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What Does The Public Battle Between LA County Sheriff And Supervisors Mean For Constituents?

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L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. (L.A. Sheriff's Department)
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The battle between L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the Board of Supervisors rages on.

After supervisors cleared a motion last week that will likely further curtail the Sheriff’s budget, Villanueva took to social media. He commented on Twitter that the move would lead to a dystopian L.A., leaving streets looking like “a scene from Mad Max.”

Earlier this month, in a Facebook video, Villanueva asked rhetorically if Supervisor Hilda Solis was trying to earn the title of “La Malinche," the byname of a female Mexican historical figure that’s also a derogatory term for ”traitor.” (The story of the real La Malinche is complicated.)

Vilanueva's social media slam of the board's only Latina member has been widely criticized, including pushback from Solis.

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“The Sheriff's attack against me is highly unprofessional, inappropriate, racist, and sexist,” Solis said on Twitter. “I urge him to stay focused on protecting the public from problematic deputies within his Department and balancing his budget."

A spokesman for Villanueva, in turn, told the Los Angeles Times that "on the topic of 'racist and sexist comments,'" the Sheriff had been subject to insulting language from another supervisor.

Sonja Diaz, founding director of UCLA’s Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, said there’s more at play in this battle than just the budget.

“Recent officer-involved shootings, like that of Andres Guardado in Gardena, have elevated the role of members of the Board of Supervisors in taking a more public stance in reigning in the Sheriff,” said Diaz, adding that the battle playing out publicly could likely be to the detriment of the Sheriff.

The divide between Villanueva and the supervisors is already affecting the county budget, according to Fernando Guerra, a political science professor at Loyola Marymount University. And he said the differences are likely to lead to stagnating public policy, too.

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“You need to have a vision for public safety," Guerra said. "That vision is not shared."

Guerra said that’s not likely to change until we see different supervisors elected to the board, or a new Sheriff.

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