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Criminal Justice

LA Sheriff-Elect Robert Luna Promises ‘Open Arms, Ears Open’

A man with light brown skin, a gray mustache, and slicked back hair wearing a dark suit with a blue tie is shown in profile.
Robert Luna at his Nov. 8 election night party.
(Trevor Stamp
/
for LAist)
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In his first news conference as Los Angeles County’s sheriff-elect, Robert Luna on Friday announced the members of his transition team and promised to work with community and county leaders to resolve the many controversies the Sheriff’s Department remains embroiled in.

He vowed to repair relations with the Board of Supervisors and the Civilian Oversight Commission, bodies outgoing Sheriff Alex Villanueva constantly battled throughout his four years in office.

“I’m going in with open arms, ears open, willing to learn, but it’s going to be a two-way street,” Luna said. ”I expect there to be a good working relationship, but like any other relationship there’s a give-and-take on both sides.”

The sheriff-elect, who will be sworn in on Dec. 5, promised during the campaign he would be a “180-degree difference” from Villanueva.

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Luna, the former chief of the Long Beach Police Department, spoke at the Salazar Park gymnasium in East L.A. He called it “my first neighborhood park,” noting that he was born down the street.

Luna began by offering his prayers tothe 25 injured law enforcement recruits who were struck by a car while on a morning run in Whittier.

He then thanked the voters, who so far in the tally have given him more than 60% of the vote.

The people of the county “have entrusted me to keep you and your family safe, and entrusted me in the issue of police accountability,” he said.

Transition Team Announced

Luna announced the three co-chairs of his new transition team, which he said will “build a foundation” for his tenure: Eric Parra, current Huntington Beach police chief and a former division chief at LASD, Eileen Decker, vice president of the L.A. Police Commission, and Richard Conant, a retired Long Beach Police deputy chief.

Luna said that over the next several months he will be working towards new policies and strategies to address crime, “repair relationships in our community and across the board,” address homelessness, modernize the department, and “improve employee wellness.”

He went on: “Our service has to be effective, respectful, and constitutional."

Luna promised during the campaign to rid the department of secretive deputy gangs that engage in misconduct. “I will also change LASD’s culture to ensure that gangs do not resurface in the future,” he wrote on LAist’s questionnaire.

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Villanueva conceded defeat on Tuesday in an emotional press conference.

“I want to wish the incoming sheriff well,” Villanueva said. “The safety of the community depends on him succeeding.”

Who Is Robert Luna?

Luna spent 36 years at the Long Beach Police Department, rising to chief in 2014. He oversaw the department (which currently has about 800 officers and 1,200 total employees) for seven years before retiring a year ago to run for sheriff.

Luna will now oversee a department with approximately 18,000 employees and a $3 billion budget.

Born to a Sinaloan immigrant father and a Modesto-born mother with roots in Michoacán, Luna said “I dreamt of being a police officer from a very early age.”

But he said his negative experiences growing up in an area patrolled by the Sheriff’s Department steered him towards wanting to reform law enforcement.

“I had a lot of experiences I never forgot,” he told us.

But as Long Beach police chief, Luna drew criticism for issues with traffic stops, aself-deleting text app, and his officers acting aggressively against protestors in 2020.

One shot reporter Adolfo Guzman-Lopez with a foam projectile while he was on assignment for LAist and KPCC. The department concluded the shooting was within policy.

What questions do you have about criminal justice in Southern California? 
Emily Elena Dugdale covers smaller police departments around Southern California, school safety officers, jails and prisons, and juvenile justice issues. She also covers the LAPD and the L.A. Sheriff’s Department.