Sheriff Villanueva is, without question, one of the most dangerous law enforcement professionals in Los Angeles today.
Right now, a lot of us (myself included) are diving into the murky waters of local Los Angeles politics for the first time. It can seem overwhelming to know who is a “good one” or not (spoiler alert: most are definitely not “good ones” or even “okay ones”), or to even know where or how to look into your elected officials and public servants.
This is not the case with Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva, the man in charge of the largest sheriff’s department in the world. Back in 2018, KNOCK.LA reluctantly suggested voting for Villanueva to take out incumbent Sheriff Jim McDonnell. Progressives cautiously hoped that Villanueva would enact reforms promised in his campaign, like cutting ties with ICE, rooting out the department’s cronyism, and opposing a $3.5 billion jail expansion.
All of these campaign promises flew out the window the day Villanueva took office. If the eviction moratorium lifts at the end of August, it is Villanueva’s department that will be enforcing evictions.
The LASD tampered with evidence to cover their tracks in the murder of 18-year-old Andres Guardado
On June 18, 2020, 18-year-old Andres Guardado was shot in the back at least five times and killed by a Deputy Sheriff from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Guardado was shot just outside of an auto shop owned by Andrew Hanley, and according to Haney, the LASD took the security footage from his auto shop and destroyed the cameras before the LASD got a warrant.
Villanueva also said that releasing any of this illegally obtained evidence “has the potential to jeopardize the investigation, the filing of the case, and any possible future criminal or administrative proceedings.” The only thing releasing the information jeopardizes is Villanueva’s ability to shape the narrative and cover the LASD’s collective ass in not only the murder of Guardado, but of the 885 others killed by law enforcement in Los Angeles County since 2000.
His department assaulted peaceful protesters at the site of Guardado’s murder
After peacefully marching three miles on June 21, 2020, protesters gathered to listen to the mothers of David Flores, Alex Flores, and Eric Rivera — all murdered by the LAPD. The gathering was peaceful and calm until the LASD intervened. Sheriff deputies in riot gear threw tear gas into the crowd and started shooting rubber bullets without warning.
He denies knowing about invasive and abusive inmate searches at Century Regional Detention Facility even though he was a lieutenant.
Villanueva served as a lieutenant at the Century Regional Detention Facility (CRDF) in Lynwood from November 2011 to May 2014. His time as lieutenant there falls right in the middle of a six-year period during which female deputies performed degrading body cavity searches on inmates. These deputies, as in the employees Villanueva was directly supervising, forced up to 60 inmates at a time to strip naked and submit to unconstitutional body cavity searches. This was often done on the floor of a filthy garage, and the deputies would verbally abuse the inmates during the cavity searches.
Somehow, even though 93,000 former and current inmates are listed as plaintiffs in a federal class action lawsuit against the LASD, Villanueva claims he had absolutely no idea that this was happening to the inmates he was supposed to keep safe in a correctional facility.
His excuse for being oblivious? Men are not allowed to do the body cavity searches on inmates, so how would he possibly know what is going on in there? However, in a 2015 memo to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, LA county said Villanueva was aware of “strip search policies, procedures, and practices,” and the “training and supervision” of deputies “regarding strip searches and the manner in which they were conducted.”
On July, 20, 2020, Los Angeles County settled and agreed to pay out $53 million to the plaintiffs.
He likens violent deputy gangs to “intergenerational hazing” and rehired, reassigned, and PROMOTED said gang members.
There are so many reasons why we need to defund and abolish the police, one being the existence of sheriff deputy gangs. For those unfamiliar, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has a sordid history of literal intradepartmental gangs. Angelenos voted for Villanueva in 2018 because he promised progressive reform that would eliminate bad faith actors. Naturally, this means he has done the exact opposite.
The most notorious gang is the Banditos, a group of deputies in East LA who have been accused of heinous crimes like assaulting fellow deputies who did not agree with them, pressuring newer deputies into making questionable arrests and working overtime without pay, and sexually assaulting female deputies. Members allegedly have matching ink of a pistol-wielding skeleton sporting a sombrero and a mustache.
Villanueva protected, promoted, and rehired gang members that have abused civilians and fellow deputies alike. He rehired Banditos leader Rafael “Big Listo” Munoz, who abused trainees, creating “a new breed of aggressive prospect.” Munoz also allegedly ran over an elderly immigrant and when a fellow Banditos sergeant arrived, he “took care of the situation by advising Big Listo [Munoz] to arrest the victim and have him deported so he could not talk.”
Munoz is just one of the 400 terminated deputies and cops Villanueva is working hard to get rehired. More on that soon.
Deputy gangs like Los Angeles’s Banditos are becoming such a problem that they are being investigated by the FBI for their abuse of power. Their abusive and criminal behavior even led to an unprecedented civil lawsuit. In September 2019, eight deputies sued Los Angeles County, alleging that members of Banditos control the station through harassment and abuse.
The lawsuit claims that members don’t provide backup to deputies they don’t like and pass around envelopes for new deputies to fill with cash as a form of hazing. It also claims that between 15–20% of deputies are in one of these abusive, dick-measuring societies.
Villanueva is listed as a defendant in the lawsuit, even though he says he does not have the gang tattoo. Maybe if Villanueva were subjected to the abusive strip searches he oversaw at the women’s jail in South LA, we would find yet another blatant discrepancy.
He’s fighting to rehire the 400 cops fired by former Sheriff McDonnell for misconduct.
“What the previous administration did is try to turn every act of misconduct into a potential termination case,” Villanueva said. Yes, Alex, this is typically how acts of misconduct in the office work. If you do something bad, there are consequences, one of which includes losing your job because you are clearly not capable of upholding the law you are sworn to protect. Glad this is how our sheriff has elected to spend his time and our tax dollars: rehiring shitty cops that we don’t want.
So, what were the reasons these particular cops were fired? Oh, you know: unreasonable use of force, lying to investigators, and domestic violence, to name a few.
One of the violent deputies rehired by Villanueva is Caren Carl Mandoyan, a deputy who was terminated from the force for domestic abuse of his girlfriend, a fellow deputy. She accused him of many instances of violence, including an episode in September 2014 in which Mandoyan “pushed or grabbed her by the arm, placing his hand around her neck and squeezing it restricting her ability to breath.”
In El Segundo, where his girlfriend lives, the police identified Mandoyan as a domestic violence stalking subject.
Mandoyan was one of Villanueva’s top aides during his campaign. Villanueva rehired Mandoyan in December 2018. He reduced Mandoyan’s termination to a 12-day suspension and also agreed to give Mandoyan $200,000 in back pay for his time away from the department.
Still, Villanueva feels we are being too hard on the violent offenders he is paying $200,000 with our tax money. Villanueva told LA Magazine’s Jason McGahan that these stricter standards and harsher punishments for misconduct have really put a damper on the morale of deputies, who weren’t keen on the idea of accountability. He even told McGahan that “top deputies” left en masse.
He dug his department into a $63 million deficit, most of which went to paying deputies overtime.
In October 2019, not even a year into Villanueva’s term, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors froze part of Villanueva’s budget. He threw a fit, raging publicly about how understaffed his department is. Instead of working to fill the 816 sworn vacancies he cried about, he misappropriated funds, redirecting them to his deputy pals in the form of overtime.
According to LA Times, the average annual overtime per employee increased from $4,600 in 2013 to $15,500 in 2018, or a 230% increase.
He buried an internal investigation of Deputy Carrie Robles-Placencia, who crashed into and killed two small children in Boyle Heights.
On November 16, 2017, Deputy Robles-Placencia received a gunshot call while on duty and sitting in the driver’s seat of an LASD utility vehicle. She turned on the lights but did not turn on her siren. As she whipped out to respond to the call, she crashed into another car, which sent them both spiraling. Seven people were injured, including a pregnant woman, and the irresponsible act left two young boys, Marcos and Jose Luis Hernandez, dead.
“The lawsuit alleges that Sheriff Villanueva ‘buried’ an Internal Affairs investigation into the incident because he has a personal relationship with Robles-Plascencia, and she calls Villanueva ‘dad’ and his wife ‘mom.’”
The deputy union ALADS backed his campaign with $1.32 million.
ALADS, or the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, withdrew support from incumbent Jim McDonnell and threw $1.32 million at Villaneuva’s campaign. ALADS oversees the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs PAC and the California Law and Order Independent Expenditure Committee PAC, the latter of which is co-run by the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL), AKA the LAPD union. And we all know law enforcement unions love to conflate workers’ rights with the ability to commit crime unpunished.
He promised to ban ICE agents in jails but just replaced them with private contractors who perform the same function.
One of Villanueva’s biggest campaign promises was removing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents from local jails. He technically kept his word, as he has removed ICE agents from the literal jails… but he has simply replaced them with private contractors who are able to remove detainees and bring them to ICE facilities.
Villanueva added an expensive middle man to continue cooperating with ICE, not only defying his constituents, but implying that we are clueless or unable to understand how the LASD works. When Los Angeles Magazine’s Jason McGahan asked Villanueva about the closed-door meetings happening in July 2019, Villanueva said of his progressive supporters: “When the truth comes out it won’t be pretty. I’ve seen all the cards they haven’t. We have all the facts. I’ll leave it at that.”
Here’s the thing, Alex. We do have all the facts.
And we know that if rent is not canceled, your department will violently enforce the 365,000 predicted evictions in Los Angeles County come September 1.
Angelenos, we can’t let Al and his cronies remove friends, neighbors, and colleagues who are unable to make ends meet during a global pandemic.
Join us at 2 PM on July 31, at the Armenian Genocide Martyrs Memorial Monument in Montebello as we continue to call for the defunding of police and the resignation of Villanueva.