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Politics

LA Sheriff: What We Know So Far About The Race For One Of LA County's Most Powerful Positions

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The Vote

Note
    • We'll have live results shortly after the polls close at 8 p.m.

About This Race

The Sheriff is in charge of the largest sheriff’s department in the country. The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) has more than 9,000 sworn deputies and about 7,000 civilian employees, ranging from crime lab technicians to cooks who prepare meals for people in jail.

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The Sheriff’s Department patrols all unincorporated areas of the county. That includes communities such as East L.A., Willowbrook, La Crescenta-Montrose and Castaic.

LASD also provides policing services to 42 cities in the county, including Lancaster, Palmdale, Altadena, Compton and Malibu. (The Los Angeles Police Department is responsible for law enforcement inside L.A. city limits.)

The department also patrols parts of the MTA subway, light rail and bus system and provides security for a wide variety of public buildings, including courthouses, public hospitals and community colleges.

The sheriff also operates the seven big jails in the county, including Men’s Central Jail and Twin Towers in downtown L.A., and the sprawling Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic.

What's At Stake?

Issues facing the Sheriff's Department include:

Homelessness

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The next sheriff will have to decide how deputies will interact with unhoused people and whether the department will coordinate any response with social service workers and nonprofit organizations.

The next sheriff will have to decide the extent to which deputies will enforce anti-camping and quality of life offenses like trespassing, including in areas that are under the jurisdiction of other law enforcement agencies.

Deputy Subgroups Or Gangs

Secretive subgroups of deputies widely referred to as gangs have existed in the department for decades. Members have matching tattoos and some allegedly engage in violence against residents as part of their initiation. Sheriff Villanueva says the groups are benign. Reports from the Inspector General, The RAND Corporation and Loyola Law School say they are a major problem.

The next sheriff will have to address how to rid the department of these subgroups, which some believe is emblematic of a culture of impunity at the agency.

People With Mental Health Problems

Law enforcement interactions with people experiencing a mental health crisis can spiral out of control; there have been a number of cases in which deputies ended up killing the person.

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The next sheriff will have to decide whether to create more mental evaluation teams, which consist of one specially-trained deputy and one mental health clinician, to respond to such calls.

Oversight

Former Sheriff Lee Baca and his undersheriff were convicted of obstruction of justice and sent to prison for trying to cover up deputy violence against jail inmates. In response, the county created the Office of Inspector General and Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission to watchdog the department.

Villanueva has resisted greater oversight and transparency. The next sheriff will have to decide whether to cooperate with requests for greater transparency.

The Jails

Six years ago, the Sheriff’s Department signed an agreement with the federal government to improve conditions for people in jail. But a recent monitor’s report found inmates with serious mental illnesses continue to suffer in isolation and with little treatment. The monitor also said cells were overflowing with garbage, and filth was spread on the walls, with a pile of razors abandoned in one hallway. The next sheriff will have to figure out how to improve conditions for people in jail.

The Candidates

Your Guide

You Should Know

How Local Primaries Work
  • If any one candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the June primary, they will win the office outright. Otherwise, the two candidates who receive the most votes will advance to the November runoff.