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Los Angeles County Sheriff should resign over transparency issues, watchdog group says

An oversight commission in California is calling for Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva to "immediately resign" from his role.Members of the C...

Posted: Oct 16, 2020 4:22 AM

An oversight commission in California is calling for Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva to "immediately resign" from his role.

Members of the Civilian Oversight Commission for the sheriff's department on Thursday unanimously approved an "expression no confidence" resolution in Villanueva's ability to lead the law enforcement agency.

The group has repeatedly condemned Villanueva's leadership, arguing he has refused to cooperate with several of their directives to improve community trust and transparency.

"The resolution highlights that L.A. County residents deserve a Sheriff's Department that is cooperative, respectful, transparent, accountable, trustworthy, and amenable to change," Brian K. Williams, executive director of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, said in a statement.

Villanueva, who was elected as sheriff in 2018, is expected to continue on his role, a spokesperson for Villanueva told CNN on Thursday.

"This meritless politically motivated attack is unsupported by real facts," the spokersperson said. "Despite this political theater, Sheriff Villanueva will continue being the most accessible and transparent sheriff in the history of Los Angeles County."

The resolution is a stern call for him to step down, but the commission does not have the legal authority to force Villanueva to resign. His current term ends in 2022.

The commission specifically criticized Villanueva for "lacking transparency" when eight LASD deputies were accused of leaking photos of the helicopter crash site that killed NBA legend Kobe Bryant and others earlier this year.

"Although Sheriff Villanueva pledged to conduct a thorough, transparent and collaborative investigation into the publication of the photos, he instead bypassed the regular internal investigative process of the Sheriff's Department, ordered the destruction of the photos, and blocked the Office of Inspector General's efforts to examine his handling of the matter," the commission said.

In March, the sheriff said the department was investigating accusations that the deputies shared pictures of the crash scene with people outside of the crash investigation and eight deputies were facing administrative action. All photos of the crash that were in the possession of those deputies have been deleted, Villanueva said.

Vanessa Bryant, the widow of the late NBA star, filed a civil lawsuit last month against Villanueva and the sheriff's department over the photo leak. The suits states the deputies took the photos for "their own personal gratification."

The commission also claims Villanueva has blocked efforts to ensure independent oversight of deputy-involved shooting investigations and has not adequately addressed violent deputy cliques or gangs that continue to operate within the department.

"The Commission finds that Sheriff Villanueva enables a culture within the Sheriff's Department of deputy impunity, disregards the constitutional rights of Los Angeles County residents, disdains other elected officials and disrespects the will of voters who support robust civilian oversight," the commission said.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors created the Civilian Oversight Commission (COC) after several high-profile scandals, findings of use of unreasonable force in county jails, and allegations of criminal wrongdoing within the department.

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