputy gangs” within the department.

“We have been demanding accountability within the Sheriff’s Department for years and years,” said Joseph Williams of Black Lives Matter and the Check The Sheriff Coalition.

“The current Sheriff, Alex Villanueva, campaigned around the fact that he was gonna bring change to the Sheriff’s office. And since he’s been in office we have seen the opposite. We have seen abuse. We have seen nepotism. We have seen cover-ups. And we are demanding that the [county] Board of Supervisors do something about it,” Williams said

Villanueva has repeatedly clashed with oversight agencies. In 2021, the California Department of Justice launched a civil rights investigation against the department to determine whether it engaged in a “pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing” after numerous reports of misconduct.

The LA County Sheriff’s Department had to pay more than $60 million in settlements and judgements in the 2019-20 fiscal year, and lawsuits were up by 11 percent in 2019 and 2020.

“So we call today on the Board of Supervisors to act now,” said Pastor Bridie Robertas, representing United Here Local 11. “Because we can no longer wait to hold the Sheriff accountable. We can no longer wait while deputy gangs terrorize our communities. We can no longer wait while a corrupt Sheriff’s Department puts all our members’ families in danger.”

Among the coalition were the families of six people who were killed by sheriffs — John Horton, Dijon Kizzee, David Ordaz Jr., Paul Rea, Ryan Twyman and Anthony Vargas — who urged the board to put the charter amendment on the ballot.

“This is going to continue to happen if we don’t step up now and put something in place, so that the people in a position to oversee the Sheriff’s Department are capable of doing that; because that’s where the problem is,” said Stephanie Luna, Anthony Vargas’ aunt. Vargas died in August 2018 during a confrontation with deputies from wounds after being shot multiple times in the back, rear shoulder, and forearm. He also had a grazing wound in his head.

“There are people in positions of power, and they are not capable of holding Villanueva accountable, they’re not capable of impeaching him. Sheriff Villanueva has dodged accountability for far too long,” Luna said. 

Emily Ordaz, daughter of David Ordaz, Jr. — who was killed in March 2021 during a confrontation with deputies responding to a call outside of the family’s East Los Angeles home —  added, “You might think this doesn’t affect you. You might think this isn’t urgent. But if you genuinely think there is no urgency to this, then you either have the privilege of being ignorant or the privilege of not living in the communities that Alex has tormented.”

In addition to the coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has sent a letter to the Supervisors in support of a charter amendment.

“The Board must seize this moment and take decisive actions to protect the public from the scourge of deputy gangs, sheriffs’ violations of the law and obstruction of oversight, and the underlying conditions leading to unchecked deputy misconduct and violence particularly towards Black and Brown communities policed by LASD,” stated the ACLU letter, dated Feb. 7.

“The undersigned stakeholders urge the Board to propose to the voters an amendment to the LA County Charter that will create an impeachment and removal process to provide common sense checks and balances over the sheriff, reinforce its policy-making authority over LASD, and strengthen civilian oversight,” the letter read.

Villanueva, a 34-year member of the department who was elected in 2018 as the county’s 33rd Sheriff, had previously tweeted out a message saying, “Beware of coalitions masquerading as ‘reform’ groups. In reality, many are simply part of coordinated attacks on a Latino Sheriff who leads a predominantly Latino department. Their legislative efforts are largely unconstitutional, just like Measure J was found to be in the courts. These efforts are in fact designed to further defund the LASD and protect the homeless industrial complex. This $6.5B dollar money making scam was designed to reward political allies and activist groups who offer support.”

Villanueva is currently in a reelection battle with candidate and deputy Lt. Eric Strong, who announced on social media his support of a charter amendment for a process to impeach and remove a sheriff.

“I believe that no sheriff should oppose or resist accountability and oversight. This is especially true if we’re doing our job,” the candidate stated. “As I always say, if we are doing what we are supposed to, when we’re supposed to, how we’re supposed to, then it doesn’t matter who is watching.”

One reply on “Coalition Seeks Charter Amendment to Impeach Sheriff Villanueva”

  1. Why does the Board of Supervisor’s continually harass the Sheriff? All employee’s of the Sheriff Department is mandated to take harassment training, policy of equality training and any other training mandated by the County of Los Angeles. Does the Board of Supervisors have to take the same training? The Board should be mandated for all the training being that they only harass the Sheriff and his Department. Do these Supervisor’s realize the predicament that the Law Enforcement Officers are put into? NO ONE wants to be an Officer any more, they are put into situations that they can not control or be safe in. Maybe the Supervisors should go on ride alongs, get the feel of what is really happening in the streets. There are so many more crimes now and murders it’s ridiculous! The District Attorney is useless, the police don’t have enough officers and these Supervisors are outrageous! There also needs to be a term limit placed on holding the Board of Supervisor seats. Enough is enough already, the City of Los Angeles is looking more and more like a ghetto everyday!

Comments are closed.