Councilmember D’Amico also had another question: What is the safest LASD jurisdiction? If not WeHo, why do you think it’s safer?
The safest one would probably have to be Santa Clarita . They made third safest city in America in one of those national surveys of safe cities. It’s a mixture of a variety of things. One is a support for local law enforcement. West Hollywood traditionally has been very supportive of the Sheriff’s Department. I mean, since West Hollywood became a city, we’ve been your law enforcement agency. And so that’s been a very good working relationship. I think just recently, the whole thing about this anti-law enforcement sentiment becoming popular in political circles as in a political agenda, that’s frayed some of those relationships. Could West Hollywood compete and be as safe as Santa Clarita? I think so. I think it’s very possible — but one is more, rural spread out. West Hollywood is very condensed and more vertical — huge tourist destination with a huge nighttime population that doesn’t mirror the daytime population. It’s different challenges — kind of like apples and oranges.
Note: All five City Councilmembers were asked two days before the interview if they would like to submit any questions for Sheriff Villanueva. Lindsey Horvath and Sepi Shyne, who led the effort to reduce the Sheriff’s budget in West Hollywood, did not respond. John Erickson said he had no questions.
Is West Hollywood the only city that is scaling back its approach to the sheriff in defunding or is this a beginning? Or is it a contagion?
The only one that is trying to do that, yes, is West Hollywood. It’s the only city that’s trying to do that. I have other cities that are actually trying to increase their sheriff’s presence. I’ll cite one, for example, is Norwalk. I have other cities that are trying to explore the same thing. We just don’t have the personnel now to be able to increase.
Is there any way to explain the increase in cost in overtime: 50% over ten years?
All of our contracts are audited on a regular basis and we have to be within 98% or 102% of the cost of each contract. If we go under the 98% we have to refund money because we didn’t meet the contractual goals; if we go over then obviously provided more service than the city paid for. We’ve got to keep it at the 100% mark and provide every city exactly what it contracted for. Now that’s not been easy because of 1) the defunding and 2) the hiring freeze has left all of our patrol stations at about 70% capacity. So we’re missing 30% of personnel. So the overtime costs have gone through the roof because now deputies have to work to cover the 30% that aren’t there.
Let’s talk about the homeless. I think everybody knows it puts a tremendous burden on the Sheriff. Where does the Board of Supervisors come into that problem? Bob Hertzberg explained there was an audit — like a billion dollars unspent in the homeless fund, of the taxes we collected. Is there mismanagement there?
There’s a lack of political will. It’s a cardinal sin of the Board of Supervisors, the Mayor and LA City Council. Because of that lack of political will, they’re not constructing emergency shelter capacity, they’re not building permanent residential treatment capacity for those who suffer from mental illness and substance abuse. Those three things have to happen 10 years ago and they’re not happening at all. Everybody’s just twiddling their thumbs, as the problem gets bigger and bigger and bigger. We cannot be the magnet of the homeless population for the entire nation. And we are right now.
We are the magnet of the homeless population for the entire nation?
We are ground zero. A full 25% of the entire nation’s homeless population lives in LA County. And that is horrible. And the effects of that to our economy, to the ability of our own — because we generate homeless within our own county who are homegrown. But every person who shows up from Iowa here means there’s less resources for our L.A. County residents and that is a big problem. But the Board doesn’t seem to really care about that. They pretend like we’re going to build our way out of the problem and that’s a fallacy.
The Board of Supervisors voted three to two to try to remove you from office. And get more control over the Sheriff. We have elections?
That’s what elections are for.
Is that an overreach? A power grab?
A massive power grab. To a scale no one has ever seen before.
If it happened in Texas or any other state, they’d go crazy.
It would still be a power grab. In fact in some places they would probably be marching on Hall of Administration to burn it down. Because there’s some things that people respect and that is one. The office of sheriff is an elected position that is steeped in American history and it’s supposed to be independent. I’m not a chief of police serving at the whim of the board. That’s what they want. And the community doesn’t want that.
Because remember, the board is the executive and the legislative branch of county government — they have no oversight. The only thing that is someone comparable in weight, to counter, is the sheriff and the DA. And they’re trying to kill the sheriff.
In a way, would you say that’s like Trump trying to take control of the Department of Justice on the federal level? We complain about that, but here we are Democrats doing the same thing.
Pretty much it would be somewhat similar to that yes.
Do you endorse anybody in the Supervisor race or other races?
Well there are people that I want to see win and people that I don’t care to see win, but I’m not going to endorse anybody who hasn’t reached out and asked for my endorsement.
Are you familiar with the news that when they voted to replace the sheriff and increase the Block by Block security ambassadors for West Hollywood, that the operations manager Shea Gibson previously served time — 8+ years for manslaughter.
How do you feel when you feel when they take away the work of your life — a guy who worked his way up the ladde — and they’re gonna fire that guy to replace him with this other type of guy from this organization that has none of these skill sets.
Well, they’re trying to sell that as “We’re enhancing public safety. We’re improving it.” Look now we’ve got 30 of these ambassadors, and that’s 30 people that are not going to do anything when crime is afoot. All they can do is pick up the phone like anybody else. So the city is forcing the residents to pay for less law enforcement services under the guise of somehow they’re enhancing Public safety. They’re not. They’re actually dismantling public safety.
And it’s ideological. They believe that cops are harmful, that less cops are better and that’s why they want these unarmed ambassadors. They’ve been an absolute failure Santa Monica. The concept that they’re working on in the MTA system is is very similar and it’s just as failed.