Editorial: Sheriff Alex Villanueva is out but leaves behind a deeply damaged department
It was a week of high drama for Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and the biggest news in any of the stories was the resignation of Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
In a statement obtained by the Times, Villanueva announced he was stepping down after six years in office.
The statement begins by saying: “My time as sheriff has been the best of my life. My office has always been a welcome and positive addition to our community, I am deeply humbled by its accomplishments.”
In the course of his career as a police official, Villanueva has been a vocal critic of the department, a polarizing figure, and an occasional thorn in President Barack Obama’s side.
He is known to have had a troubled relationship with the police departments where he worked, was known to say things he regretted, and had a reputation for using excessive force.
Videos of the incidents have gone viral as news reports on the controversial actions of him.
In the wake of Villanueva’s resignation, I spoke with a number of law enforcement and sheriffs and asked them if they felt Villanueva’s resignation was an accurate reflection of the department’s culture, and if he took the wrong steps in dealing with the police departments.
The following is a transcript of the conversation that took place:
Cheryl Lippmann: Before Sheriff Villanueva’s resignation, you said — you said he had turned his department into a political organization. What does that mean, and how did that happen?
John C. MacFarlane: Well, it’s a fair question. It’s probably a fair question. And one that I’ve asked myself a number of times: how did this happen?
It’s a fair question because