The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors may soon ask Angelenos to vote on an amendment to grant them authority to remove a Sheriff whom they feel, “abuses power” or “violates the law.”
The proposal, co-authored by Supervisors Holly J. Mitchell and Hilda L. Solis, passed in a 4-1 vote, with the County Counsel now tasked with drafting an order that could eventually be seen on L.A. County ballots come November.
“Accountability over law enforcement is public safety,” Supervisor Solis said in a statement. “Ensuring our residents have the ability to vote on being free from law enforcement intimidation, harassment, and misconduct and holding them accountable for any ensuing harm and trauma is the Board of Supervisors’ responsibility, specifically over the Sheriff of Los Angeles County. This charter amendment would provide residents with the oversight they expect and the peace from law enforcement abuse they deserve.”
L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva responded to the amendment, calling the supervisors “tone deaf,” and saying a conflict exists as part of his responsibilities extend to policing possible crimes enacted by elected officials, such as the supervisors.
“My job is to investigate crime. That includes crime committed by public officials and elected officials,” Villanueva said during a livestreamed Q & A session on Wednesday. “That’s why the office of the sheriff is independent. In the exact same nature that the district attorney… has the authority, according to the constitution, to prosecute crime. The D.A. office also has to be independent of the board of supervisors. Once they gain the control of either, they’ve gained the control to basically dictate who gets investigated and who does not get investigated.”
The supervisors said they believe the motion would not interfere with the Sheriff’s investigative process and would “establish meaningful checks and balances,” according to the motion’s text.
Villanueva is up for re-election during this November’s state election, after receiving 30% of the vote during June’s primaries, ahead of former Long Beach chief Robert Luna, who received 25% of the vote.
“The public demanded that the Board act on its duty to supervise the Sheriff and protect people in the most vulnerable circumstances. The Board heard us, and it did.” Melanie Ochoa, Director of Police Practices at the ACLU of Southern California said in a statement. “No matter who wins in November, structural change is needed to make sure that we don’t have another sheriff with a $3 billion budget, unlimited weapons, and no real process to achieve accountability while lives are at stake.”
The County Counsel must now present a drafted ordinance to call for a special election on Tuesday, November 8.
The board must also conduct at least two readings of the draft, with the first coming on July 26. After the readings, the council will vote to pass the motion and put the amendment on the ballot.