In honor of the upcoming general election, the Los Angeles Sentinel Newspaper spoke with LA County Sheriff candidate Alex Villanueva about his campaign platform and mission to “reform, rebuild, and restore the LA Sheriff’s department.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff candidate Villanueva is running against Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell who has held the position for a four-year-term. Villanueva is stepping into the general election with more than three decades of experience as a law enforcement leader and has worked under four sheriffs. After announcing his retirement in February of 2018, Villanueva was able to completely focus on his campaign for LA County Sheriff.
Throughout his campaign, Villanueva has distinguished himself from his opponent, McDonnell, by addressing the issues that lie within the sheriff’s department.
“With 32 years in the organization, I know it like the back of my hand. I know the good things that we are capable of doing and that we have done in the past and I know the bad things unfortunately, that we get involved with periodically,” said Villanueva.
“He [McDonnell] provides little snippets of information in very selected platforms to give the impression that there is some sort of change going on,” said Villanueva. “When actually there is no change, it is quite the opposite. He has done nothing. Early on about the first year when he came into office in 2015, he made one significant change to manual policies and procedures.”
Villanueva’s platform involves fully implementing community policing so the officers can develop stronger relationships with the residents in the communities they are patrolling.
“[The officers] getting to know the community and the community getting to know who they are [so] in times of crisis and in times of conflict, we know each other,” said Villanueva. “If you have a wayward son or daughter who is on psychiatric medication that has issues, they are going to know about it. If you have the deputies pull up [on a 911 call] because [someone is] doing something really bizarre and someone’s life is in danger, you can call the cops and they will know what the deal is. They [will] know what the behavior is [and how to] contain it and prevent anyone else from being impacted by it. This will improve the odds for a better outcome.”
To further address the topic of officers creating stronger relationships with the Black community, Villanueva made it a point to hold local town hall meetings in South Los Angeles. During that time, he heard the voices of concerned voters.
“It’s been a privilege to meet people from all walks of life in affluent and under-resourced communities throughout the county. Residents at-large all agree on one thing: they want a sheriff who will be transparent and has the institutional knowledge, and leadership skills to bring reform, rebuild and restore the LASD,” said Villanueva in a statement. “The majority of voters and residents that I spoke with want to put a stop to Sheriff McDonnell’s current practices of using our county jail system and the department as a testing ground for the Trump administration.”
During the interview, the LA Sentinel asked Villanueva how he plans to increase the African American enrollment of men and women at LASD.
In response to that question, Villanueva stated the following: “Our diversity within the organization does not reflect the community. We have been stuck at around eight percent of African American’s and the numbers going into the academy are even lower than that. We are not doing a good job. We have challenges but the entire profession of law enforcement does. That is because the perception today on the millennial generation and younger, the ones coming out of high school, think ‘I can work this nice job or I can work this job where I can end up shot’ and it is really easy to find some other kind of work [aside from] law enforcement.”
Villanueva goes on to say that African Americans do not want to work for a department that has had issues with corruption or where minorities are treated like “second class employees.”
“We lose a lot of quality minority candidates both Black and Latino because of the perception that there is something wrong with us,” he said.
Next, the LA Sentinel asked Villanueva his thoughts on racial profiling, jail reform and the policies that he plans to implement to change that.
“How we treat people in the community is so important to me and I follow the Nordstrom model of customer service,” said Villanueva.
Who is Alex Villanueva?
The sheriff candidate was born in Chicago, raised in New York and grew up in Puerto Rico. His upbringing combined with his military background, four years spent teaching criminal justice courses at California State Long Beach paired with his experience in law enforcement, makes him the ideal candidate to take on McDonnell which is why the LA Sentinel is endorsing him for LA County Sheriff.
To date Villanueva has been endorsed by the following African American community leaders:
For more information on Alex Villanueva please visit https://alexvillanueva.org/. Don’t forget to register to vote in the general election on Tuesday, November 6!
Los Angeles Sentinel staff writer Kimberlee Buck contributed to this article