Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Goes Completely Rogue, Blocks Inspector General’s Access To Files, Facilities
from the law-enforcement-with-zero-respect-for-the-law dept
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has been problematic pretty much ever since its inception. Its prior iteration — headed up by Sheriff Lee Baca — was an abhorrent mess. The LASD was (and still is!) home to gangs formed by deputies — cliques that encouraged members to violate rights and abuse those incarcerated in the county jail. Baca’s department became infamous for its internal corruption, something manifested by its obstruction of federal investigations and rogue jailhouse informant program.
Enter Sheriff Alex Villanueva. Elected after promising to clean up the troubled department, Villanueva soon showed he was more interested in shielding his officers from public scrutiny and ignoring the internal rot that had turned the agency into a menace to Los Angeles society.
The new sheriff created a handpicked “Public Integrity Unit,” an entity whose name seemed to indicate Villanueva would be cleaning up the department. Shortly thereafter it became apparent the unit was far more interested in targeting the department’s critics in the Los Angeles government.
Villanueva only amped things from there. He threatened county leaders with defamation suits for continuing to (accurately) portraying the department as infested with cliques of rogue deputies. He also sent his officers out to raid the homes of two prominent critics involved in civilian oversight of the department under the pretense the LASD was investigating fraudulent acquisition of county contracts.
With members of the county’s civilian oversight sufficiently cowed by legal threats, non-compliance, and seizure of their electronic devices, the sheriff has moved on to shutting down the internal remnants of LASD accountability, as Alene Tchekmedyian reports for the Los Angeles Times.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced this week that he is banning Inspector General Max Huntsman from the department’s facilities and databases, effectively blocking the county watchdog from doing his job overseeing the Sheriff’s Department.
“Mr. Huntsman will be removed from all access to Department facilities, personnel, and databases effective immediately,” Villanueva wrote in a letter Wednesday to the Board of Supervisors. “This standard is applied to all Department personnel who are named as a suspect in a criminal case involving felony crimes.”
This astounding display of power follows Villanueva’s (unfounded) assertions that IG Huntsman is a “Holocaust denier” and his still-unproven claim that the Inspector General has committed crimes of his own, such as “stealing” confidential files on LASD officials from the department. The Inspector General has responded his access was limited to his office’s investigations and was lawfully obtained.
This suggests the LASD is doing nothing more than concocting criminal charges to bypass internal and external oversight — an impression that isn’t helped by the LASD’s failure to move forward with charges against the Inspector General, despite making these claims for more than three years.
What’s left is the undeniable impression that the LASD considers itself to be above the law. This isn’t necessarily new. It gave that same impression while run by Sheriff Lee Baca. But it’s extremely troubling a self-proclaimed reformer would so easily become part of the problem, deceiving the public for the apparent purpose of further elevating the rogue department above the people it’s supposed to serve.