Editorial: Sheriff Alex Villanueva is out but leaves behind a deeply damaged department with a chief’s legacy of incompetence and corruption
When the last person resigns from the Sheriff’s Office, the department faces a crisis. A crisis that may even be too difficult to handle.
It’s been an unusual story of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department in the wake of Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s resignation. I had written earlier about the need for a new leader to restore the rank and file and rebuild a department that seemed imperiled—and in critical state—when Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced his resignation on June 24.
Then, about two weeks later, L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina announced that she was formally seeking Villanueva’s job as an interim sheriff. Villanueva’s resignation followed Molina’s decision to challenge the outgoing sheriff’s appointment—which was supported by the County Board of Supervisors and the mayor—and to have his name on a list of potential candidates that were not accepted by the County Board.
In accepting Villanueva’s resignation, the county was signaling to the public that the department is seriously in crisis, but is unwilling to accept responsibility for the failure of its top law enforcement official.
There’s certainly a strong case to be made for reviving the department’s mission. The public has long been calling for better conditions for the LAPD, and recent events show that the LAPD has become a symbol of failure for much of the city. In the same way, the county needs to do better—but it seems that in a process of public accountability in which everyone has been asked to assume some of the blame, the department is being dragged down by a series of mistakes, failures, and miscommunications.
It should not take a scandal—or even a crisis—to find reform. What began with a challenge against the Sheriff’s Department (and the mayor’s role) over the top sheriff has gotten progressively worse. I