Sheriff Alex Villanueva

Disputes Over Body Cams, A Twitter War — & A Perplexing New Task Force to Probe Officer Involved Shootings

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

On Sunday an interesting Twitter war occurred between Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva about the issue of body cams, and why the LASD still doesn’t have them.

The tweet war was followed by other developments.

One of those was the sheriff’s startling announcement on Tuesday afternoon about the formation of a new task force to investigate officer-involved shootings. Weirdly, however, the task force would be made up of other law enforcement people and entities, notably including LAPD Chief Michel Moore, LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, and Sheriff Villanueva — plus investigators from all three agencies.

We’ll come back to the task force idea. First the body cams and the Twitter skirmishes.

This past week, the fact that the nation’s third-largest law enforcement agency still doesn’t have body-worn cameras has landed in the news again because of the fatal shootings of two young men that have caused LA County residents to wish there was an independent witness — namely a camera.

First, there was the fatal shooting on June 17, of Terron Boone, who allegedly assaulted his girlfriend and held her captive for days, after the death the half-brother of Robert Fuller, the Black young man who was found hanging from a tree outside Palmdale City Hall. A woman who was traveling in the car with Boone was injured by the shooting. A 7-year-old girl who was also in the car was unharmed.

Then, the day after Terron Boone was killed, on June 18, Andres Guardado, an 18-year-old security guard, was shot six or seven times by sheriff’s deputies under circumstances that have disturbed a great many people, and stimulated a new series of marches and demonstrations.

On Saturday, June 20, LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva held a press conference regarding the department’s investigation into the death of Andres Guardado. In the course of the virtual press event (which, as of this writing can still be viewed on Facebook), a reporter asked the sheriff when the sheriff’s department might be getting body cams.

After all, the approximately 4000 members of the Los Angeles Police Department have had body-worn cameras since the summer of 2017, with the rest of the front line officers getting their BWCs by early 2018.

But the LASD still has zero body cams.

In response, Villanueva complained that he had been completely ready to go on the body cams in early 2019, and it was only the members of the board of supervisors who’d stood in his way — a claim that, according to the most recent reports on the matter by the Office of the Inspector General, and the county CEO, does not appear to be accurate.

The day after Villanueva’s claim, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who had evidently had enough of the It’s All The Evil Board’s Fault thing, posted this:

The sheriff replied as follows:

MRT countered with this:

On Tuesday, Ridley-Thomas followed up with a motion that he “read in” during this week’s board meeting. The motion directs County Counsel, the Inspector General, the Civilian Oversight Commission, the Public Defender, and the Coroner/Medical-Examiner, to report back to the board with alternative plans to ensure an independent investigation into the death of Guardado.

(WLA has more on the motion in a separate story.)

Interestingly, during the board meeting, the sheriff was live broadcasting on his Instagram feed in order to provide his own commentary as a counterpoint to the board’s live discussion of the MRT motion, a motion the sheriff dismissed as campaign grandstanding.


Okay, so about those body cams

As of this summer, the LA County Sheriff’s Department and the board of supervisors will have been working on getting body-worn cameras for the LASD for approximately six years.

When WitnessLA last reported on the topic in August 2018, the LASD and the board were already into well over four years of researching the issue of buying and implementing body-worn cameras for the nation’s largest sheriff’s department.

It seemed not to help that, during those same four years, two-thirds of the major law enforcement agencies in the U.S. had managed to fund, implement, or started the process of implementing, BWCs for their patrol officers.

In September 2014, the county and the LA Sheriff’s Department made an initial investment with an eight-month volunteer pilot program to test the concept of body-worn cameras at four LASD stations, namely Carson, Century, Lancaster, and Temple.

Yet, although nearly all of the deputies who participated in the pilot program’s focus groups said that the body cams “would be a huge asset,” the previous sheriff, Jim McDonnell, continued to drag his feet on the matter.

And, while the Los Angeles Police Department got cameras for approximately 4000 LAPD officers at a cost of around $60 million, McDonnell maintained it would cost the LASD closer to $100 million.

Meanwhile, Inspector General Max Huntsman continued to put out reports saying why the LASD needed to have body cams ASAP.

When, in early December of 2018, Sheriff Villanueva was sworn in to be McDonnell’s successor, he did, as he said, bring up body-worn cameras right at the beginning.  Moreover, the $35 million price tag he proposed, sounded almost unbelievably reasonable, compared to the $100 million the previous sheriff deemed necessary.

It first appeared that Villanueva was proposing a larger pilot with more stations involved, yet still not all.  But the sheriff has since told WitnessLA that this is not the case. **

In any case, both then and now,  Sheriff Villanueva’s BWC proposal has been very promising — and a relief.

A September 2019 motion authored by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis authorized the necessary funds to get things going.

Now, in the Inspector General’s June 16, report on the matter of body cams, the OIG concluded that, although there were, and still are, a few policy disagreements about the way the resulting “footage” from the cameras should be handled — such as who can see it, and when — these issues shouldn’t hold up the acquisition and deployment of the cameras forthwith.

IG Max Huntsman did suggest in his report, however, that if the sheriff didn’t repeatedly blow off invitations — along with a couple of subpoenas — to show up at a Civilian Oversight Commission meeting in order to discuss the COC’s body cam policy concerns and other matters, things might get resolved more quickly.

Nevertheless, according to the report, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is scheduled to “begin deployment” of body cameras “by the end of the third quarter of this year contingent upon on the successful execution of an agreement with the vendor.”

Bottom line: what remains is for the LASD to follow through and take the project to completion.

On Tuesday, County CEO Sachi Hamai put it plainly.

“Over the past three years, the Board has proactively set aside $34.78 million in a dedicated account to support this program, and on September 24, 2019, unanimously approved a motion to authorize the Sheriff’s Department to implement this project,” she wrote in a statement. “The Sheriff’s Department has sole responsibility for the implementation timetable to roll out body-worn cameras, including the procurement and implementation process.”

Brian Williams, Executive Director of the Civilian Oversight Commission, was equally firm on the topic.

“Body-worn cameras are critical tools that directly address the issues of accountability and transparency,” he said. “Our community has waited long enough.”

Okay, so that’s the deal with body cameras, which brings us to the “task force.”


Henhouse meet foxes

As mentioned earlier, a few hours after the sheriff expressed his displeasure over Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’s read-in board motion calling for a “robust and independent investigation” into the fatal shooting of Andres Guardado “to ensure the truth is uncovered and justice is served,” Villanueva sent out his notice of a 10 a.m. press conference on Wednesday, at which time, along with District Attorney Jackie Lacey, and Chief Michel Moore, he would announce “proposed efforts to coordinate a county-wide regional taskforce, aimed at investigating deputy and officer-involved shootings, and uses of force which result in fatalities.”

It is an announcement that has startled quite a few people — even those of us who knew it was coming.

To put it as kindly as is possible, the idea of a new task force that seeks to have local law enforcement investigating local law enforcement does not exactly seem like what this historic moment requires.

Postscript

At 8:52 am, the LASD sent out the following email:

**DUE TO UNFORESEEN CIRCUMSTANCES, THE PRESS CONFERENCE HAS BEEN CANCELED**

On Thursday afternoon, June 26, however, Sheriff Villanueva sent out this message:

“As a progressive, I am constantly exploring new avenues to move us forward in policing. Recent events have led community-based groups to highlight the issue of law enforcement agencies investigating their own shootings. I hear you. Other law enforcement leaders and I met early this week to discuss the creation of a Multiagency Officer-Involved Shooting Taskforce. The main goal of this taskforce will be for Los Angeles County agencies to form a joint taskforce of investigators from multiple agencies to conduct investigations for use of force incidents which result in death. I have complete confidence in our homicide detectives, and the other detectives throughout our County, but we want to continue building trust, increasing transparency and making the process more reassuring for our communities. Moving forward, we are forming a steering group with stakeholders from across the county, which also includes the Office of the District Attorney and State Office of the Attorney General. In the coming weeks, we will access the resources needed to develop a definitive plan and make this concept a reality.

The community wants change and we will usher in that change, together.

More as we know it.


**Correction, June 26, 2020, 4:30 p.m.  It was originally our understanding that the $35 million body cam program about to be rolled out was a large pilot that did not include all stations.  Sheriff Villanueva explained to us that it was not a pilot, hence the correction marked in the story.

Via Youth Justice Coalition/Twitter


Bottom photo via Youth Justice Coalition/Twitter

22 Comments

  • Evidently, there is some disconnect between the BOS and the Sheriff. Further, it appears that the Sheriff along with the BOS, is once again, getting into a pissing match. Looks like a Twitter duel. Reminds me of the POTUS.

    I’ll take “In this corner” for $500 Alex.

    • @ Pat Rolman

      It will be interesting to see exactly where this latest squabble goes. The problem for AV is he and his cast of amateurs are no match for the BOS. They are playing chess and he is playing checkers.

      If you had any doubts, watch the Twitter post from yesterday. The selfie broadcast was flipped so you couldn’t read anything AV tried to show. Whoever that was advising him made the whole thing look like it was dumb and dumber. AV was lost and it showed.

  • Not sure if it will matter as people’s disgust and distrust for our long term “professional relic politicians” is diminishing more and more everyday. Even if the BOS is “playing chess” the people know the fix is in and the creators of the game have have rigged it in their favor.

    Thank goodness for “politically naive” and pragmatic political leaders.

    • @ Conspiracy

      I don’t like the BOS and the games they play. However, AV continually looks like he is unprepared and lacks the command presence to convince the public. He slurs his words and uses words that don’t fit into the sentence properly. Just one example today. At about 31:00 of his Twitter feed AV was asked about standing up for his deputies. He replied ” I will stand up to all my deputies.” I know it is not an earth shattering example, but it happens all the time. Sometimes on very important issues and it changes the whole context of the point he is trying to make.

      His executive team is not doing him any favors sending him out there unprepared..

  • C
    “politically naive and pragmatic political leaders”. You are not talking about the seething, self-pitying and bent out of shape Sheriff Villanueva right.

  • The Board of Supervisors and the CEOs office control the procurement process. The board passes ordinances and regulations that all departments must follow. If the Board wanted this process to move faster, all they had to do was streamline the process. They do this all the time with priority projects. Otherwise Departments must follow the law. With everyone focuses on getting this done, it’s at best a three year process. With all the politics 5 years.

    The Board controls this process which at best moves at a glacial pace. The Sheriff is right to call them out. From day one he wanted to get this done. If the Board really wanted transparency, they would have worked with him to speed it up. What would the COC and OIG have added to this process, nothing. The public is left wanting because McDonnell drug his feet and the BOS dithered.

  • Distorting the Truth, publicity hungry Villanueva is full of vanities, delusions, and lies. His pressers are more comical than graceful, and informative. Wait “From day one he wanted to get this done”. Yes from day one he wanted to hire creepy Carl Mandoyan. From day one he started a fight with the BOS. From day one he was unwilling to compromise and work. From day one he could not let that victim ego of his go.

  • Well….come time for re-election it will be interesting if the voters focus on all the minutia the “experts” find to criticize the Sheriff about. People’s memories are short and life span of a “gotcha moment” is short. If people feel safe in their homes, crime doesn’t rage out of control or a “real juicy perfectly timed scandal” is not created by the power players, Sheriff AV he will win again. Maybe Gascon will run when he looses in his race against DA Lacey? Everyone will be happy then.

    Sheriff AV’s performance during this period of unrest in the eyes of the unknowing public showed someone in control and not beholding to a political handler (aka Mayor). The Media spin and twist is like the boy who cried wolf, no one believes it anymore.

  • Mark-Ridley Thomas is talking about working honestly? Hahahahahahahaha….oh man! That was a nice joke there Mark. Celeste, you should take a drive to good ol Mark’s area and go investigate all those new housing complexes and ask who the owner is. Theres multiple, but you will see one certain name on all of them. I wont tell you the name because I want to see just how good of a “journalist” you think you are. That name is the same alias Mark uses on these shady dealings he does. If someone wants to build in his area, you better give him a slice of the pie or you cant build.

  • Sorry Juan,
    Sheriff Villanueva as made some missteps for sure but not on this one. Take some time to research state and local procurement laws and regulations. The Board controls the money. If they really wanted it done fast, deputies would be wearing body cams today. There is no downside for them. If the process takes to long, just blame the Sheriff. Demand faster action but put up roadblocks. So Juan if you really want body worn cameras on deputies call your County BOS member and blame them. Have all your friends call. When they see a political cost, things will get done.

  • Barger just called Lt Villanueva a “bitch” for his whinefest today.

    LT Villanueva and the other half that runs the department have brought more drama to LASD than a single episode of Jersey Shore.

  • We don’t want to see your Twitter war with the BOS. As the executives would say to us, I don’t care, just get it done. Why is the LASD in last place with cameras? Most of what the camera would show would exonerate our deputies from complaints, lawsuits, and slander. Please help our deputies, Sheriff.

    I can only surmise that delaying the process somehow makes it seem as though the department has something to hide. The public believes deputies enjoy being involved in a shooting. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Most deputies agonize over the fact that they HAD to take a life. Nobody I worked with ever enjoyed it. Shootings are reviewed more than the general public can believe.

    Deputies only care about one thing when they confront somebody. Where are the hands? The hands hold weapons, firearms, knives, fists, etc. The uninformed public thinks our deputies can quickly make a determination as to the EXACT threat of a suspect holding a firearm while running and turning around to see where in proximity the deputy is to them. Deputies fire their weapon to protect themselves and the potential threat to the public. I do think cameras would help show the public what occurred. Having deputies threatened and seeing their incident replayed on the news with sidelines saying what a horrible job the deputies did and how they planted evidence is inexcusable.

    You Sheriff, are an elected official. Get it together and protect the department we loved for so many years or get voted out of office for somebody who will care. Learn to understand how the BOS works. Unfortunately the chosen few you have as executives lack the expertise and experience to deal with such matters. Hell, some of them have just figured out how to handle a service complaint as a LT.

    • Regarding body camera or video footage……

      The incident in Atlanta proves that cameras don’t do much if a person’s mind is already made up, are blind to their biases and only see events play out how they want to see them. In some cases body cameras footage can be used in fact to only further amplify “minutia” that is not even of consequence to the matter at hand.

      Cameras are definitely not a panacea. Maybe if there is mutual accountability and there are consequences for those individuals who lie we will move forward.

  • So the Villan ueva is working with Moore, and Aunty Jackie to form a cartel for the sole purpose of hiding the truth from the public. So all you smart guys out there, ask yourselves; why did Deputies assigned to Compton Station rip apart security cameras from the surrounding businesses. Is it to hide the truth, stonewall the public, and then lie about the cold blooded murder of Andres Guardado at the hands of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputies. Did LA Sheriff’s Deputies plant the gun. You know these guys can’t be trusted especially under the reign Villan ueva. Isn’t he the same Sheriff who asked his Deputies to erase the Kobe Bryant & company pictures after the helicopter crash. Yes the Sheriff who looks the other way when Deputies break the law. After all he was funded by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy Union.

    • Good ol’ controversial Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs aka ALADS.

      More pending legal cases than one can imagine, accounting for 48% of memberships dues collectively. Can you say racket?

  • LASD is like a soap opera with unbelievable scandals. We need to dismantle the LASD and start with an all new command staff and deputies

    It’s pretty funny that the Sheriff is on Instagram live like a teenager whining about doing his job

  • Hey Allie, what’s the plan man? Your demands for an additional $400 million to be added to your $3.5 billion budget seem to have been answered with a resounding “F@#$ YOU!” by the CEO and the BOS to the tune of a proposed $162 million vasectomy. https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-06-25/proposed-budget-could-slash-l-a-county-sheriffs-department-budget-by-162-1-million

    I heard Allie was screaming out to Mr. Bigglesworth to get BiBi on the line because Supv. Barger publicly “victimized” him again over his BWCS tantrum.

    Calling all CARP’ers, please submit your TORA assignment memos by July 8th. Assignments will be awarded based on how high you claim morale to be under AV’s stewardship and intelligent crisis leadership.

    Is that music I heard playing in the HOJ elevator? https://youtu.be/F2RnxZnubCM

  • I asked Villaneuva about drug testing officers that showed signs of rage or had shot individuals and he said they are only drug tested at the hiring and randomly. It is my opinion, those who hold weapons, need to be tested regularly, period. If someone is on steroids they can become quicker agitated or defensive. Quite possibly, these officers are on substances and we don’t know it and yet when I asked, his microphone went off and we didn’t get to hear his full statement. A technical glitch? or was it on purpose?

    • @babydoll…….can you substantiate your claim of how many Deputies show signs of rage?

      Further, your opinion on “those who hold weapons, need to be tested regularly…” So, should we regularly test members of the Armed Forces, since they are also armed? As well as the citizenry who bear arms?

      Furthermore, you stated, ” If someone is on steroids they can become quicker agitated or defensive.” I would presume that you are an expert on the usage and affects of steroids? Or are you once again SWAGing?

      Evidently, you haven’t seen all of the Deputies on the department. Some Deputies are in shape (i.e., aerobic, anaerobic) and some are not. Nonetheless, it appears that you may be profiling Deputies who may be “buffed out.”

      I work out and DO NOT use steroids. However, you are right, I do become agitated and defensive. I go into my Hulk mode when people such as yourself, the Lame Ass Media and people with no common sense make stupid remarks/statements about subject matter they have no knowledge, experience or education thereof. The other area of agitation, is when people such as yourself post on blogs and do not proofread their writings.

  • I find it very interesting that AV proudly describes himself as a progressive. Now that the progressive and BLM movement is pushing the defund the police rhetoric, Allie’s chickens have come home to roost. The progressive movement he is a member of, has now set their sights on him. The progressive movement will eat their young if they need to.

    What is little picked on AV to do? He alienated the one group that might be able to save him, the BOS. Now the progressives have turned against him. Soon morale will drop to a new low in the department.
    Even the few cheerleader deputies that were on the deck of the Titanic and were either to new to see the trouble or were too busy making sure the band kept playing, will want to abandon the sinking ship.

    Maybe us old, know nothing folks were on to something. Sometimes you need a little experience to see where you are going.

    • The only cheerleader on deck is Station Detective Ronald Hernandez with ALADS money.

      The payola invested prevents any ship jumping to save face not to mention one helluva photo op.

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