THE TALE OF A DIVIDED LOS ANGELES SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT

EMPLOYEE UNIONS AT ODDS OVER THEIR SUPPORT OF SHERIFF VILLANUEVA SEND DIFFERENT MESSAGES TO THE PUBLIC BY THEIR OPPOSING ENDORSEMENTS. WHAT MESSAGE DOES THIS ALSO SEND TO EMPLOYEES?

In a previous post, we explained the consequences of a union endorsement for Villanueva and it seems that at least half of our readers agree.

Last month the two largest unions representing employees of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department revealed support for who they think is best suited to lead the department for the next four years. In one corner we have The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sherffs (ALADS) which represents only sworn personnel below the rank of sergeant. They are the certified bargaining unit for deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators working in Los Angeles County. In the opposing corner, we have The Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association (PPOA) with a broader membership more representative of the community consisting of sworn personnel above the rank of deputy along with thousands of non-sworn personnel who work a variety of important assignments.

There is a third lesser-known union, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Professional Association (LASPA) that was founded by Alex Villanueva in 1999 as an alternative to ALADS and PPOA. However, LASPA has never enjoyed a large membership and is (and was) always meant to attract disgruntled defectors from ALADS and PPOA who joined LASPA as a means of protest. Because of that, LASPA’s political influence is virtually nonexistent.

THE TEAMS HAVE FORMED

In one corner we have ALADS and in the other we have PPOA. Last month, ALADS endorsed Alex Villanueva for sheriff while PPOA endorsed challenger Eli Vera for the top spot. How can these birds of a feather be so divergent? Well, it’s simple. ALADS is comprised largely of the “young and dumb” (it’s okay, we were all there once), the majority of which don’t even live or vote in Los Angeles County. In contrast, PPOA represents department supervisors and professional non-sworn career employees who actually live and vote in LA County and in contrast to ALADS, have significant department experience per capita.

By its very design, the ALADS Board of Directors and their president have never risen above the rank of Deputy and as we have said, nor has their membership. Don’t get us wrong, there is nothing wrong with spending your career at an entry-level rank, but those who have never managed personnel through the thick of their career like PPOA members have, are questionably qualified to make endorsements that will determine the management direction of the entire department. In this case, ALADS has it dead wrong.

ALADS members are also known as the hard-charging, no-nonsense, and often uninformed worker bees who instinctually look up to defiant leadership for better or for worse. This is where the calm reasonableness of PPOA offers significant contrast to ALADS.

THE ADULT IN THE ROOM

PPOA represents a more “mature” union that recognizes the importance of organizational leadership and more importantly the ability to recognize a lack of leadership. PPOA is a union comprised of members who deal with the public on every level and their supervisory members are the ones left to reassemble the public trust in the wake of a critical incident. In other words, PPOA members can see the danger of a sheriff who is toxic and not a sheriff for all the people.

A BIT OF INSIDE INFORMATION HELPS

Interesting is the fact that the producers of this blog actually know or have worked with the board members of ALADS and PPOA. Confidentially, the board members of ALADS will tell you how much they dislike Villanueva. They see him as a toxic personality who is unethical and a bad guy who created a team of “secret police” that has targeted ALADS members by (in their own words) “unconventional means”. The support of Villanueva is inconsistent too since ALADS board members are generally older and well-grounded, quick to condemn any elected official suspected of lawbreaking or unethical behavior.

But when it comes to first-hand knowledge of their own sheriff who is facing credible accusations of favoritism, disobeying subpoenas, and targeting his critics with frivolous criminal allegations, ALADS is yelling “Hell yes!” to a Villanueva second term.

In any event, ALADS knows that a possible Eli Vera win is no threat to them because Vera doesn’t hold a grudge like Alex and Vivian do. But just in case, ALADS split that baby by endorsing Villanueva without any financial donation, in-kind or otherwise. Read into that all you want.

In the end, hypocrisy knew no bounds, and why? Because the young and dumb (calm down, like I said,,,,) ALADS membership will defect to LASPA and that scares ALADS more than surviving another four more years of Alex Villanueva and his wife.

ENCOURAGING BAD ACTORS

As a result of their endorsement, ALADS has sent a wink and a nod to their members that rogue and highly unprofessional behavior is just fine with them. ALADS can think about that the next time one of their members is fired by Villanueva for disobeying a subpoena or targeting a member of the public with a phony criminal investigation.

Always remember this. Subordinates will mirror the behavior of their supervisors. So I guess the question is, why should we be surprised that ALADS endorsed Villanueva when the line deputies that make up the ALADS board have never supervised anything more complicated than their own annual picnic at Raging Waters?

PPOA’s DOG IN THE FIGHT

Across the ring from ALADS is PPOA’s entry for sheriff. PPOA has endorsed retired Chief Eli Vera for sheriff. We say “chief” only because Villanueva demoted Vera to commander after Vera announced his intent to unseat the incumbent. PPOA made the bold move in opposition to Villanueva because they recognized a deep belief in the leadership qualities of Vera who has never managed by toxic decree, or intimidation, nor has Vera ever condoned rogue behavior. With Eli Vera as sheriff, the department can move without headwind and still achieve the goals consistent with the majority of both PPOA and ALADS members.

INTEGRITY HAS ITS PRICE

But all is not well at PPOA. Among their ranks are some who are threatening to drop their membership and defect to LASPA over PPOA’s opposition to Villanueva. Some are even mounting a recall effort. Insiders tell us that the PPOA board is concerned about these potential defectors but to that we say, let them go to join ranks with the irrelevant LASPA membership. Any supervisor on the LASD that condones the behavior of Villanueva shouldn’t be a supervisor.

There is an old saying that supervisors who supervise like deputies, are really just deputies with stripes. They are dangerous to the organization, they ignore unethical behavior and undermine the public confidence. PPOA should stand on principle and welcome the purge from their membership ranks.

PPOA needs to stand up to its membership and remind them that any one of their constituents would be fired for mirroring the behavior of Villanueva. Ask any one of them what would happen if they disobeyed a subpoena, opened a retaliatory criminal investigation against an opponent, fixed a promotional exam to favor a friend, covered a potentially criminal use of excessive force, tried to use county funds to construct their own private heliport, created a hostile work environment, allowed their wife to dictate county business, retaliated against whistleblowers, on and on and on.

Name one time Eli Vera has been remotely accused of these things. Use the link and send us an email but we won’t hold our breath. Rather than support the ethics of Eli Vera, the Villanueva supporters would rather go down with the ship instead of voting for calmer waters where the vast majority gets what they need from a sheriff.

There will be no greater gift than a runoff between Eli Vera and Alex Villanueva. ALADS will be forced to defend the behavior of Villanueva and suffer the consequences while PPOA will enjoy standing with Candidate Eli Vera on the high ground. It will be an unprecedented and epic battle.

EITHER WAY…

Message to the ALADS Board, the next time you sit down at the negotiating table and ask the County Supervisors for a raise, you might as well just plead with them to keep the benefits you already have because they are coming for you. Elections have consequences.

SHERIFF VILLANUEVA GOES TO PRISON

…OR SHERIFF VILLANUEVA RESIGNS UNDER WEIGHT OF CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS. EITHER WAY, IT’S ‘GAME OVER’ FOR VILLANUEVA. IT’S TIME TO LOOK AT THE REMAINING CHOICES FOR THE JUNE PRIMARY

We told you about Sheriff Villanueva’s coverup involving a deputy who was caught on video kneeling on the head of an inmate. The sheriff has vehemently denied a coverup and was it not for the whistle being blown by his own commander, he might have gotten away with it. But it has now been revealed by The Current Report that the FBI has launched an investigation into the coverup. The good part for the FBI is, that there’s not much to investigate. The bad part is… well there is no bad part unless you are Sheriff Villanueva or anyone “above the rank of Division Chief”.

If the words of Commander Castellano are true as alleged in his own department document (and there is no evidence to the contrary) the FBI has a simple job ahead of them; interview former Assistant Sheriff Robin Limon and former Chief LaJuana Haselrig who have no incentive to lie now that Villanueva left them both with the hot potato.

THE WITNESS LIST

Our sources have told us that several employees from multiple assignments have a growing fear of the Feds asking for an interview. With the imprisonment of Sheriff Baca and Undersheriff Tanaka still a recent memory, some are terrified of being witnesses while others are actually hoping to be interviewed. They all saw Baca and Tanaka along with a dozen sworn deputies of all ranks go to federal prison behind the jail abuse scandal and because of that, nobody is willing to stick their neck out for Villanueva. And with the rabid penchant for retaliation from Villanueva, it is surely a lose-lose situation for anyone harboring knowledge.

INVITING PROSECUTION

There is a big difference between getting caught up in an indictment and asking for it. The guy who asks to be indicted is the one who is always sticking his finger in the eye of authority. He is the one who intentionally brings attention to himself through acts of defiance, law-breaking, and incessant rants about how the authoritarian world is against him.

Now as he approaches his fourth year in office, Villanueva seeks reelection with an FBI investigation into the coverup of inmate abuse, an FBI investigation into rogue deputy cliques, a State DOJ investigation into a variety of matters, a court order to testify about so-called criminal “deputy gangs” and in each case, he has flipped the bird to any attempt of legitimate oversight. But none of that is his fault; just ask him.

But wait, there’s more. Villanueva’s campaign has trolled local bloggers, allegedly committed acts of doxing and his “secret police” have opened dead-end criminal investigations on anyone who dares to demand accountability.

Villanueva has disobeyed lawfully issued subpoenas to testify about corruption inside his department. He was caught trying to have his own helicopter landing pad built next to his house without a permit using tax-payer funds. He has been accused of fixing promotional exams to favor his friends. His wife Vivian and the sheriff’s department are defending a lawsuit that alleges Vivian intimidated an academy staff drill instructor. There are credible allegations that he is fast-tracking concealed gun permits to political supporters and he allegedly directed the falsification of training records to cover for at least one deputy on his staff after she was involved in a fatal on-duty collision.

In fact, the sheriff’s department is so rife with corruption at the direction of Villanueva, that the FBI could point blindly to a name on the department’s 8th-floor roster and be surprised at what that employee would testify to.

And now, the sheriff has launched an intimidating criminal probe into the whistleblower who leaked the video of his deputy kneeling on an inmate’s head. Interesting though that the sheriff likened the leaked video to the “theft of investigative material”. He didn’t seem bothered about ordering the destruction of the Kobe Bryant crash scene photos, did he.

…OR THE PUBLIC CAN FIRE VILLANUEVA

If the public doesn’t fire Villanueva at the voting booth, he will be led out in handcuffs. If he isn’t arrested while in office, he will resign and face charges later (sound familiar Paul Tanaka?). The Board of Supervisors will then appoint an interim sheriff and a new sheriff will be elected on the next go around who hasn’t a clue about the LASD (sound familiar Jim McDonnell?). Is this something we should go through again? How about we start looking at the current set of challengers for the June primary and rally behind the best choice?

THE POSSIBILITIES

So far the only serious contenders are:

  • LASD Commander Eli Vera
  • Retired Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna
  • Los Angeles Airport Police Chief Cecil Rhambo

We won’t get too far into the weeds, but the remaining candidates, Eric Strong, Britta Steinbrenner, and Matt Rodrigues haven’t been able to attract the public’s attention.

Eric Strong claims to be a fighter of LASD evil but when he had the chance as a lieutenant to address all sorts of malfeasance, he did nothing. But now we are supposed to believe he’s a born-again superhero. He has no administrative experience that applies to running a mega-organization and nobody needs a politician that plays the divisive race card in his campaign speeches.

Britta Steinbrenner is a nice person, but… OK, let’s leave it there. She’s a nice person but she couldn’t lead a Brownie troop to an ice cream stand.

Matt Rodriguez, while he has some good ideas and was a captain of the department was never in a position higher than middle management. A captain is not a member of the Executive Planning Committee nor is a captain able to pull any levers that determine the global position of the department.

THE CONTENDERS

What about Rhambo, Vera, and Luna? Well, let’s talk about Cecil Rhambo. If you like Rhambo, it’s because he speaks the very divisive anti-law enforcement rhetoric that he never uttered before the surgical separation from his conjoined twin, Paul Tanaka. Rhambo was missing in action or was involved in every scandal produced by the LASD since he was a division chief. From alleged deputy gangs under his command to inmate abuses to hundreds of deputy-involved shootings, Rhambo never acted to address alleged patterns of misconduct back then like he says he will do now if elected sheriff. He has zero credibility and is likely an unindicted co-conspirator turned federal witness in the jail abuse scandal. Next…

Eli Vera is a witness to where the bodies are buried but only because Villanueva did not recognize in time Vera’s high moral character. Vera’s career path before and post-Villanueva gave him access to the highest levels of department experience in management. It wasn’t until Vera spoke truth to power that he was excommunicated from the Villanueva circle of trust. We see that as a plus since anyone who disagrees with Villanueva does so at their own risk.

Yes-men willing to compromise their values get promoted. But department executives who disagree with Villanueva are patted on the head and left to atrophy at the lowest rank possible, never again elevated high enough to know the secrets of the 8th floor. Knowing how Villanueva hates anyone critical of him, we see Vera as a candidate who is who he says he is; someone who spoke out against corruption and suffered retaliation like so many others at the hands of Villanueva.

Vera is not someone with a reputation for changing his stripes. To the contrary, his career boasts many incidents of standing up for others simply because it was the right thing to do.

Last there is retired Long Beach PD Chief Robert Luna with his very “Rhambo-Tanaka like” record while in charge of that department. Here are just a few things to that end:

The Long Beach city attorney’s office reported that the city had spent more than $31 million since 2014 to settle 61 excessive force and wrongful death lawsuits against the LBPD. Sound familiar Rhambo/Tanaka?

The City of Long Beach paid a historic 9 million dollar award to the family of Sinuon Pream, a mentally ill 37-year-old woman shot by Long Beach officers in a manner the jury stated: “shocked the conscience”.

That mind-numbing award would have likely never occurred had it not been for Luna’s internal policies for documenting police shootings that sound more like the guidelines for a coverup. You better sit down when you read what’s next and ask yourself, is THIS the guy the public can trust? Is this the guy who can rebuild the credibility of the LASD?

Here it is. When a Long Beach police officer shoots someone, their department has a reporting system that defies logic. Rather than homicide investigators conducting recorded interviews with officers as is advised by the District Attorney, officers file statements which are then reviewed by homicide investigators who may instruct officers on revisions (wait, “revisions?”). The original drafts of these statements are not made available. Say that again, the original statement the officer made is not made available and it goes straight into the burn bag. It is far more than a conflict of interest when you have the same homicide detective conducting the investigation, also telling the subject of his investigation what to say.

In fact, Chief Luna’s policy seems designed to sanitize the officer’s statement. Naturally, Chief Luna has denied any coaching on the part of his homicide investigators. But why would he say anything different about his own policy?

Chief Luna’s policy on documenting police-involved shootings is wide open for corruption and sounds more like the way a mafia lawyer coaches the mafia boss before he testifies. Whether or not the system is corrupt is not the point. The point is, that the public will never believe the system is fair and that hurts not just the LASD but the entire profession. Two thumbs down on Luna.

IN THE END

The clear choice for sheriff is Eli Vera. The only logical choice is Vera. Villanueva will never recover from his scandals and is likely headed for the Big House. Each candidate has their respective website so take a serious look. More to follow…

EVIDENCE NOT SHOWN IN MEDIA COVERAGE PROVES VILLANUEVA KNEW EVERYTHING ABOUT USE OF FORCE INCIDENT. ORDERED TOP EXECUTIVES TO COVER FOR ALLEGED INMATE ABUSE

A sheriff’s commander who reviewed a controversial use of force incident that Villanueva previously ordered buried, blew the whistle to his own demise. But internal mechanisms triggered by him worked to forcibly involve Sheriff Villanueva long before the sheriff says he knew about the alleged abuse. In the end, Sheriff Villanueva jumps into lifeboat with all life vests, sending top executives to the bottom.

I knew nothing

After a long track record of resisting external oversight and blaming others for anything that goes awry in his department, it is ironic that Sheriff Villanueva’s own policies and internal oversight could be the ticket to exposing his own corruption. The same practices that sent Sheriff Baca and Undersheriff Paul Tanaka to Federal prison look to be alive and well from Villanueva’s Office of the Sheriff who ran a campaign largely trumpeting “reform” needed in the wake of the FBI investigation into systemic inmate abuse. But the actual reform and safeguards put in place prior to his election have caught Villanueva in a trap that was set long ago by Sheriff McDonnell.

As a result of the inmate abuse scandal, special review processes were put in place by Interim Sheriff John Scott and Sheriff Jim McDonnell that added a layer of review for use of force incidents between prisoners and department personnel. In a nutshell, the final determination as to whether or not violence against an inmate is justified was taken from the unit captain and placed in the hands of the division commander. This upper echelon layer of approval was added as a mechanism to prevent coverups from originating at lower department levels but in this case, it exposed a cover-up originating from the very top of the department.

What Actually Happened?

On March 10, 2021, the country was fixated on the death of George Floyd as the trial of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin entered day two. At the center of what was largely known at the time, Chauvin was on trial for murdering Floyd by kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes. March 10, 2021 was also the day Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Douglas Johnson was assaulted by an inmate and was caught on video kneeling on the head of that inmate named Enzo Escalante for three minutes. Inmate Escalante was not alone. Another inmate named Roger Ortiz was also involved in the same incident with Deputy Johnson and other assisting deputies. Both Escalante and Ortiz were subdued by deputies with physical force that triggered a standard department process of review.

The Optics and Coverup

No one can forget the riots, calls for more police oversight, and demands to defund the police that followed the George Floyd incident. Notably ironic to this story is the fact that Villanueva’s vehement opposition to those calls was based on his own self-assessment that the sheriff’s department under his command was immune to corruption because he claimed to have fulfilled a campaign promise to “reform” the department from the top down. But the timeline on the Escalante incident from beginning to end blows Villanueva’s’ recent denial of a coverup, out of the water.

THE PROCESS

When use of force occurs anywhere inside the system of LA County jails especially those involving assaults against staff, a few things occur that are normally a part of the routine process. First, a crime report is written alleging assault and battery on a police officer. Simultaneous to the criminal investigation is an internal investigation by department managers that are designed to determine whether or not the defensive force used against the inmate was reasonable and justified under department policy and state law. On a normal course, the criminal report is reviewed by detectives, and assault charges are immediately filed against the inmate. However, the internal report usually follows a months-long process of internal review.

But since there was a video of the incident and the danger of that video becoming a bombshell was a genuine concern, especially if viewed by District Attroney George Gascon, the video of Deputy Johnson kneeling on Inmate Escalante was immediately sent to Sheriff Villanueva.

Our information from inside sources states that the video was handed over to Division Chief LaJuana Haselrig who hand walked it to the sheriff’s office where it was played for Sheriff Villanueva, Undersheriff Tim Murikami, Chief Haselrig, Assistant Sheriff Limon, and the sheriff’s aide, Lieutenant Blanchard. Under the circumstances, this is not unusual however what followed is.

THE ORDER TO COVER

There was a discussion that the use of force against inmate Escalante was at the minimum an ugly portrayal in light of the Floyd case, and could even be criminal since Deputy Johnson kneeled on the inmate’s head for three minutes. After much discussion, inside sources state that Villanueva issued the following orders.

Chief Haselrig was to separate the single-use of force incident involving two inmates and create two separate use of force incidents. This would ensure that the investigation into inmate Escalante and the force by Deputy Johnson could be compartmentalized from the less controversial use of force against inmate Roger Ortiz. Villanueva’s second order was to ensure the administrative review of the force incident was concluded in just three days which is highly irregular. Villanueva’s third order was that no criminal charges were to be filed against inmate Escalante OR the deputy.

These orders effectively prevented the video from transferring to the district attorney for review thus assuming the video would remain under the control of the sheriff’s department and never become a public record.

Now known as “a special”, every investigating supervisor in the chain of command understood that this case was to be crafted with an eye on downplaying its exposure and seriousness, in keeping with the sheriff’s orders. (Anything known as “a special” in department circles is known to mean that the sheriff wants to be in the loop or that the activity at hand was requested/directed by the sheriff himself).

The Process of Review and where the wheels came off the coverup

With the criminal case report suppressed and hidden from the district attorney’s oversight and prying eyes, the focus was squarely on the internal investigation into Deputy Johnson’s use of force. That review separate from the incident involving inmate Roger Ortiz was conducted by a sergeant at the unit level and reviewed by the unit captain, influenced by the orders passed down from the sheriff. However, when the completed administrative force review reached the desk of Commander Allen Castellano, the safeguards set in place following the jail abuse scandal worked perfectly to stop the coverup.

The unmasking

Upon Commander Castellano’s internal oversight of the case review, he determined the following and documented it in his official review to Chief Haselrig, Dated July 2021.

Inmates Enzo Escalante and Roger Ortiz both had force applied to them during this incident, however, only inmate Escalante was listed in this force review. Inmate Ortiz’s incident was reviewed separately as a Category 1 Us of Force, approved by the unit commander, and sent to Discovery on April 7, 2021. The incident was not reviewed at the Division level. According to Lieutenant Hernandez, a decision was made by an executive above the Division Chief to split the incident into two separate force reviews, (one for Inmate Escalante and one for Inmate Ortiz). The force reviews were requested, again by an executive above the rank of Division Chief, to be completed within three days. The force reviews should not have been separated.

A deputy was clearly assaulted by Inmate Escalante, the incident was captured on CCTV, and Inmate Escalante admitted to assaulting the deputy, yet the criminal complaint was not immediately presented to the District Attorney for filing consideration. According to Lieutenant Hernandez, Captain Jacqueline Sanchez consulted with Custody Investigative Services and it was determined the case should not be filed given the misconduct/unreasonable force allegation and the potential for this incident to shed a negative light on the Department given its nature and its similarities to widely publicized George Floyd use of force. The potential optics of an incident should not be a determining factor in whether or not a criminal complaint is filed. I discussed this issue with West Bureau operations and requested the case be presented to the District Attorney’s Office for filing consideration. At the time of this review, the case has not been filed yet.

Deputy Johnson placed his knee on the Inmate Escalante’s head and maintained pressure for a prolonged period of time, even when it appeared that Inmate Escalante was not physically resisting and complying with the deputies’ commands. In addition, two supervising line deputies, who were identified as supervisors by their uniform insignias, failed to intervene/supervise and remove Deputy Johnson from his position where he was applying pressure to Inmate Escalante’s head.

The Sh*t storm

Commander Castellano clearly identified the incestuous handling of this investigation. However, one thing is perfectly clear, any reference to an unnamed “department executive above the rank of Division Chief” is clearly referring to the Sheriff.

Once Commander Castellano was finished with his review, the “special” case was sent to his Chief, Lajuana Haselrig where it of course, died on arrival consistent with Villanueva’s orders.

Remember, Commander Castellanos’s findings were completed in July 2021, yet unbelievably in a press conference last week, Villanueva said he didn’t know about the video until November 2021 which is where Villanueva is caught in his lie. More on that in a minute.

Commander Castellanos ensured his findings (now dead on arrival with Chief Haselrig) were investigated by Internal Affairs Bureau. So far so good that is, until Internal Affairs accepted the case and read Castellano’s disposition that clearly implicated misconduct by the sheriff himself. That triggered an internal investigation implicating Chief Haselrig and anyone “above the rank of Division Chief”.

What does an internal probe of a high ranking department executive entail?

Here is where the sheriff is caught in a bald-faced lie.

Anytime a department member higher than the rank of lieutenant is under internal investigation, the sheriff is personally informed regarding the details of the alleged misconduct and the investigation is carried out by the undersheriff who in this case, is also implicated in the misconduct. Repeat, all investigations of department executives are carried out by the undersheriff with the sheriff’s direct knowledge.

So when Commander Castellano blew the whistle on the unethical orders of a department executive (meaning someone at the rank of Assistant Sheriff and higher), he triggered a landslide on the 8th floor involving the sheriff and the two highest-ranking members below him.

WHAT HAPPENED?

For his part in following sheriff’s department policy to the letter, a policy designed to provide internal oversight, Commander Castellano’s ethical efforts backfired on him. In typical Villanueva fashion, the sheriff targeted Commander Castellano and made him the subject of an internal investigation that resulted in discipline for certain matters of judgment regarding his review of Deputy Johnson’s use of force.

But there is more. Since Commander Castellano implicated the Sheriff, Undersheriff and Assistant Sheriff in his findings, they too would have been simultaneously investigated and if they weren’t, why not?

The bottom line is, it is 100 percent not believable that Sheriff Villanueva did not know about the video of his deputy kneeling on the neck of an inmate many months before his claim of November 2021.

THE BIG LEAK…

Back in July 2021 when Commander Castellano submitted his findings which triggered an internal affairs probe, the sheriff later and quietly disciplined Commander Castellano but no one else. It is not in dispute that Commander Castellano’s discipline required the stamp of approval of the sheriff which means, yes, the sheriff knew about the kneeling video and the entire incident in order to properly evaluate the amount of discipline levied against Castellano.

More notably, Villanueva did not discipline Chief Haselrig or Assistant Sheriff Robin Limon at that time. Game over, right? No, not by a long shot.

When the video and story of the alleged coverup made their way to the public in late March of this year via several media outlets, Sheriff Villanueva jumped in his lifeboat and shoved off. He announced the demotions of Assistant Sheriff Limon and the demotion of Chief Haselrig along with his claim that he did not see the video before November 2021.

It is imperative to understand that when Commander Castellano issued his findings, effectively blowing the whistle on upper management corruption, the sheriff must have known about it every step of the way.

Even the sheriff’s most staunch supporters can’t buy his claim of not knowing about the kneeling video until November 2021, especially since Castellano issued his findings back in July 2021.

Assistant Sheriff Robin Limon
Division Chief LaJuana Haselrig

SCAPEGOATS

The media’s revelation of this coverup simply involved existing department documents and did not reveal any new information. So why did Villanueva only act to discipline Chief Haselrig and Assistant Sheriff Limon after the incident was leaked to the media? Likely because Limon and Haselrig had acted on the orders of Villanueva the day they all watched the video together on or about March 10, 2021. Villanueva simply sacrificed their career to save his own political butt.

The sheriff said the demotions were necessary because “his staff let him down”. No sheriff, it’s instead the other way around. You are Baca and Tanaka 2.0.

Chief Cecil Rhambo flees office to escape a vote of “No Confidence” by rank-in-file, as his long record of ignoring questionable deputy-involved shootings and alleged deputy gangs haunts him

Los Angeles Airport Police officers have had it with lack of leadership, hypocrisy and corruption from Chief Cecil Rhambo.

As the June primary nears, the charismatic Cecil Rhambo seems to be dodging political bullets more than he probably expected he would have to in a county that votes deep blue. The anchor chains of his decades-long friendship with disgraced former undersheriff and convicted felon Paul Tanaka cost him the coveted endorsement of the LA County Democratic Party. That blow caused him to consider quitting altogether, and now his own people have abandoned him from both inside and outside his ranks.

Cecil Rhambo somewhere other than LAX

Tell them what you want them to hear

Cecil Rhambo is the most polarizing of all the candidates running as he intentionally modeled his campaign promises of “reform” after the philosophies of D.A. George Gascon and the demands of anti-police organizations. And why not? The anti-police sentiment which was in the news at the time Rhambo announced his candidacy was alive and well, but that boiling sentiment has since fizzled to a low simmer across the country.

Rhambo has every right to stand on whichever platform he thinks will appeal to voters, but there is one problem. People aren’t buying it anymore and those that did are quickly realizing they were duped. Almost everything Rhambo says he stands for now pales in comparison to who he was on the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and people are noticing. Campaign insiders have told us that Rhambo might boast a long list of endorsements but notably, nobody is throwing money at him. The Black community (and generally speaking common sense democrats as a whole) are not too hip on Rhambo. But politically, many of them feel obligated to support him. Perhaps they are still feeling the third-degree burn left by Villanueva’s own multiple personality disorders.

Not OUR guy

Sources inside the Los Angeles Airport Police report Rhambo has brought such disarray to their department that his officers plan to take a vote of “No Confidence” against him this week. And just as that word got out, Rhambo skipped town to take an unplanned leave of absence. Apparently the union that represents the Los Angeles Airport Police cannot take a vote of no confidence on a chief who is technically not in officer during his leave of absence (slick move Cecil). But have no fear officers, we also heard that Rhambo left you in the capable hands of his BFFs promoted in recent weeks. We will let you guys explain all that if you want.

But it isn’t just Rhambo’s past connections to Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, a story that has been covered ad nauseum by other outlets. It’s who he says he is today, portraying himself as a man with lifelong moral opposition to his own past behavior.

On the topic of deputy-involved shootings

Take for example that between 2010 and 2014, Rhambo was the division chief in charge of Compton, South Los Angeles, Century, East Los Angeles, Carson Sheriff Stations, and then Assistant Sheriff in charge of all patrol stations and Custody Division. According to department records, there were 149 deputy involved “hit shootings” subject to his review (those shootings where the person was struck by a bullet) and 41 “non-hit” shootings. Despite numerous cases where persons of color were shot or shot at holding wallets, cell phones, or as in one case, through a wood fence, not a single deputy was fired or disciplined by Rhambo. Instead, Rhambo chose to treat questionable shootings as “training issues”. That in itself is not a surprise as Rhambo accidentally shot two of his own partners along his long career path, but we digress.

The point we are making is not to imply deputy misconduct, but to illustrate a disconnect between the rhetoric Candidate Rhambo projects to the anti-police and defund crowd, and his track record as a top executive on the LASD.

Let’s ask the people he is pandering to if they would elect a former sheriff’s department executive who oversaw the shooting of 200 persons (largely of color) but under his command, not a single deputy was prosecuted or seriously disciplined.

Open your eyes Rhambo cheer squad. Just as your love was lost for Alex Villanueva who went from extreme liberal to extreme conservative, Cecil Rhambo has swung in the exact opposite way in an effort to vacuum up your disaffected vote. To compare chameleons to these two would be an insult to the chameleon.

Hey Gang!

Today, Candidate Rhambo says he will get rid of deputy gangs “once and for all”. Okay, cool. Nobody likes a gang member so let’s do that. But first, we need to assume that “deputy gangs” exist and for the sake of drawing yet another contrast between the old Rhambo and the new version, we hereby declare that deputy gangs are alive and well!

While under his command, Cecil Rhambo was in charge of the Compton Executioners, the South Los Angeles Grim Reapers, not one but two deputy gangs at Century Station called the Regulators and Spartans, the East Los Angeles Banditos, the Buffalo Soldiers (an exclusively Black membership), the 2000 Boys, the 3000 Boys, the Jump out Boys and a host of other much lesser known deputy groups throughout the department, all of which identify themselves with matching ankle tattoos. Sounds like a gang problem right?

Well, there is something else called a gang “associate” who likes to hang out with the big boys but when accused, throws up his hands and says, “Whoa now. I don’t have any ankle tattoos and I just know those guys. I’m not affiliated with them.” That’s right Cecil, your association with Paul Tanaka, a reputed member of the Lynwood Vikings with a history of bad shootings makes you one of those “associates” of an alleged gang. You do realize how that calls into question your moral standing, right?

While Rhambo was the Captain of Compton Station and then the Division Chief over all the aforementioned stations, and later the Assistant Sheriff in charge of the entire department, did he even once ask the FBI to investigate his belief that “deputy gangs” existed? Nope.

Did he ever open a criminal or internal investigation on someone for being a deputy gang member? Nope.

How does Rhambo stomach his past choice to ignore all the malfeasance cultivated under his command, but now claims to be the solution to his own debauchery? When he had a chance to do something about it he did nothing, but now runs a campaign as the reform candidate to end deputy gangs “once and for all”? We heard that Webster’s definition of “headache” is now accompanied by Rhambo’s campaign photo.

Rhambo did nothing to stand up to abuse and corruption he says existed on the LASD. In fact it was so out of control that the FBI secretly conducted an undercover investigation into the abuse of jail inmates by the 2000 and 3000 boys. And when the Feds got close to Rhambo, how did he manage to escape prosecution? He testified against his long-time friend, Viking Paul Tanaka.

A narrow escape or deal between coconspirators?

Anyone with an ounce of sense knows that the FBI and the Department of Justice were looking at Rhambo along with Baca and Tanaka.  So how did Rhambo escape prosecution?  Could it be he decided to testify in lieu of charges?  Think about it! 

How does Rhambo, the executive in charge of the world’s largest jail who is also the right hand of soon to be convicted felon Undersheriff Paul Tanaka escape prosecution for inmate abuses?  He agrees to cooperate of course! 

So when Cecil Rhambo tells us he fought corruption and proudly points to the fact he testified against Paul Tanaka, you need to ask yourself a serious question that goes to his motive.  There’s an old saying that there is no honor among thieves.  There’s also no honor among corrupt cops, or is there?

It could all be “forgive and forget” as there have been reports the former coconspirators are back together for an occasional game of golf, and why not? As reported by another outlet, Paul Tanaka requested a temporary release from custody to attend the funeral of Rhambo’s mother in 2015. That doesn’t sound like a fractured relationship. It sounds like a deal was struck between Tanaka and the Feds to save his buddy of 30 years.

Back to Basics

Cecil Rhambo “Stripping for votes”

Nobody likes a rat. Nobody likes a hypocrite either. Cecil Rhambo is both yet he runs a campaign designed to fool people of color. In Rhambo’s ridiculous video of him disrobing in a cheesy bathroom set in a failed effort to prove he has no deputy gang tattoos, did he show us his ankles? Maybe there’s a sequel coming soon that will do that.

Sheriff Villanueva is adamant; no deputies should be fired for refusing to vaccinate. But he will fire you for refusing to tell him if you are vaccinated. Hear it for yourself.

Sheriff Villanueva’s softball interviews on FOX News are music to conservative ears, but back home he faces tough questions from his rank in file who are starting to wonder. Will Villanueva keep his conservative values if reelected or will he turn over our vaccination status to the Board of Supervisors?

In our previous story, we announced the January 26th candidate forum hosted by ALADS and reported on the snake oil Villanueva sold to ALADS that earned him a million-dollar endorsement. At that forum, a variety of subjects were discussed and candidates were allowed to ask the sheriff pointed questions. It is no surprise that the subject of vaccinations arose since Sheriff Villanueva is vocally opposed to mandatory vaccinations. But wait, is he solid on that or is it just double talk?

While Villanueva reels against the Board’s threat to fire 4000 employees because they are unvaccinated, he is hardly without blame since he requires deputies to register their vaccination status. It’s sort of like forcing you to put yourself on Santa’s naughty list. Villanueva will turn it over to the Board and then blame them for firing you. And if you don’t register yourself, Villanueva will fire you for refusing to obey that order. What’s this all about? Hear it for yourself.

Question to Villanueva posed by Candidate for Sheriff Matt Rodriguez, (ALADS Jan 26 candidates forum)

I’ve got your back.. Well, sort of.

In a recent interview on Fox News, Villanueva called the threatened firing of unvaccinated deputies “immoral” as if to communicate that a person is a sovereign being and the government shall not infringe on their right to choose. But while Villanueva is headlining the fight against mandatory vaccinations, he still supports the discharge of employees who object on principle against registering their vaccination status. Oh the hypocrisy. Forcing one to reveal personal information is seen as a liberal ideology the sheriff might even call “woke” had it not been his idea.

For clarity, Villanueva’s message is an obvious warning to his employees. I won’t violate your right to make private decisions about your own health, but you still have to give me private information about your vaccination status. And if you aren’t vaccinated, my list of unvaccinated will be available to the Board of Supervisors and they’ll fire you. But hey, that’s not my fault. So roll those dice and so much for your sovereign rights.

Where does this go? As time goes on, will employees be forced to register their booster shots too?

“I have to follow my conscience”

Villanueva said he has to “follow his conscience”. As we have told you all along, the incumbent is an admitted lifelong liberal who said cash bail is racist (just like D.A. Gascon). He tried to shut down gun stores during the pandemic and said calling 911 is all the public needs to do if threatened, but now he is fast-tracking concealed carry permits.

He still refuses to release known felons to ICE and would rather release them back into the community but you never hear him talk about that on FOX News, do you? And with historic levels of violent crime and citizens afraid for their safety, he said “buying guns is a bad idea”. Sure, it’s a bad idea to a Democrat voter, but issuing concealed carry permits is a good idea, umm, if you are a Republican voter. Did we mention this is an election year?

But wait. There’s more.

Before his shift to the right, he voluntarily referred a deputy-involved shooting case to the FBI without knowing all the facts. Would the new and improved conservative Alex do that? Villanueva also ran on the premise that “deputy gangs” existed in the department but today refuses to testify on the subject and recently sent a demand letter to the Board, ordering them to stop using the term “deputy gangs”. Who is Alex Villanueva anyway?

Conservatives (and police unions) might wanna pay attention and shut their wallets. Democrats were already betrayed by him. Don’t waste your vote or your contribution.

Well, this is a little embarrassing

Today, it’s the turn of Republican voters to be fooled (or not) by Villanueva. But listen up you right-wingers. The sheriff’s compass is broken. Villanueva’s only tactic for survival is to fool you this time into a nearsighted image of him that will result in cash donations. To date, he has raised over a million dollars for his campaign, but something is missing from his website. Where is your list of endorsements Alex?

There are no endorsements listed on his campaign site and ya know why? Because he’s embarrassed by his conservative support. It must be like kryptonite to Superman.

A true conservative boasts his support, he doesn’t hide that light under a bushel. A conservative doesn’t split the baby and stand up for your right to be unvaccinated but in the back office, threatens to fire anyone who doesn’t register their vaccination status. A true conservative doesn’t support your Second Amendment Right and orders the closing of gun stores during a crime wave. A true conservative doesn’t blame high crime on the Board of Supervisors and “woke” politics and then refuses to turn over wanted felons to ICE. A conservative doesn’t say cash bail is racist and he registers as a Republican.

They abandoned ship, sir

So instead of telling the public who his cheerleaders are like every other candidate does, he instead boasts his fundraising cash boom to influence voters without telling them where the money came from. In his first go-round, Villanueva proudly boasted the support of liberal unions, liberal politicians, liberal immigrant rights groups, liberal this, liberal that. Where are they now? Gone! Gone with the whiskey in evidence.

Destined to fail

This is not a question of right and wrong, left or right. Our country is divided enough and diversity is a strength, not something to be vilified and divided. The point is to identify the danger of another four years to both Democrats and Republicans.

If Villanueva is reelected with conservative money in a county where 75 percent votes blue, he can’t possibly lead his department to prosperity. He is despised by the majority establishment that helped put him in power and the conservative minority has such a small political voice, they lack county-wide influence. Villanueva’s hail Mary is to win with conservative money or die trying.

Making sense of it all

So are we making the case that liberals in LA County should change their minds about Villanueva? Absolutely not nor are we saying he has a place with conservative voters. We submit to you that Villanueva’s record and behavior indicate a very ungrounded individual who is weak in character and totally lacking in leadership. He is a man without a county.

What we need is a sheriff that will have the respect and following of all his constituents and from the members of his department. What we don’t need is a sheriff who switches course in his own self-interest because the wind changed direction. What we need is a sheriff who is respected by both sides and doesn’t play identity politics. Speaking of identity politics, we haven’t forgotten about you, Cecil.

Final thought

You don’t have to like someone to respect them but without respect, there is little initiative to compromise or collaborate. Villanueva is like an arrogant neighbor who lets his dog dig up your front yard and then calls the HOA to complain your grass is dead.

Board of Supervisors order study in effort to assume control of Sheriff’s Department Personnel Division

Gathering lawsuits, credible accusations of cheating on exams, favoritism and Sheriff Villanueva’s handling of ex-deputy’s reinstatement cited as reasons behind effort to to strip away department’s ability to hire and promote their own personnel.  

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors could soon assume control of the Sheriff’s department Personnel Administration Division, removing Villanueva’s independence to hire and promote within the organization.  Sheriff’s Department employees close to the subject report the Board of Supervisors has enlisted the County Department of Human Resources to conduct a study that could determine the feasibility of the idea and develop a path forward. 

This is not the first time the Board has sought to strip Sheriff Villanueva of his duties.  In March of 2020, the Board removed Villanueva as chief of County Emergency Operations over concerns of mismanagement and in January the following year, the Board considered amending the county charter as a way to remove Sheriff Villanueva from office.  Although the Board did not take action to remove Villanueva, there was no misunderstanding about the lengths they might go to neuter his power.

As Villanueva approaches the end of his first term, a look in the rearview mirror provides a greater understanding. We recently told you about a new lawsuit alleging the sheriff and his wife Vivian Villanueva colluded to derail the career of Sheriff’s Academy Drill Instructor, Deputy Lina Pimentel.  In that lawsuit, Pimentel alleges she suffered retaliation after recruit Natalie Garcia was disqualified twice for failing to meet the state’s standard for physical training.  As it turned out, Garcia was a close friend of Vivian Villanueva.  In that lawsuit, Pimentel alleges Vivian Villanueva appeared at the training academy, angrily berated Pimentel in front of colleagues and called Pimentel a “c—“.  Vivian Villanueva was said to be so irate that she made veiled threats of violence against Deputy Pimentel for disqualifying her friend, Recruit Garcia.

If the allegations are proven, it will be no surprise since Vivian Villanueva has a reputation for a legendary temper and controlling personality that often affects policy decisions made by the sheriff.  In a previous post titled Who is Vivian Villanueva?, we attached an audio clip of Vivian that says it all. 

Then in January of this year, a lawsuit was filed by Deputy Rosa Gonzalez against Sheriff Villanueva and the commanding officer of Personnel Administration Bureau, Captain Yvonne O’brien.  In that lawsuit Gonzalez says that another employee admitted to receiving the questions and answers to a promotional exam from O’brien and that O’brien orchestrated the falsification of time records to make it appear as if the employee was on duty when in fact they were not.

The lawsuit states that Sheriff Villanueva was aware of and condoned this scheme, all to help a favored employee. Deputy Gonzalez says she suffered swift retaliation for exposing what is a criminal act under state law. 

The Mother of All

But perhaps the most glaring concern for Sheriff Villanueva’s mismanagement of personnel decisions was his rehiring of disgraced deputy Caren Mandoyan. Mandoyan had been fired for domestic violence by previous Sheriff Jim McDonnell and lost all appeals.  Mandoyan, who at the time of his firing was an enthusiastic supporter of candidate for sheriff Bob Lindsey, quickly switched to Team Villanueva after Lindsey’s primary defeat.  Soon after a runoff was declared between Villanueva and incumbent Jim McDonnell, Mandoyan pursued to endear himself to candidate Alex Villanueva. 

Mandoyan’s support for Villanueva was far more than superficial.  Mandoyan cozied himself to such an extent that he replaced one of Villanueva’s most trusted inner-circle campaign team members, elevating himself as Villanueva’s personal driver and body guard for the remainder of his campaign.  In return for Mandoyan’s loyalty, Villanueva promised to rehire him after the election, and that promise was kept. 

Against the advice of Villanueva’s transition team who warned him that such a rush to rehire Mandoyan was a mistake and a political minefield, the new sheriff ordered Personnel Administration Bureau to expedite Mandoyan’s reinstatement in time for the swearing in ceremony. The appearance of Mandoyan standing on stage next to the sheriff was meant as a message to McDonnell and sparked the predicted firestorm.

Caren Mandoyan at swearing in with Sheriff as he is pinned by wife Vivian

However, Mandoyan’s new lease on life was short lived and a preliminary ruling denied his reinstatement.

So with the full and complete support of Sheriff Villanueva and his wife Vivian, Mandoyan fought the case into superior court but eventually lost again.  Meanwhile, the case had become a festering blister on the backside of the Board who used the case as a test to determine the limits of a sitting sheriff to hire and fire who he chooses. 

The Mandoyan case and Sheriff Villanueva’s will to defy all common sense reasoning led to the destruction of relationship between Villanueva and his own County Council, the Board of Supervisors, nearly every oversight entity, and undermined the support of Inspector General, Max Huntsman.    

In fact for a time after it was decided that Sheriff Villanueva overstepped his authority to rehire Mandoyan, Villanueva defiantly allowed Mandoyan to work for him even without pay.

It will be interesting to see if the rank in file choose to support Villanueva who portrayed himself as the anti-corruption candidate.  These lawsuits do not appear lacking in merit or evidence. As department members, one must cringe at the similarities between the organization under Villanueva and the pay-to-play under Tanaka. 

What does a sheriff ‘s department even look like without the ability to manage its own personnel? Probably not very good. Perhaps none of this will happen if Sheriff Villanueva is missing from the department landscape going forward.

Just as a judge instructs a jury; if a witness was found to have lied about part of his testimony, you may disregard everything else he said under oath.  The county deserves a better leader than Sheriff Villanueva and wife Vivian.

       

Discipline imposed upon deputies is up 22 percent as Sheriff Villanueva risks key union support. Meanwhile, deputies are waiting for him to keep the first promise he made.

Villanueva’s million dollar pitch

As Sheriff Villanueva frames himself as a “fair” disciplinarian to deputy unions, his track record undermines that claim.  In the balance is another 1M dollar union endorsement deal. 

With his campaign in full swing, Sheriff Villanueva is again trying to intoxicate deputies into supporting him. As the evidence will show, Villanueva has not only been unfaithful to his current campaign promises, he also dashed the hopes of deputies who say they were illegally fired under Sheriff McDonnell.

Today’s headlines

Villanueva has suspended, fired or otherwise disciplined 22 percent more deputies than he did, last year to date.  That number should be a huge concern for members of the department and for the public because it means one of two things are to blame.  First, the increase in internal affairs investigations could be due to a significant increase in employee misconduct.  Analogous to crime in the streets, only a fraction of evildoers are ever caught and the same would go for the prevalence of police misconduct, a frightening prospect for the citizens of Los Angeles County.  If that is the case as his detractors believe, Villanueva has lost control of his department and has a grave, multi-level systemic problem on his hands.  Or second, Villanueva has placed frivolous investigations on the backs of his deputies in an attempt to lure the return of at least some of the woke liberal support that put him in office. 

So which is it?  To his employees each explanation is just as unpleasant as the other.  But when faced with a dilemma and a set of unknowns, the answer always lies in history and Villanueva’s track record makes the second explanation the most likely reason. 

Setting the stage

On January 26, 2022 the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) will be holding a candidates forum in the City of Industry.  Up for grabs is the coveted ALADS endorsement that is likely worth a cool one-million dollars to the anointed.  During his first run for sheriff against incumbent Jim McDonnell, ALADS endorsed Alex Villanueva with an eye popping seven figure endorsement package.  Because Villanueva was a rookie operating on a shoestring budget, ALADS consumed the campaign and hired a nationally recognized election firm for the win.  With competent campaign management and endless cash, Villanueva handily defeated McDonnell in one of the most unlikely political upsets in history. 

But why did ALADS endorse the dark horse against a powerful and well funded incumbent?  There was just one main reason.  Alex Villanueva promised to reverse the overly harsh and often times allegedly illegal discipline imposed under Jim McDonnell.

Key to his courtship of ALADS, Candidate Alex Villanueva promised he would form a Truth and Reconciliation Unit for the sole purpose of reversing cases of overly harsh discipline.  Villanueva not only promised to review allegations of illegal firings, but went one step further. He vowing to charge Internal Affairs Bureau investigators with actual crimes if proof was sufficient that any of them fabricated evidence, lied on official county documents or grossly misrepresented facts. Villanueva even promised to investigate Diana Teran, McDonnell’s Constitutional Policing Advisor who was despised by ALADS as a “meddler” in cases of deputy misconduct. 

So what happened to those promises?  Absolutely nothing.  Instead of turning words into action, all Sheriff Villanueva did to impress ALADS was to fire Teran and order the closure of unit-level investigations.  By policy, unit-level investigations are reserved for the most minor infractions of department policy. 

What about those who were unjustly fired?

At the conclusion of this article are several excerpts from communications sent to Sheriff Villanueva. Every case involves a deputy who was fired as a result of unethical and illegal investigatory tactics. No action was ever taken by the sheriff.

During his runup to solidifying credibility with ALADS, Villanueva promised a standard by which the most egregious allegations of misconduct by Internal Affairs Bureau personnel could be submitted for expedited review.  These were the worst of the worst wrongs Villanueva had vowed to rectify and that promise is what earned him the endorsement of ALADS and the river of cash that followed.

To the joy of those claiming to have been illegally fired by Sheriff McDonnell, the world was a better place. But Villanueva’s million dollar promise was never kept. Soon after the election win but before Villanueva was even sworn in, optimistic department executives presented dozens of cases to Villanueva for reinvestigation.  But in every instance, Villanueva failed to act. The effort was simply dead on arrival.

New boss, same as the old boss.

Sheriff Villanueva has not only refused to rectify the inequity of unjust internal investigations, he has instead doubled down. Recently, the sheriff raised the eyebrows of the ALADS Board to the point they issued a warning to their members in essence; “Be suspicious of unethical investigative techniques from a newly formed team of internal investigators”.

This newly formed team ALADS was referring to was hand picked by the highest levels of department management and is led by none other than the disgraced Mark Lillienfeld. Lillienfeld as you may recall is a retired homicide detective who was previously caught on video smuggling contraband to an inmate. None of that sounds like the makings of a “fair discipline” process. If it does, members of ALADS would love to hear Sheriff Villanueva explain why on January 26th.

The Process of Disciplinary Action

Before reading excerpts that follow, it is necessary to understand a few terms and the disciplinary review process.  In a nutshell:

1- A potential incident of employee misconduct is identified and the preliminary facts are sent to the Division Chief for review.  The facts of the case determine whether or not the allegations are investigated at the unit level (for minor infractions) or by the Internal Affairs Bureau (for major offenses that could result in 16-30 days suspension or discharge).

2- If the allegations are “founded” by the investigation, the case is reviewed by the employees’ unit Captain who determines the appropriate discipline.  Those recommendations are then passed back to the Division Chief via the chain of command for approval. 

3- If the recommended discipline is severe, the facts of the case are formally presented by the investigating officer to a panel of department executives, headed by the Undersheriff.  This process known as “Case Review” determines the fate of the employee.  

4- If discipline is recommended, the employee is served with a notice of discipline and has appellate rights under the department’s Memorandum of Understanding and the California Peace Officer’s Bill of Rights.  If those appeals are denied, the case can be heard by a Civil Service Hearing Officer months or even years later. 

The problem with this process is, it is rife with allegations of favoritism, personal conflicts and unaddressed allegations of unethical investigatory practices.  To make matters worse, department executives normally (always) decide the case after reading just a short synopsis of the findings which are often spun by subjective interpretations.  Executives rarely examine the case evidence or read transcripts of testimony.

If a department executive (or the sheriff’s wife) doesn’t like you for personal reasons and you fall under an administrative investigation, you have an automatic and built in disadvantage. Absolutely nothing is independently fair about that process. What has the sheriff done about it? Nothing.

On to the evidence (names redacted)

The following are excerpts (in italics) from memorandums that were provided to the sheriff with his promise the cases would be reopened. This is just a sample from many he was informed of.

Where was the return on ALADS’ million dollar investment? Be prepared for the usual excuses. The sheriff will say it’s not his fault, that he was derailed after trying to rehire Caren Mandoyan. The problem is, the house of cards the sheriff built trying to get his head cheerleader reinstated fell long after these cases were still alive and actionable. One source told us that he (Villanueva) “just didn’t care about them.”

Some of these are difficult to fathom. We only hope that the deputies who were fired might recognize these cases as their own and redeem themselves to friends and family.

Case: Exculpatory evidence was ignored that could have exonerated the subject of certain charges. Further, the subject’s rights were violated when the captain of Internal Affairs Bureau decided to add evidence to the case in the form of his own ‘witness’ statement, after the case was reviewed by department executives. This is akin to providing evidence to a jury that was never presented at trial, but used to convict.

This analysis concluded that department decision makers negligently or intentionally ignored exculpatory evidence provided by their own expert witness; and possibly violated the Subject’s Peace Officer Bill of Rights at the direction of Captain John R. who introduced evidence and allegations after the case was closed. …Captain R’ statement was audio recorded on April 22, 2016 which is the same day the Subject was served with her letter of intent to discharge (IAB Case File, Letter of Intent).  Research indicated that Case Review was held prior to Captain R’ interview which confirms the investigation was closed and then retroactively modified with the new information.

Case: An employee was fired based on Civil Service testimony by a division chief who allegedly lied under oath. The chief testified he attempted to interview department witnesses that the subject claimed could exonerate him of the charges. The chief claimed he contacted these witnesses but they refused to cooperate. The chief could not provide any evidence of his effort to contact the employees. Those department witnesses were later called to testify and stated under oath that they were never contacted by anyone from the department regarding the case and that by policy, they would have been compelled to provide a witness statement. The evidence and allegation of perjury by the chief was provided to the sheriff by the employees’ attorney. Although it appears the chief lied under oath, nothing was done by Villanueva to rehire the employee.

This analysis revealed prima facia evidence that Chief Joseph G. committed perjury when he testified at Civil Service that he attempted to interview exculpatory witnesses, but in actuality did not.  See attached document, Allegation of Perjury, authored by Attorney for subject. 

I also recommend an audit of Chief G. activity as chief to determine if there is evidence that may reveal a pattern of practice of lying, false testimony or entering false records involving disciplinary or other matters.

Case: A deputy was fired for making false statements during an investigation because his statements conflicted with the statements of an Orange PD police officer who arrested the deputy for DUI. The officer was found herself to have lied to Internal Affairs Bureau about facts in the case, but her dishonesty was not mitigating in the decision to fire our deputy.

…the issue of dishonesty lays with the arresting Orange PD officer who clearly lied to Sheriff’s Department investigators in her statement …

Case: A deputy who is a combat veteran was fired for being allegedly uncooperative with arresting officers from the Bureau of Land Management after he became drunk during an off-road racing event. The BLM officers determined from their personal experience as fellow veterans that the deputy was exhibiting symptoms of PTSD and was suffering flashbacks. A civilian witness who made generally disparaging remarks concerning law enforcement was interviewed and stated the deputy was verbally abusive to the BLM officers, an allegation the BLM officers denied. Despite an audio recording of the entire incident that refuted the civilian witness’ claim of abusive behavior by the subject deputy, the department used the witness’ statement anyway as a basis to fire the subject.

BLM Officer witness: “He, he would, basically go off on tangents and just running his mouth and say, ‘You know how many mother-fuckers I’ve killed today? Do you know what I’ve been doing?’  And I am prior military myself and so was the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s sergeant and it was very easy for me to see that Deputy S. was, apparently, having some sort of mental duress and probably more correctly titled as PTSD.  The environment around the King of the Hammer event was windy at the time, brown-out conditions”.  Witness R. continued by drawing a comparison between the conditions of the desert in Iraq during war and similar sounds at the King of the Hammer event, specifically referring to the sound of diesel engines, loud noises, smoke and wind.    

Case: A deputy was fired for violating county policy and for lying during an investigation regarding his understanding of that policy. However, the investigation revealed the policy in question had been recently updated and conflicted with various other department orders on the subject. Internal Affairs Bureau investigators interviewed a department “expert” from Training Bureau who corroborated the subject’s statement. The expert also confirmed there were two competing policies and that the subject was in fact following the obsolete policy in good faith. There was no evidence that the subject was trained in or informed of the new policy. Disturbing was the revelation that no mention of this exculpatory witness was included in the case summary to department executives. The employee was fired.

These charges were overwhelmingly refuted by the department’s own expert witness and department inspector, Deputy T.  Deputy T. conducted annual command inspections for Risk Management Bureau and testified that Traffic Services Detail abided by their own set of standards prior to 2015 and did not adhere to FOD 11-01.   As a result, the testimony of Witness Deputy T. destroyed the department’s case and should have been used to exonerate the subject of most charges. 

Troubling, this analysis determined there was an effort, by malpractice or by neglect to conceal the exculpatory evidence provided by Witness Deputy T. and that this contributed to the discharge of the subject.    

Sheriff Villanueva says he’s “On Your Side”. Evidence suggests the opposite.

Sayitaintso Sheriff Villanueva. Sayitaintso.

Vivian Villanueva for sheriff!

Well, not really. But it seems again that the sheriff’s wife is in charge again.  If the allegations in this lawsuit are founded, it will be another in a long list of reasons why Sheriff Alex Villanueva is unfit to be sheriff. 

We were the first to go public in Who is Vivian Villanueva , a detailed story about Vivian’s legendary temper tantrums, her obsessive influence on department policy and how she steers official decisions made by husband Sheriff Alex Villanueva. 

In that story we provided an audio recording of Vivian in what can only be described as very consistent with what has been alleged in the lawsuit.  It’s another very embarrassing day in the history of the LASD.

Do not give Alex Villanueva and his wife Vivian, another four years in office.

Who is Cecil Rhambo?

Part one: The LASD version of Cecil Rhambo that everyone knew:

Coverups, questionable shootings, ‘deputy gangs’ and his best friend, Viking Paul Tanaka.

‘Candidate’ Rhambo is unrecognizable to the thousands who served along side and under his command at the LASD. His campaign makeover borders on fraud.

In what appears to be the most impressive case of transformation ever, the campaign promises of Cecil Rhambo have sent shockwaves through members of the LASD. Insiders who visited Rhambo’s campaign website say the “new” Cecil Rhambo is a baffling and unrecognizable transformation from the Rhambo they used to know.  Once regarded as “one of the fellas” former friends and subordinates are left speechless, only shaking their head in disbelief at what can only be described as blatantly pandering hypocrisy.

To say Cecil Rhambo had a devoted following during his ascent to assistant sheriff on the LASD would be an understatement.  He was said to be a cops cop with a bright future.  While a lieutenant, Rhambo endorsed very aggressive county-wide policing styles and as Captain he is said to have been one of the deputies’ more favored commanders of the Compton Sheriff’s Station.  Then at the rank of division chief who oversaw a group of patrol stations boasting the highest number of deputy involved shootings, he routinely gave the benefit of the doubt to deputies who ‘mistakenly’ shot unarmed suspects. In fact as a division chief,  Rhambo preferred to deal with “bad shootings” as simple training issues. 

Friends say Rhambo rarely used his biracial ancestry as an excuse or a reason for advantage. He was a smooth and likable guy who would rather talk about a good cigar and his custom suits than department related business. Deputy unions and lawyers charged with appealing harsh discipline for a variety of duty-related misconduct liked to deal with Rhambo for his propensity to overturn the department’s disciplinary guidelines. Rhambo was seen as a genuine deputy who climbed the ranks and despite negligently shooting two of his own partners in the line of duty on two different occasions, Cecil Rhambo enjoyed a solid following from the rank in file.

Don’t misunderstand, strong leadership and appropriate support of subordinates is a very good thing.  But when you were at the highest ranks of the worlds largest sheriff’s department for years, and then run a campaign that blames decades of poor leadership for today’s problems like you had nothing to do with it, that’s where the wheels come flying off.

Soon after Cecil Rhambo announced his candidacy for sheriff, those who knew him for decades were struck nauseous by his drastic flip to reinvented policing philosophies obviously shaped to appeal to the “defund the police” mentality in a post George Floyd world.  Rhambo’s videos and campaign statements  went viral among department members both present and past. Members of a closed Facebook group that lists over 2500 department employees were not shy about exposing the truth.

Take special note that Rhambo’s associations with Paul Tanaka and Bernice Abrams are mentioned repeatedly. You will see these names again in future articles.

The legacy which Assistant Sheriff Cecil Rhambo left behind is not a record he can run on.  It’s okay though. The Candidate version of Cecil Rhambo says he will fix all this.

During his time as Captain of Compton Sheriff’s Station, Rhambo led from the front and his deputies had few complaints. But today, Compton Sheriff’s Station is rife with allegations of deputy gangs and allegations of murder. The alleged deputy gang called the Executioners existed under Rhambo’s command and he knew it while he was in charge.  What did he do about it?  Nothing. 

When he was promoted to Division Chief on the recommendation of his best friend Paul Tanaka, Chief Rhambo oversaw patrol stations in Compton, Lennox, Century, Carson, East LA, West Hollywood and Cerritos.  All of these stations have their own allegations of “deputy gangs” among their ranks.  Lennox  Station, (now South LA Station) are known for their “Grim Reapers”, Century Sheriff’s Station has not one but two “deputy gangs” who reportedly fight with one another.  One is called the Regulators and the other the Spartans.  And East Los Angeles Station, said to have had deputy gangs for generations, is known as the home of the notorious Banditos.  As Assistant Sheriff in charge of Custody Division, Rhambo knew about the ‘2000 Boys’ and the ‘3000 Boys’ both alleged deputy gangs who were accused of terrorizing inmates at the Men’s Central Jail.  The scandal regarding abuse by the 2000 and 3000 Boys resulted in an FBI investigation that led to the imprisonment of Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and a dozen deputies and supervisors.

Yet the new and improved version of Candidate for Sheriff Cecil Rhambo wants us all to believe he stood up to corruption and testified against his friend Paul Tanaka in that FBI investigation.

As the Assistant Sheriff in charge of Custody Division, the buck stopped with Rhambo, not Paul Tanaka.  Anyone with an ounce of sense knows that the FBI and the Department of Justice had to have investigated Rhambo along with Paul Tanaka.  So how did Rhambo escape prosecution?  Could it be he decided to testify in lieu of prosecution? 

Think about it.  How does the person in charge of the world’s largest jail escape prosecution for a pattern of ongoing inmate abuse?  He agrees to cooperate with the FBI of course.  So when Cecil Rhambo tells us he fought corruption and points to the fact he testified against Paul Tanaka, you need to ask yourself a serious question that goes to Rhambo’s motive. 

There’s an old saying that there is no honor among thieves.  There’s also no honor among corrupt cops either.

We will be exploring the record of Cecil Rhambo much more in soon to be released posts. Whether you agree with his campaign promises or not isn’t the point. Similar to the problem of Alex Villanueva’s own stunning political makeover, the serious matter in front of voters is deciding Rhambo’s true identity. There is a better choice than these two.

Let the defunding begin… We told you so.

Board of Supervisors Cut Department Funding, freeze hiring.  Villanueva blamed for not managing overtime.

We predicted this would happen. And despite the expected collateral damage to public safety and to department employees, the effort by the Board to eliminate Sheriff Villanueva has begun.

In our previous post, we foretold how the Board of Supervisors would move to eliminate Sheriff Villanueva and so far we are spot on. Although earlier than expected, the Board has acted by imposing a hiring freeze on Villanueva. At a time when Villanueva admits his department is hemorrhaging and crime is on the rise, the Board has acted to further suffocate Villanueva.

In an article from the Press Telegram, Supervisor Kuehl justified the cuts to Villanueva’s budget affirming that other county agencies have worked hard to “live within their budgets,” but the Sheriff’s Department has remained under continued scrutiny years after repeatedly overspending millions of dollars on overtime pay. And in order to fund the sheriff’s department, money would have to be redirected from other areas.

We predicted the Board would make defunding the department appear as unavoidable and not tied to an act of retaliation. We predicted there would be cuts in overtime and hiring freezes. And we predicted Villanueva would blame everyone but himself for the predicament his incompetence and elite arrogance has created.

So it begins. As Sheriff Villanueva continues to push his train forward at higher and higher speeds, the hand that feeds him knows there’s a sharp curve on the rails ahead. The train should arrive right around November 2022.