The LA Times has a piece out saying the Office of Sheriff is up for grabs. Read more here.
The primary union representing the men and women of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced this morning a Vote of No Confidence in the department’s current leader, Sheriff Jim McDonnell.
The vote comes after a rocky four years for the LASD, which has struggled with rising crime across the county, ongoing allegations of abuse and sexual assault by deputies, violence by deputy cliques, an ongoing focus on deputy tattoos, allegations of racial profiling, a massive and unprecedented budget deficit, a worsening mental health crisis–which McDonnell proposes to address through incarceration, departmental morale and proactive policing at historic lows, and widespread complaints about McDonnell’s lack of transparency and mismanagement.
It also comes after rising disappointment with McDonnell from the county’s minority communities.
According to a recent survey of its members by the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS), 82% of LASD deputies do not have confidence in McDonnell; 88% say McDonnell has been ineffective in managing the ongoing staffing shortage. Over 85% of deputies do not feel McDonnell is competent to move the department forward.
ALADS characterized the deputy participation rate in the survey as “above average”.
ALADS, which has endorsed reformer Alex Villanueva to be the next Sheriff of Los Angeles County, also held a press conference this morning. Villanueva spoke as well. You can find the video of that press conference here.
The Los Angeles Times, the battered wife of the failed Los Angeles Establishment, which has spent much of the last four years reporting about Jim McDonnell’s failure as sheriff, endorsed him for reelection Thursday. How unsurprising.
Because, despite the Times’ lawsuit against McDonnell for violating privacy laws, despite his frequent misstatements (lies) to reporters, despite the litany of reasons in their own endorsement why McDonnell has been a failure, despite our own list of reasons McDonnell has been a failure, despite apparently uninvestigated criminal acts and misuse of public funds, despite LASD’s inability to recruit, despite McDonnell’s profligate spending on vanity and inability to manage a budget, his anger issues, LASD’s hemorrhaging of new deputies transferring to other agencies (shout out to MCJ!), despite the parade of resignations and retirements and the undermining of the Civilian Oversight Commission … maybe, it’s all because he loves us?
Why? Because McDonnell has “command experience”. Whatever the hell that means. Whatever the hell that has gotten us.
We will catch you up on a ton of LASD headlines in the next day or so (still catching up ourselves from vacation!), but here is another important article out today:
The Los Angeles Progressive–while not our cup of tea politically–is an important LA political blog. So it’s noteworthy they blasted Sheriff McDonnell for his pathetic failure to participate in the debate around LASD’s future Saturday, opting (as usual) to speak to friendly audiences (not just EPC), instead of ones with information, backbone or the freedom to disagree without fear of reprisal.
As we reported Saturday, McDonnell’s refusal to participate in an ACLU-moderated debate is cynical cowardice–but emblematic of how he operates. Either you agree with (and praise) him or you’re part of the problem. That’s why he’s grown his career through appointed positions (or by running for office against a felon) and why he has no interest whatsoever in participating in the democratic process now.
Refusing to stand tall for your decisions would rightfully be a fireable offense for a deputy. It should be for the sheriff, too.
But Sheriff McDonnell has always been a special snowflake.
Debates are about ideas–and a candidate’s ability to articulate or defend them. They’re about leadership. They’re about transparency.
“Transparency starts with showing up for debates,” Alex Villanueva told the debate audience Saturday.
“Change won’t happen overnight,’ the LA Progressive observed.
“But it starts November 6th,” Villanueva concluded.
Candidates for sheriff Alex Villanueva and Jim McDonnell recently sat for roughly 18-minute video interviews with the Santa Clarita Valley Signal.
Overall, McDonnell seemed pretty annoyed to have to be there, but he answered the student reporter’s questions gamely. It was the usual unspecific, “but-when-you-look-at”, stay-the-course, “couldn’t be prouder” song and dance. Click here to see McDonnell’s interview.
For his part, Villanueva cast McDonnell as “an angry old man” who, like the Wizard of Oz, makes confident declarations that informed people know just aren’t true. That crime is down (when it’s up); the morale is great (when it’s possibly the lowest it’s ever been); that McDonnell has accomplished so much–a “sea change!”–when even basic things within his control remain undone (such as providing an adequate number of mental health teams). Villanueva’s focus, he said, would be on fixing specific things that would dramatically improve LASD’s culture and performance: getting rid of probationary employees who aren’t up to the job, rather than the current practice of going-along-to-get-along and making them somebody else’s problem. He spoke of specific ways he would improve community relations, particularly with the communities of color that supported him so strongly during the primary election. To see Villanueva’s interview, click here.
While he doesn’t yet have quite the polish McDonnell has from four years as a politician, Villanueva’s answers strike us as specific, while McDonnell’s were, as always, vague, or just wrong, or put in the rosiest light. After watching both these interviews, it’s easy to see which candidate thinks things are going just great and which has the passion and commitment to change.
In just over two months, we’ll find out what the voters are looking for.
The Los Angeles Times has published four hard-hitting articles in the last three days taking examining misconduct by Los Angeles County deputy sheriffs, taking square aim at changing California’s police officer privacy laws.
It is unclear whether the Times has made this a priority by itself or whether it is being secretly encouraged by Sheriff Jim McDonnell, who has been angling to undermine the Peace Officer Bill of Rights for years. McDonnell has been unsuccessful in his quest under existing law, so perhaps he’s going about it another way. After all, it was less than a year ago that PPOA President Brian Moriguchi called for an investigation into whether Sheriff McDonnell or his “Constitutional Policing” or media handlers intentionally and illegally leaked personnel information to the Times. (Was this crime investigated?)
Here is a good legal analysis of the issues.
On the other hand, it’s also unclear whether the Times is finally revisiting McDonnell’s absurd claim, and the Times’ prior agreement, that he has single-handedly engineered a “sea change in culture” within the LASD despite his deep unpopularity within the organization.
Here are the articles the Times has come out with since Thursday:
* * *
LASD.News’ Opinion: We don’t know whether officer privacy laws / the Peace Officer Bill of Rights needs to be changed or not. As easy as it is to get information about people these days, and with a bloody history of officers being followed or confronted at their homes, there are certainly safety reasons to preserve POBR.
While the Times has identified many cases of real or alleged misconduct it would have liked to know about, and defense attorneys would have liked to know about–we don’t think it has established that the prior misconduct was actually relevant in the subsequent cases. For example, in the first story, the Times cites many lawyers and criminal suspects who would have been glad to use the deputy’s prior misconduct to angle for a lighter sentence or dismissal, when their actual guilt and the evidence in their cases does not seem to be in doubt.
As a journalistic and opinionated outfit ourselves, we understand the Times’ desire for access to officer personnel files. (Are journalists offering up their personnel files, too? Will LASD “executives” be wearing body cams?) But we are not yet convinced that the desired transparency will benefit anyone other than reporters who want to tell interesting stories, criminals who want to get out of jail, and the defense attorneys who want to help them. We look forward to the Times’ editorial board’s big reveal as to what exactly they are proposing.
Everyone makes mistakes in their life and career. While police officers have tremendous public trust placed in them and misconduct should be dealt with, criminals and their attorneys are looking for whatever will establish reasonable doubt in the least intelligent member of a jury. Or suggest to a busy deputy district attorney that a slam-dunk case will become a hassle and should be dismissed or pled.
Allowing criminals, defense attorneys and reporters to go on fishing expeditions through officers’ past and cherry-pick tidbits that benefit their own agendas will have many consequences which should be fiercely debated.
Struggling Sheriff Jim McDonnell flashed the anger, contempt and casual relationship with the truth he is known for Wednesday in responding to LASD’s largest union endorsing his challenger, retired Lieutenant Alex Villanueva.
In a graceless statement posted to his Facebook page, McDonnell said:
I’m not surprised by the announcement made by the Board of Directors of ALADS today. By endorsing my opponent, ALADS has endorsed a candidate who has publicly opposed the reforms underway that have reduced jail violence and increased accountability. He would take the Department backwards to a time of chaos and corruption like it was under Baca and Tanaka.
I have come in and implemented accountability measures and the ALADS Board has taken issue with that, and I am not going to apologize for holding accountable those who tarnish the badge.
Thousands of individual deputies and civilian personnel have indeed worked hard to earn back the trust of the public after many years of crisis. I do not believe the ALADS Board of Directors speaks for the overwhelming number of Deputies who are active partners in moving the Department forward. Together, we have a responsibility to make Los Angeles County as safe as possible while continuing to earn the public’s trust every day.
What an astonishingly passive-aggressive, dishonest, bridge-burning, and childish bunch of nonsense. Had ALADS endorsed him, McDonnell would’ve instead been talking about how honored and humbled he was for their support and partnership.
In other words: you don’t think I’m doing awesome so you’re part of the problem.
This sort of denial and blame-shifting wouldn’t be tolerated of a deputy sheriff trainee in the academy; we absolutely shouldn’t tolerate it from the elected sheriff. He’s had four years to learn our standards. This is Phase 1 roll-up behavior.
Is it any wonder McDonnell’s community relations are so fraid? That he was absent from much of the community for the last four years until, surprised into a runoff, he’s running around hat-in-hand, begging for money from wealthy West Siders? That he views the Citizens Oversight commission as his liaison to the community rather than an actual oversight panel?
Can you imagine if this guy were your boss and you had to disagree with him? (Demoted Captain Chris Brackpool can.)
What is this, Russia?
Petulant as McDonnell’s statement is, it’s a window into how his Father Knows Best mindset reacts when a partner dares to challenge him. No wonder suck-ups and sycophants have done so well promoting under McDonnell, especially all the Tanaka-acolytes who so quickly changed their colors?
McDonnell’s statement is completely unhinged.
Here are the facts:
- Jim McDonnell has accomplished very little in four years as sheriff. Crime is up, proactive police work is way down, morale is probably the lowest its ever been, chancing arbitrary and career-altering/ending discipline by ambitious middle-managers and self-styled “executives” is viewed as a risk of showing up for work, acting with integrity is viewed as an act of foolishness, while the executive ranks themselves are riddled with suck ups and people with extensive records of misconduct (some quite recent).
- Alex Villanueva hasn’t opposed significant reforms because McDonnell has neither made significant reforms nor even suggested what they might be. All he talks about is implementing systems of processes of layers of paper-pushers (all wearing brass belt buckles and sewn-down epaulettes, of course; all telling him how great he is). And this is without even getting to the 300 admin staff he says he’d need to run a body cam program.
- In fact, the only major McDonnell “reform” LASD.News can recall Villanueva opposing was releasing an informal list of deputies previously accused of having integrity issues to the District Attorney’s office (the so-called “Brady List”), including its apparently intentional and criminal leak to the media. And the reason Villanueva has given for disagreeing is not that he opposes the list in principle but because the list is not accurate–it includes people who don’t even know they’re on it or why they would be; it includes people who were bullied into accepting a punishment that without their knowledge landed them on the list rather than risk loss of pay while fighting an internal case; indeed the Los Angeles Times has itself reported that deputies have been removed from the list after someone realized they were there in error. That McDonnell is comfortable needlessly and perhaps falsely tarnishing peoples’ reputations to achieve the appearance of having achieved something says more about him than it does about anyone else.
- Actually, Villanueva has campaigned extensively on the assertion that McDonnell’s reforms have been fake in effect, not that they’ve been wrong in intent.
- Indeed, under McDonnell’s leadership numerous deputies have been arrested or convicted of crimes, firings have gone through the roof (as have reinstatements through the legal system and back-pay awards), including firings of “executives” McDonnell sought to defend one day and kicked out the window the next. As any deputy knows, firing is viewed internally now as a management stunt easily and often entered into to make the lawyers happy and “leaders” look good, with the understanding that the legal appellate process will do the actual managing.
- By the way, anyone know what’s going on with Todd Rogers’ civil suit against McDonnell alleging he was retaliated against after the last election? Did the County settle that one yet?
- And speaking of integrity issues, what does it take for McDonnell to end up on his own Brady List, with all his own false statements? Such as when he told the media last year that no uses of force had been recorded on deputies’ personally-owned body cams (which they have bought due to his refusal to distribute them)? Or his claiming above that an “overwhelming number of deputies” support him in “moving the Department forward” when, in fact, 97% of deputies voted their lack of confidence in McDonnell? Or his many false statements to reporter Annie Gilbertson in her REPEAT Podcast (especially episodes 5 and 6)? He must know what he is saying is false, but he’s saying it so his LA-establishment backers who don’t know how failed and unpopular he is, who will simply take his word for it.
- While McDonnell claims to be a reformer, in fact he hasn’t gotten much done–other than gorging on the vain perks of his office: his $2 million luxury SUV and entourage, the hats and jackets and uniforms and brass buckles and the decals, LASD’s new theme song (which deputies can listen to when the countywide radio system crashes), the travel, and the use of county resources for campaign purposes, and the mountain retreats, to say nothing of his nearly half-million dollars in annual taxpayer-funded compensation.
- McDonnell’s attitude–and that of his supporters–seems to be that if the unions disapprove of his performance, he must be doing something right. That’s cute, except LASD’s unions endorsed him four years ago and have complained constantly since then not about McDonnell’s policy positions but mostly about his lack of vision, understanding of the organization, and his leadership. They’ve complained about his not responding when a deputy was shot in the neck because it was late at night. They’ve complained about his ineffectiveness; about his inability to recruit, about the wave of deputies immediately lateraling to other agencies, about being $200 million over budget, about detectives being put into patrol cars to achieve minimum patrol levels. The unions are raising serious concerns about a sheriff which experience is showing is not up to the job. (See, also.) You can ignore the warning light if you like, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to crash into the mountain.
Maybe this frequent commenter on the LA Times article summed it up best:
“I think Jim is the biggest let-down of ANY elected official in the last 25 years,” she said. “Now even I refer to Jim as Sheriff McBuckles. Sad. So disappointing. Jim, I hate to say this b/c I was such a huge fangurl, you had your chance and choked. Time to step aside my friend.”
Indeed. And drop the patch.