LA Sheriff's Handpicked 'Public Integrity Unit' Doing Little More Than Harassing And Intimidating The Department's Critics
from the if-only-the-LASD-could-liberate-residents-from-their-pesky-freedoms dept
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is apparently incapable of being reformed. Over the years, the LASD has run an illegal prison informant program, one that culminated in an FBI investigation during which the LASD threatened FBI agents and federal witnesses.
But what can one really expect from an agency willing to staff itself with statutory rapists, thieves, and cops considered unable to be hired anywhere else? The department is so internally corroded it has become the home for gangs and cliques of rogue officers who revel in deploying excessive force and violating rights.
The only thing that can bring the LASD down is its critics and its oversight. The Department knows this and that’s why it’s taking action to clean itself up. Oh wait, it’s the other thing.
The unit, named the Civil Rights and Public Integrity Detail, has pursued a long-running investigation into one of Villanueva’s most vocal critics, L.A. County Inspector General Max Huntsman, and others despite sheriff’s officials being told by the FBI and state law enforcement officials that it appeared no crimes had been committed, a senior sheriff’s official said.
The team also has an open criminal inquiry into a nonprofit that is run by a member of a county board that oversees the sheriff and is associated with county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, both of whom have clashed fiercely with Villanueva and called for his resignation.
This internal hit squad has traveled so far out of bounds even notorious cop defenders don’t feel like defending it. The LASD’s union has warned the rank-and-file from interacting with the “Public Integrity Detail” due to some “unconventional” questioning tactics when speaking to officers. And the DA says it’s so obviously dirty he wants nothing to do with it.
“He’s only targeting political enemies,” Gascón told The Times about Villanueva. “It was obvious that was not the kind of work I wanted to engage in, so we declined.”
Shortly after the DA’s refusal to engage with the Integrity Unit, Sheriff Villanueva threw his support behind a recall campaign targeting Gascon.
The unit appears to be focused on rooting out Villanueva’s enemies inside and outside the department. It has served search warrants to obtain documents from domestic violence nonprofit Peace Over Violence. One week after being given a tour of the office, Sgt. Max Fernandez returned with a warrant, seeking communications between Peace Over Violence staff and county officials. The head of Peace Over Violence, Patti Giggans, has been highly critical of the Sheriff’s handling of public records requests and Kobe Bryant’s tragic helicopter crash.
Meanwhile, integrity issues created by Villanueva supporters — like a retired officer donning a uniform to sneak food to a prisoner in the LA County Jail — go largely ignored. Integrity is in the eye of one particular beholder, who nonetheless claims he’s “recused” himself from these investigations. It may be that Sheriff Villanueva does not direct investigations, but his handpicked unit certainly knows what sorts of things the Sheriff takes an interest in and is obviously applying pressure on his behalf.
The LASD has been dirty for a long time. Villanueva presented himself as a reformer during his election campaign, but so far he only seems to be interested in insulating himself and the favored members of his department from criticism and investigations.