2022 Race for LA County Sheriff

Sheriff Candidate Cecil Rhambo endorsed by CA Legislative Black Caucus…but his candidacy is complicated

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

California’s Legislative Black Caucus has now endorsed Cecil Rhambo, who is, at the moment, the best known of the challengers of those hoping to unseat controversial Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva in his race for reelection in 2022.

Rhambo, who rose to the rank of Assistant Sheriff before he retired from the LA County Sheriff’s department in June 2014, now serves as the Chief of Airport Police at LAX. 

“I’ve known Cecil for many years and as chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee, I am confident he would be the Sheriff all of LA could be proud of,” Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), told the Los Angeles Sentinel, which initially reported the endorsement.

“I know he is the right person to lead the LA County Sheriff Department during this state and national demand for police reform and accountability,” said Bradford who is the Chair of the CLBC. “And I trust his commitment to bringing desperately-needed transparency, equity, and integrity to the department.”

Indeed, Rhambo, who is both Black and Asian, has a meaningful array of relevant experience, which he acquired both during his multiple decades in the LASD, and his post retirement years, when he worked as Assistant City Manager for the City of Carson and as City Manager of the City of Compton, before assuming leadership of LA’s Airport Police.

It helped Chief Rhambo that when he first announced his candidacy, he did so with a" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> smart, splashy, and highly effective video that drew attention to a list of reforms he says he advocates.

Now, although it is early in the game, Rhambo has already begun to pull in a some useful endorsements, which include positive nods from Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and California State Controller Betty Yee.

And now, there is the California’s Legislative Black Caucus.

The closet issue

There are reportedly other potential endorsers in the wings, who are hoping for somebody to emerge as a genuine alternative capable of taking on Sheriff Villanueva, who is rumored already to have a sizable war chest.

Some of those potential endorsers searching for a challenger, however, reportedly worry that Rhambo has skeletons in his closet from his LASD years, which could possibly come strolling out of said closet at an inconvenient time.

We’ll discuss more on the potential closet issue in future stories. But, suffice it to say that the fact that Cecil Rhambo was considered to be the close friend and main lieutenant of the department’s notorious former undersheriff, Paul Tanaka, who for many years was considered to be a corrupt and self-serving shadow sheriff, the individual who actually ran the LA County Sheriff’s Department, instead of the elected sheriff, Lee Baca.

In fact, in the late summer of 2011, when Baca and Tanaka engaged in the actions that were eventually to result in federal convictions for obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to corrupt justice (with accompanying sentences to federal prison), as of June 2011 onward, Rhambo was the number three at the department, who was by then in charge of the brutal and scandal-plagued jail system, which the feds were attempting to investigate.

And there are other potential skeletons.


Of course, Rhambo isn’t the only challenger.

As we wrote last month when LASD’s Lieutenant Eric Strong launched his campaign, he raised the number of  people who hope to unseat Villanueva to seven, with an eighth rumored to possibly declare candidacy in the near future.

(Lt. Strong will reportedly soon release his detailed list of goals for the department.)

The other challengers for the job of LA County Sheriff include LASD insiders Captain Britta Steinbrenner, who just announced this week, retired LASD Captain Matthew Rodriquez, and LASD Chief Ely Vera.

Vera is also a somewhat controversial figure who was part of Sheriff Villanueva’s closest inner circle during the first part of Villanueva’s tenure, and was a critical part of the sheriff’s spectacularly ill-fated effort to have former LASD deputy Carl Mandoyan reinstated.

Interestingly, prior to being a Villanueva confident (a position he no longer has), Vera is also well known among department insiders as a strong supporter of Paul Tanaka during the years that the the former undersheriff was at the height of his powers.

 In addition, two more people — Enrique Del Real, and April Saucedo Hood — have filed their candidacy with the registrar recorder but have made few if any other moves.

In addition to these six, retired sheriff’s commander Robert Lindsey, who unsuccessfully ran for sheriff in 2018, but who still has a following,  may also be considering a new run, according to sources.

Former LASD Undersheriff Ray Leyva, a well-liked figure who, more recently, was the interim Chief of LA County Probation while the Board of Supervisors searched for a permanent head of the department, was going to run for sheriff in 2022, and reportedly had his own sizable chunk of cash behind his potential candidacy.

But now, Leyva appears to be sidelined for health reasons.

In any case, the bottom line is this: as of today, closets or no closets, Rhambo is still considered the strongest challenger.

Yet, the story of whether or not LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva will be re-elected in November 2022 is just beginning. So….stay tuned.


  • Really?

    Right, documented by court case #s.

    If you see incorrect information remedy can be made via the “contact us” link

    You are right, though


    Who woulda thunk?

  • Yeah, it gets even better. Leroy Baca was – get this – A Viking, a Regulator, a Grim Reaper, a Bandito, and both a 2000 and 3000 boy. Dude couldn’t decide what he wanted to be, apparently.

    File this under “Don’t believe everything you find on the internet.”

  • Really?

    “File this under ‘Don’t believe everything you find on the internet.'”

    That is indeed a good practice, but before you do that do check the source citations. If you can’t access the court documents themselves a simple Google search will usually do. EXAMPLE: William Tillman v. LeRoy Baca.

  • Ok, so I took your advice and did a Google search on that case, which is from 2012, dealing with custody, and presumably 2000/3000 boys.

    BAce was sheriff in 2012, and I doubt those 2 groups were around when he last worked custody. There is nothing in that complaint alleging he was a member of those groups. I’m not gonna go through the court file (assuming it’s even available on line) but I doubt there is any “proof” that Baca was in fact a member of those groups. At most, as a defendant, I’m guessing the allegations are that he was responsible for the existence and/or approved of the groups, based on his knowledge of their activities.

    This would also explain how Block got “connected” to the Vikings. Not familiar with that lawsuit, but I’m guessing it was something similar. The thought of Block as a tattooed Viking from his days working a radio car is laughable.

    So, let’s get to Rhambo, the original reason you offered up this database. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the allegation against him is “associate” of the 2000/300o boys. Those lawsuits are from 2012, I would think Rhambo was a chief or maybe commander around then, probably named in the lawsuits the way Yim and others were named in the one you offered as an example.

    I expect a lot of mud to be slung at Rhambo, and I expect a lot of it will come from various screennames (or maybe they’ll use new ones) of the sheriff’s inner circle who like to post on this site. Anyone slinging that mud should have serious evidence to back it up, and not allegations contained in a court case (where, by the way, I’ve seen all kinds of b.s. alleged).

    I think Celeste has alluded to some upcoming information, and it’ll be interesting to see if there’s any “there” there when all the investigations/articles have come out. I didn’t work with Rhambo much, he always seemed ok to me, and unless they have hard evidence of some really terrible activity, I would vote for him in a heartbeat over the current sheriff (granted, that’s a pretty low bar – I’d do that for just about anyone who’s declared so far, including the 2 no names who might not even be cops).

    So, to wrap up, I’m not impressed with my initial scan of that data base, and I would take with a large grain of salt any of the “alleged” department gang members that appear on it.

  • It’s just not the data-base; it’s the rest of the story, which you can get by clicking onto “A Tradition of Violence” embedded into the text of the link I provided.

    It probably presages things to come in the upcoming Sheriff’s election.

  • Cecil Rhambo was deeply involved in the Pay to Play scam spearheaded by Paul Tanaka. In fact he was an early donor and frequent beneficiary. He was part of Paul’s inner circle. They have been friends for decades. He was an Assistant Sheriff of Custody Division near the inception of the Pandora Box scandal. He allowed Paul’s support of deputy cliques while a Chief of a patrol division. In fact with his help, clique members were spread around the department which helped to expand the cancer. He was part of an exclusive clique of executives and department members who’s membership depended on a nod from Paul Tanaka. It was referred to as a cigar club. It was a clique. His late recognition that he could go to federal prison if he continued to support Paul and Lee, only showed he know enough to get off the sinking ship. He should not be the next Sheriff. There are better candidates in the race than both Alex and Cecil.

  • Seeking the Truth

    Part One of “A Tradition of Violence”, which you can click onto in my link, has more on Paul Tanaka.

  • Seeking the Truth – you nailed it.

    Embarrassing that the Sheriff doesn’t see a slew of illegal and unethical conduct as a problem. As usual, a relatively small number of fools make everyone else look bad.

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