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Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has grabbed headlines for his brash leadership style and most recently for allegedly threatening to investigate an LA Times reporter for writing stories critical of Villanueva’s admiminstration. Villanueva even pulled out a photo of reporter Alene Tchekmedyian during a press conference, but later denied that he had insinuated that Tchekmedyian was the subject of a criminal investigation.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Tchekmedyian may have been targeted for her reporting on a departmental cover-up. The newspaper of record also has criticized Sheriff Villanueva for sending the L.A. County Board of Supervisors a cease-and-desist letter demanding that they not refer to the deputy gangs that plague his department as gangs. He says the term is demeaning to Latino deputies and commanders. He is also considering ending a contract to patrol L.A. Metro unless the agency agrees to give him an exclusive contract.

And as reported by the Los Angeles Magazine, as the June 7 election approaches there are no less than eight people running against Villanueva: Britta Steinbrenner, Karla Carranza, Robert Luna, Eric Strong, April Hood, Matt Rodriguez, Eli Vera and Cecil Rhambo.

CALÓ NEWS hit the streets to interview LA County residents about their views on the upcoming election. Responses have been edited for brevity.


Hilda Pedroza, LA County

Hilda Pedroza for RAZA ON THE STREET. Credit: Mary McFadden / CALÓ NEWS

As a resident are you satisfied with the level of service provided by LASD? 

I am not satisfied because Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he was going to clean house and he hasn’t.  I am not happy with everything that is going on and we need someone new that is going to be a sheriff and take accountability.

What does LASD do well for the Latino community? 

I think they are doing well by getting a lot of Hispanics in the community to work [there].  I do like that there are a lot of Spanish speaking officers.

How could the department better serve the local Latino community?

Just being accountable. I love that the sheriff’s department is taking us into consideration.  However, the department needs more help and resources to deal with mental health calls, which was the issue with my brother.  If the department is not equipped to deal with mental health cases, do not take them.  Some families I have spoken with say some officers are not prepared to handle mental health.

If you were Sheriff for a day, what would be the first thing you do and why? 

Take out the sheriff’s gangs from the stations.  You can’t fire them for their tattoos, but you can hold them responsible for the acts they commit against civilians. There needs to be more awareness of what’s going on in the sheriff’s department.

Beth Cayetano, Lancaster   

Beth Cayetano for RAZA ON THE STREET.

As a resident are you satisfied with the level of service provided by LASD? 

Absolutely not, they are patrolling and racial profiling. They are not doing what the community needs.  They are stopping people who don’t need to be stopped.  We don’t want them, we don’t need them.

What does the department do well for the Latino community? 

I don’t know what to tell you, I have nothing to say.

How could the department better serve the local Latino community?

Immigration is a huge thing, we have a huge ICE detention center out here.  For myself, we need to start talking about how we can provide services and resources for the Latino community.  They are living in fear.

If you were Sheriff for a day, what would be the first thing you do and why? 

Remove School Resource Officers off of school campuses. 

Marcos Alvarez, Palmdale

Marcos Alvarez for RAZA ON THE STREET.

As a resident are you satisfied with the level of service provided by LASD? 

We do need law enforcement.  The question is, how are they spending their money?  Could they improve? Absolutely. They need more engagement, more accountability.

What does the department do well for the Latino community? 

That’s a big question.  There’s many groups out here living in the Antelope Valley, Palmdale and Lancaster.  This area has a big history of pro-law enforcement, pro-military.  There is no simple answer, but there is a lot to improve.

How could the department better serve the local Latino community?

I think when you have a history of people of color being pulled over at a 19% rate higher in this area, compared to other parts of LA county, we must educate the cultural backgrounds. We must match teams that understand the origins of the cultures out here, and in my opinion reduce crime.

If you were Sheriff for a day, what would be the first thing you do and why?

I would look at the history of the past practices of the sheriff’s department.  What I would change is engagement, and engagement with true conversation and to be civically engaged with the neighbors.

Vladimir Gomez, Lake Los Angeles

Vladimir Gomez for RAZA ON THE STREET.

As a resident are you satisfied with the level of service provided by LASD?

I know they need more funding for resources. I come from the rural area of LA. I know we have deputies there, but we don’t have much resources.  It takes about 30 mins to 3 or 4 hours for a call for help. The stations that serve us are in the Palmdale and Lancaster area.  We need more help.  I know funding is needed most, especially other areas that are rural like Lake Los Angeles.

What does the department do well for the Latino community?

I don’t know yet. There is a lot of controversy going on, especially in the Antelope Valley where many activists were speaking up.  There was a huge lawsuit regarding the Section 8 and racial discrimination practices. [ The county vowed to end these practices in 2015 resulting in $700, 000 to be paid by the county to those harmed by the sheriff’s department. ] We need more transparency and accountability.  Also, hire more deputies that speak the language.  

How could the department better serve the local Latino community?

Many are migrants are scared to call the police.  Even those who are here legally are still being threatened. There are crimes still being committed in communities that need to be reported and are scared.  

If you were Sheriff for a day, what would be the first thing you do and why?

Be transparent and show where the money is being spent and where it has been spent in the past.

Xavier Flores, LA County, President of the United League of Latin American Citizens

Xavier Flores for RAZA ON THE STREET.

As a resident are you satisfied with the level of service provided by LASD?

No, absolutely not. We were part of the lawsuit that took place 7 years ago, and the settlement agreement that was a result of the work that we did.  We, Antelope Valley League of Latin American Citizens, provided the Department of Justice with a lot of affidavits that got them here. My tribe is saying, ‘They police us, while the captain protects and serves his.’ That is the way we see it. 

What does the department do well for the Latino community?

Yes, that seems to be a very difficult question.  The activities they are doing, such as Coffee-With-A-Cop, they think they are doing a great job with the Community Advisory Council.  These are two councils led by the Palmdale and Lancaster Sheriff’s departments, with members being within law enforcement. We don’t really see change coming as a result with the CAC.

How could the department better serve the local Latino community?

They can start by getting rid of the CAC. We need an arm of the oversight committee (Civilian Oversight Commission) that’s situated in Los Angeles and oversees the county.  If they can give input that would help a lot.

If you were Sheriff for a day, what would be the first thing you do and why?

I’d throw all those other guys (sheriffs and deputy gangs) in jail.

Abner Diaz, Los Angeles County  

Abner Diaz for RAZA ON THE STREET.

As a resident are you satisfied with the level of service provided by LASD?

That’s a broad question, I am definitely satisfied with Palmdale Sheriff’s Station. I think they are doing a good job trying to connect with the community and engaging. They are a very diverse station and they live out here.  They find ways to connect with the community.  I think there needs to be improvement and training, just like any other job.

What does the Palmdale Department do well for the Latino community? 

I think they are doing well by providing ways to connect with the community. They do much more than just Coffee-With-A-Cop, they are always active in the community, trying to engage with students.  I work with the city of Palmdale, and I work in public safety.  We do neighborhood watch meetings, community and business watch meetings and engagement.  We try to connect with the community as a whole, not just the Latino community.

How could the department better serve the local Latino community?

I think providing more resources, a community center would be great.  We have nothing right now, a Boys & Girls club has gone away from here.  Pouring more resources into the kids, into those areas where kids don’t have father figures or don’t have stability that other kids do.

If you were Sheriff for a day, what would be the first thing you do and why?

I would love to engage with students and talk about what we do.  So that kids won’t be afraid of us.  We are here to serve you. 

Arthur Calloway, LA County, Antelope Valley’s Chair of Black Chamber of Commerce and Founder of Vote Your Power Back

Arthur Calloway for RAZA ON THE STREET.

As a resident are you satisfied with the level of service provided by LASD?

No. There is evidence that comes out every six months from a settlement from a monitoring team that says they over-police Black and Brown people. These are reports that come directly from the sheriff’s department. No, because they perform poorly.

What does the dept do well for the Latino/Black communities? 

I have no idea what they do well for either one of the communities.  Just like I said, there is a report of what they do poorly, but what they do well, I don’t know.  Until we can prove there are no negative impacts to the Black and Brown communities in a disproportionate way, then they still need to step up.

How could the department better serve the local community?

They can serve people better by treating Black and Brown people not in a negative way.  To me, there is no need for training if you can show a demographic that doesn’t get treated in a negative way.  That means that you know how to treat people correctly, you just aren’t doing it for people that are darker.


If you were Sheriff for a day, what would be the first thing you do and why?

I would start a database that tracks all Sheriff’s deputies who use excessive force that should be a violation, put them on that database and then fire them.  However, on the first day, I would destroy the policies that protect sheriff’s deputies  from being accountable. Policies that protect them from killing someone using excessive force, and keeps them from being prosecuted. Those protections need to be ended so they can be held accountable.

Mary McFadden

Mary McFadden is a journalism student at California State University, Dominguez Hills and a freelancer for CALÓ NEWS. Her interests in coverage include education, justice and equity.