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.
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.