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Criminal Justice

Sheriff Alex Villanueva Is The Subject Of New LAist Studios Podcast, 'Imperfect Paradise'

An illustration features Alex Villanueva is set against a backdrop of the downtown L.A. skyline
(Dan Carino
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In 2018, Alex Villanueva ran a long-shot campaign for L.A. County Sheriff. He was a retired lieutenant with almost no leadership experience. But he ran a savvy campaign, winning the endorsements of the L.A. County Democratic party, the deputies union, and immigrants rights groups, as well as the votes of Angelenos critical of former President Trump and supportive of police reform.

Listen to the trailer: Imperfect Paradise — The Sheriff

But soon after taking office, Villanueva became embroiled in a series of scandals of his own making. He re-hired a deputy fired for domestic violence and lying. He downplayed the severity of the department’s deputy gang problem. And he opened a criminal investigation into the Inspector General who oversees the Sheriff’s Department — among other controversies.

In the latest season of Imperfect Paradise: The Sheriff, Frank Stoltze, our civics and democracy correspondent, looks at Villanueva’s tenure as sheriff and asks: How could someone who ran as a progressive reformer end up as a darling of Fox News? How could L.A. County voters end up with someone so completely different from who they thought they were voting for?

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Over five episodes, Stoltze and his team of producers explore how Villanueva became head of the largest law enforcement agency west of the Mississippi, and how his leadership has left him vulnerable ahead of this fall’s election. The show draws on extensive interviews from families affected by deputy shootings and alleged harassment, current and former department officials, LA County supervisors, the Inspector General, and whistleblowers who are afraid to speak out without anonymity.

Filled with new reporting on the Sheriff’s Department, an exclusive sit-down with Villanueva, and hosted by a reporter with 30 years of experience covering criminal justice in L.A. County, Imperfect Paradise: The Sheriff provides an unprecedented look at Villanueva and his legacy.

The first two episodes are set to air on Oct. 5, with the rest released on a weekly basis.

Listen to the trailer and subscribe to Imperfect Paradise: The Sheriff now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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