Sheriff Candidate Questionnaire: Matt Rodriguez
LAist sent all candidates for L.A. County sheriff the following questionnaire. Below are the responses from candidate Eli Vera, an L.A. Sheriff's Commander. Their responses have been published in full, without any editing.
We also have a full overview of the sheriff’s race.
What do you think is the number one thing that needs to change at the Sheriff’s Department and how would you change it?
The Sheriff needs to be changed. Villanueva is responsible for low employee morale, disastrous relationships with the Board of Supervisors, complete dysfunction with oversight committees, City Contracts are in upheaval, Metro is about to be fully lost, he hides uses of force and other issues of community interest, continuously misleads the public and press and has more lawsuits against the department that have been filed than likely in the Department’s entire history. I would elect Matt Rodriguez to create the change that Villanueva failed to do unless his legacy of change was planned to be 100% crime increase and homelessness raging out of control. All of these issues can be resolved by the right people in place and the right Sheriff in charge.
Do you think the department needs more deputies? If so, why, and how many more?
Yes, 700 new Deputies to focus on direct community needs, crime, and schools. There also needs to be a focus on protecting our businesses and actually solving hate crimes. The Board of Supervisor (BOS) cuts, based on the Sheriff mis-using personnel assets and the incumbent’s self-inflicted dysfunctional relationship with the BOS have put public safety at risk. The LASD has lost more Deputies due to attrition than ever before directly because of the incumbent and his failed policies. More deputy sheriffs are off injured and with disabilities than ever before because they are also fed up, afraid of the situation he has created, and doesn’t want to come back to work. It will take many years to recover those losses and ensure full public safety for all areas of service.
How would you address the rise in the number of murders in areas patrolled by the Sheriff’s Department, which has seen a much higher increase than in areas patrolled by the LAPD?
We need to have a stronger presence in the community that lets criminals know that they will be arrested and held accountable for victimizing communities. I will ensure my Deputies enforce the law. I will ensure the community feels they are heard and protected. The current Sheriff devastated detective units for mask enforcement, special projects that have failed, and for political hit teams utilized to harass opponents. He created investigative holes larger than what sunk the Titanic leaving victims and their families in distress and mourning.
Add to that that currently, inmates receive early release credits which allows them to serve ONLY approx 35% of their time before being released back into our communities and in most cases re-offend. The Sheriff has the discretion on early release and I will use that discretion to ensure fair and practical policies that keep our communities safe. I will also ensure every deputy sheriff is assigned to a position that brings the community safety, resolve or assistance. Lastly the Sheriff has failed at hiring by changing requirements and recruiting inefficiently. This leads to lower arrests, fewer trained deputies, and an opening for crime, including murder, to thrive.
What role should the Sheriff’s Department play in addressing homelessness?
The role of law enforcement is multi-faceted. Under my administration, Deputy responses to non-violent calls involving PEH (People Experiencing Homelessness) will be designed to foster and build positive relationships with PEH which will allow us to assess individual needs and direct them to services.
Law enforcement currently has limited options beyond arresting those PEH who are experiencing drug-related illness, psychosis, and mental health crisis. Without the necessary resources to address those issues, PEH often cycles in and out of the criminal justice system. I would make efforts to collaborate with government, agencies, service providers, and community programs to ensure these individuals are connected to services. In extreme situations where individuals pose a threat to public safety, law enforcement must ensure our communities are safe, and public spaces can be safely shared by all.
In fact, I believe the Sheriff should lead this effort to re-imagine the entire homeless process. Smaller city and county teams working more closely in the community with direct Sheriff liaison who emerge themselves into PEH individuals history and life, their issues, and their permanent future such as is modeled in La Puente where there is specialized service proving to be successful.
Do you believe secretive deputy subgroups or “gangs” exist inside the Sheriff’s Department and if so do you think they are a problem? How would you address this issue?
I recognize that the current and previous Sheriffs have created an environment in which small groups of deputies have been allowed to violate Department Policies and occasionally violated criminal laws, with little consequences. Although this is not typical of the entire Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, it is a problem. I will hold deputies accountable who violate policy and prosecute those who violate the law.
Leadership starts at the top. In addition to holding deputies accountable, I will hold supervisors, managers, and executives who allow these situations to fester accountable as well.
There is no doubt that there is some substance to allegations of deputy gangs that Villanueva claims don’t exist one day but that do exist on another depending on his audience. Regardless of what the public or the Sheriff wants to label these nests or groups, they are not welcome, cause a blight to the Sheriff badge, and will be identified, reported, investigated and if necessary terminated or charged with any crimes if committed.
Do you support responding to calls involving people who appear to have mental health issues or are otherwise acting erratically with unarmed clinicians instead of deputies?
No. Clinicians are amazing and serve a purpose that is indispensable.
However, having a clinician deal with an erratic unstable individual in a neighborhood setting instead of a controlled environment can be fatal or lead to situations wherein the incident is accelerated to the point that there is no calm when law enforcement arrives. This is unfair to the patient and responders.
How would you improve how the department deals with people with mental illnesses, absent an increase in funding from the Board of Supervisors?
I think good governance requires the Sheriff to look at all options for keeping the community safe including those that suffer from mental illness. Training and connecting people to services are paramount to successful outcomes for both those we serve and our Deputies who respond to these calls. Funding from the BOS must be a piece of the puzzle to effectively improve outcomes. We also need to be looking at resources in a much broader fashion and possibly making associations with clinics and assistance outside of our county.
Do you think the department needs to change how and when deputies conduct traffic stops? What about bicycle stops?
I would ensure all traffic stops and bicycle stops comply with existing Federal and State Law.
Do you think there is a way to reduce deputy-involved shootings and, if so, how?
Deputies have a very difficult job. Every encounter is potentially a life or death situation. We must ensure we provide the very best training possible to ensure the management of those encounters. We must train to de-escalate and “cool down” encounters with the public. LAPD can train a new policy or tactic in their force in about 3 weeks, LASD needs approximately 8 months to do the same because our training staff is limited under the current Sheriff, again due to what he claims is the budget. Villanueva has thrown the baby out with the bath water and Continued Professional Training for all deputies is at a historic low. Training and experience is what will enhance many of these outcomes and avoid Deputy involved shootings. In today’s time there is nothing more serious than a deputy involved shooting and the investigative scrutiny that is undergone is intense from a myriad of government participants and community groups. These are also lessons to be learned from for both the law enforcement officers and the public.
Six years ago, the Sheriff’s Department signed an agreement with the federal government to improve conditions for jail inmates. 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. How would you fix these problems?
We have a Constitutional obligation to ensure jail inmates receive the proper medical care. This obligation is a joint responsibility with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors who oversee Correction Health Services. As Sheriff I would bring this issue to their attention for correction. As to the livability of our jails, I would ensure proper monitoring of the jail conditions to ensure that the facilities are regularly cleaned including but not limited to regular personal audits by the Sheriff. This current Sheriff has failed to comply with the federal decree and there are no excuses to treat any human in the conditions that were reported by the audit.
Why do you think Black people are arrested by the police at three times their share of the population? Does the department have a role in addressing this?
The bottom line is people are arrested for breaking the law. Deputies respond to thousands of encounters per year and conduct thousands of stops regardless of race. Under my Administration, LASD will never discriminate against anyone. If a crime is committed by anyone, they are arrested.
How would you approach your relationship with the Board of Supervisors?
It is critical for the Sheriff to work with the Board of Supervisors to improve the overall operations of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. I will start by offering an olive branch and opening up a dialogue to get us back to a working relationship that benefits those we serve and our Department. There is no doubt in my mind that Villanueva offered a shotgun blast day 1 by supporting a domestic violence offender for re-hire, ignored law, ignored the BOS and egotistically broadcast he had that unilateral power. That is why the Sheriff’s Department now sits in the position that the County wants to take over Sheriff’s human resources. Villanueva has rapidly dismantled contracts, relationships and the ability for the Department to be effective. I will build relationships and not emulate the divisiveness of Villanueva.
Will you comply with all subpoenas and requests for records issued by the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission and Inspector General?
I will uphold the Rule of Law and comply with all legally binding subpoenas and legal requests for records.
What will you do to improve transparency at the Sheriff’s Department? Specifically, how would you make the department more responsive to Public Records Act requests under Senate Bill 1421, which requires law enforcement agencies to release information about deputies who were involved in shootings and serious uses of force, and/or were found to have lied or committed sexual misconduct on the job?
As the Law and Order Candidate, I will follow the law and cooperate with all legal processes as opposed to the incumbent who is non-cooperative, applies the law as it benefits him, and had to be ordered by a Judge to appear and give testimony to OIG.
Will you enforce the county’s vaccine mandate with deputies? There’s a lot of resistance in the department to vaccination; what steps would you take to get more deputies vaccinated?
I support personal freedoms. But, I will develop a positive working relationship with the BOS to ensure my Deputies are in compliance with Federal, State, and local mandates. I am fully vaccinated, However, I will not mandate personnel to get vaccinated.
Do you support the recall of District Attorney George Gascón? If so, why?
George Gascon is the biggest threat to public safety in Los Angeles. His pro-criminal directives have caused a rise in crime in the most vulnerable communities. He has supported the release of violent criminals back into our communities to re-offend and re-victimize. Criminals publicly gloat over their light sentences in jailhouse phone calls and consider him a friend. That is not what an elected law enforcement Official should be known for. I fully support the Recall effort.
Villanueva created Gascon knowing Gascon’s track record, knowing his failures, knowing his weak on crime theories, knowing crime would escalate in Los Angeles County —-- by ignoring, abandoning and leaving Jackie Lacey with NO ENDORSEMENT FROM THE SHERIFF. Indeed, Villanueva can’t blame Gascon when he endorsed his entry by vacating Lacey.
Learn about the rest of the candidates in our guide to the sheriff’s race.