Forget about the race for governor and all those races for assembly members and congressional representatives, progressives in this county should laser-focus on the race for Sheriff in November.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Department with a $3.2 billion budget is “the nation’s largest jail and consequently is also the nation’s largest provider of mental health services. In addition, this department has contracts with 42 cities, the courts and community colleges, while also dispatching deputies to patrol county parks and hospitals and to conduct search and rescue operations across 4,751 square miles.”
Alex Villanueva, the son of a Puerto Rican father and polish American mother, historically forced current Sheriff McDonnell into a runoff. He is a former sheriff deputy and an Air Force veteran with strong academic credentials. He has articulated a powerful narrative that resonated well with progressives in this county [check out his website for his vision here].
Pundits are still speculating as to really happened in this race taking into account that Villanueva just raised $27,000.00 and he was able to win the second spot with 33% of the vote. Having grabbed the second spot has raised the level of confidence in Alex Villanueva’s camp. Clearly, there was blood in the water and Villanueva’s campaign sensed that and now they are moving for the kill in November. Moreover, the union that represents rank-and-file Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies recently endorsed Alex Villanueva. That was not only a huge boost for Villanueva’s campaign but it was also a vote of no confidence for the current leadership in this Sheriff department.
It can be argued that the resistance against the draconian attacks against immigrants must somehow start at the local level. Most of us here in Los Angeles dislike President Trump with a passion. We do whatever we can to repudiate or ridicule this man. We show up to marches and we get busy on Facebook to display our discontent against this president for his lack of civility, indecency and blatant racism. But when it comes to voting, we hardly find the time or the motivation to show up to the polling places. Coming this November voting can actually harness some collective direct action that can do some real well against a president who preaches hate from the pulpit.
After unwarranted and disgraceful attacks on immigrants by the Trump’s administration, it is truly mind-boggling seeing our Sheriff McDonnell in this county siding with anti-immigrant forces. Sheriff McDonnell has been speaking out forcefully against basic protections for undocumented and documented immigrants in this county. Progressive elected officials in Sacramento in an endeavor to protect immigrants from the attacks coming from Washington passed the California Values Act or SB 54. It was also known as California’s “Sanctuary Law.” LA’s Mayor Garcetti publicly supported the bill as did the former Chief Charlie Beck. Sheriff McDonnell immediately opposed the bill and started parroting the usual bullet points used by xenophobic people here in California and the Trump Administration. Immigrant groups and progressive groups took it to the streets to protest Sheriff’ McDonnell’s opposition which eventually led in a lawsuit filed by immigrant rights organizations. His opposition significantly weakened SB-54 with hazy language that could easily be exploited by ICE to terrorize immigrant communities.
Furthermore, it should be a source of concern for progressives in this town seeing Sheriff McDonnell casually spending a morning with Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Session in Fresno. Sessions here unapologetically honored “Anglo American tradition of Sheriffs.” [click here for the video] And, if that was not enough, there have been reports that Sheriff McDonnell is not interested in reducing incarceration in our county. In fact, He has asked for more resources to comprehensively expand the jail system in Los Angeles County. Sheriff McDonnell must have truly conceptualized that slogan that making “America Great Again” means to incarcerate the blacks, the browns and to deport the foreigners.
Looking closer at this Jim McDonell’s background one will see that his opposition to protecting immigrants make sense. Sheriff McDonnell is a conservative Republican who is a disciple of “get tough on crime” rhetoric and a cheerleader of “law and order” policies that have led to massive incarceration. He spent more than twenty years as part of the top brass of LAPD. He then the Long Beach Police Department before being elected Sheriff for LA County. His professional ambitions appeared to have been in conflict with his political ideology and decided to seal his voter registration’s record when applying for the top law enforcement job in Long Beach. He claimed that he had to do it for safety reasons. The pretense that he is now an independent is laughable.
Voters will have to make a decision in November in Los Angeles County, do we want a Sheriff who appears to be utterly oblivious of the profound conversations taking place in this country as to how best policing our communities and who has no qualms in terrorizing our immigrant communities? And we must be clear how much collaboration we want the Sheriff Department to have with ICE in dealing with non-violent offenders. In light of Los Angeles being a progressive community that protects and welcome immigrants, the latter must be zero collaboration with ICE. It was reported that last year that LA County Jails transferred way over 1,100 people to ICE and the Sheriff Department still allows ICE people to have access to inmates after they signed consent forms using convoluted language. This is Los Angeles, how can our Sheriff McDonnell rationally justify these decisions? These actions run counter to everything we believe.
Races for Sheriff in the County of Los Angeles, incumbents are usually evaluated in their ability to deal with the criminal justice reform, public safety and jail management. Not so, Alex Villanueva vigorously argues. None of these can take place if a leader of the Sheriff Department is unable to “lead and inspire the rank and file.” If you really want to see the radical changes needed I am your guy, Villanueva tells voters in this county.
Sheriff McDonnell and Challenger Villanueva offer starkly different visions, we can either re-elect the incumbent Sheriff who has yet to see jails he doesn’t like and who has no compassion for immigrant communities or we can vote for Alex Villanueva, the opponent who forced a runoff and who has shown a deeper understanding of the daunting challenges facing this department.
Thank you for reading.