Congratulations on your win in the primary and the showdown with the sheriff is just around the corner. But first, let’s introduce you to the West Hollywood voter. Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Hi Larry. Thank you for reaching out to chat with me. I’m looking forward to sharing more information about myself and my campaign for LA County Sheriff with you and with the voters of West Hollywood. I was born in an unincorporated area of East Los Angeles and grew up poor to an immigrant Latino family, which shaped my view on relationship-based policing in under-served communities of color. My upbringing reminds me every day of the most vulnerable that I serve in our community.
Where do you live currently and can you share a bit about your family?
Of course, I’m always happy to talk about my family. I live in Long Beach. My wife and I raised our two children in Cerritos and in Long Beach. Our daughter, Cesie, is an attorney who focuses on entertainment law and our son, Asher, attended UC San Diego and aspires to enter into public service. My wife, Celines, is retired from the FBI where she worked as an analyst. Celines is an animal lover and has fostered over 40 dogs since retiring.
How did you get into law enforcement?
As a kid growing up in unincorporated East LA, I became interested in law enforcement at an early age. No one else in my neighborhood felt the same way, and when we played cops and robbers, I was the only one who would want to be a cop.
As I grew up, I began to think critically about law enforcement because I saw examples of both good and bad policing in my community. I found my nose on the hood of a cop car more than once. I was interested in becoming a police officer to serve my community.
Were you around during the Rodney King riots?
I vividly remember watching the video of the beating of Rodney King. At the time I was a police officer in Long Beach. I was a narcotics detective at that time and was also on the Long Beach PD SWAT Team. As a police officer I was horrified to witness the force used against Rodney King. Although I understood the anger at the police officers who beat Rodney King, I could not condone the looting and the arson that occurred afterwards.
During the riots, I worked double shifts without any days off for about a month. Unfortunately, many people lost their lives, and there was significant damage to properties and our local economy. It was a sad time for everyone.
Where were you during the George Floyd protests?
The murder of George Floyd was tragic and unnecessary. It never should have happened.
I was the Long Beach Police Chief during the George Floyd protests. Before the protests in Long Beach, our leadership team was preparing for the possibility of civil unrest. I was on the phone with police chiefs from across the country and in internal meetings planning and preparing to facilitate people’s first amendment rights while also doing our best to keep peoples’ lives and property safe.
We also put ourselves in a position to assist other police departments if they asked for our mutual aid. On the day of civil unrest in Long Beach, we ended up asking for mutual aid and received help from the Seal Beach Police Department, Los Angeles Port Police, Ventura County Sheriffs, and the National Guard, along with other law enforcement agencies.
I’d like to ask you the same questions that Mayor Lauren Meister posed to Sheriff Villanueva- If you were to get elected what could be done to lower liability costs to cities such as West Hollywood?
The key to lowering liability costs for cities like West Hollywood is to ensure that the Department and our deputies our performing their jobs ethically and complying with training and accountability practices. These policies and practices are in place to mitigate risk and liability while protecting the public.
We must ensure that our policies and practices continue to evolve and are reevaluated based on national best practices and realistic situations that occur in the field. This includes having modern technology like early warning systems and body worn cameras. We will not only hold deputies, but their supervisors and managers accountable for unacceptable behavior.
At the end of the day, contract cities are customers of the Sheriff’s Department. To meet the expectations of contract cities, the Sheriff’s Department will communicate with policy makers to ensure that the Department is meeting their needs.
Lauren’s other question was how can we establish more productive partnerships with the County Supervisor and Sheriff?
As Sheriff, I will listen and ensure that there are clear and transparent means of communication between our contract cities and the Sheriff’s Department. It is crucial that the Sheriff’s Department understands contract cities’ needs and expectations. We will work together to make sure that all public safety priorities are met including accountability, transparency, the budget, and personnel.
I will also rebuild the relationship between the Sheriff’s department and the Board of Supervisors and other elected and appointed officials. I believe law enforcement agencies must form partnerships to be effective.
Tell us about your service as the Long Beach Police Chief.
When I joined the Long Beach Police Department at the age of 18, I never thought I would become the City’s first Latino Police Chief. I have worked in law enforcement for 36 years, and have been promoted through every rank of the Long Beach Police Department. For the past 20 years, I served in executive level positions including Chief of Staff to the Chief of Police, Deputy Chief, acting Chief of Police, and Police Chief. In 2014 I was appointed to serve as the Long Beach Police Chief where I managed the second largest police department in Los Angeles County.
I served in an executive role on nation-wide law enforcement committees, including with the Major City Chiefs Association and the Joint Regional Intelligence Center. I also mentored other Police Chiefs from major cities across the country. I integrated the Obama Administration’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing into our goals And objectives in Long Beach. This was successful and during my tenure as Police Chief, the city saw a decrease in both violent crime and property crime.
We did this by investing in long-term solutions to reduce crime, including prevention strategies like community engagement and social services. In Long Beach, I created a program called the Neighborhood Walks in a high-crime neighborhood. In the program, officers were tasked to build relationships and trust within the community, this resulted in a decrease in service calls and a decrease in shootings.
We were also tough on holding habitual offenders accountable for their actions. The LBPD implemented an approach that was smart, surgical, and data-driven to address violent and property crimes. As a result, from 2015-2020 violence crime decreased by 6.5% and property crime decreased by 10%.
Are there any policies you initiated in Long Beach that you would like to see implemented county-wide?
Yes, I look forward to bringing policies that increase public trust and transparency to the Sheriff’s Office. During my tenure as Police Chief, we saw a 50% decrease in officer involved shootings and a 56% decrease in citizens alleging excessive force from 2015-2020. We did this by improving our training to exceed national standards and held the Department accountable to these new standards, implementing an early warning system, enhancing the use of body worn cameras, creating the Office of Constitutional Policing.
While I was Police Chief I also partnered with academic institutions and non-profits and I hope to do the same as Sheriff. While Police Chief in Long Beach, I established a relationship with Georgetown University to implement the Active Bystandership in Law Enforcement (ABLE) program. ABLE teaches law enforcement how to intervene in issues related to use of force and misconduct and how to protect those that come forward. We also entered a MOU with the Center for Police Equity, which is a national organization that looks at police training and management practices to work to address racial inequities. And, under my leadership, the LBPD began a partnership with the LEWIS Registry (now called the Police Misconduct Registry), which is a comprehensive national catalog of law enforcement officers who have been terminated or resigned due to misconduct.
Have you met the current Sheriff Alex Villanueva?
Are there any policies he has implemented that you agree with ?
Local law enforcement should not conduct civil enforcement for ICE on our streets or in our jails.
What policies do you disagree with?
I believe that the current Sheriff has created chaos and dysfunction within the Sheriff’s Department that has put our public safety at risk. Every week there is a new scandal, and now prosecutors have convened a criminal grand jury to investigate a possible coverup of misconduct in the Department, which three Department leaders say involved Villanueva. The Sheriff is currently refusing to comply with a subpoena regarding deputy gangs within the Department. He has diminished public trust in the department, and meanwhile violent crime has increased. I can go on and on about why the current Sheriff is unfit to be in a leadership position and the harm he has done to the Department and the work of law enforcement in the County.
Lot of talk about deputy gangs. Villanueva is barely in office for four years, so what is your perspective? What will you do differently?
First, I will acknowledge that deputy gangs exist, unlike Villanueva.
LASD’s history of deputy gangs is unacceptable. I will rid the Department of deputy gangs and I will change the Department’s culture to prevent gangs from resurfacing in the future.
I will dismiss employees who are found to have ties to a deputy gang, and I will dismiss their supervisors for allowing this type of unacceptable behavior. I will invite and cooperate with outside partners, including the FBI, DOJ, and Civilian Oversight Commission, to conduct thorough investigations and analysis of this issue.
As Sheriff, I will ensure that deputies and employees are performing their jobs effectively, empathetically, and constitutionally within the Department.
The homeless problem is out of control in Los Angeles County. What can you do to solve those problems?
I personally believe that homelessness is the humanitarian crisis of our lifetime. LA County has the largest number of unhoused individuals in the entire country.
Clearly, the status quo is not working.
As Sheriff, I will advocate to create a community-based system of care that includes diversion programs for individuals who need medical services not a jail cell. I will also work with County partners to create multi-disciplinary teams that do outreach to the unhoused population. And, I will make sure that the Sheriff’s Department is a partner to organizations who provide services to the unhoused to make sure that we are working to get people off of the streets and provide them with the services and resources needed to stay off of the streets.
I strongly believe that we can only work to address homelessness if we all partner together and are coordinated in our work. This is why the current Sheriff’s approach is so dangerous and detrimental to our public safety.
And, just as I will work to create accountability and transparency within the Sheriff’s Department, I will advocate for additional accountability and transparency of our partners who receive public resources to address homelessness. We must make sure that the County, LAHSA, and service providers are doing the work that they are being paid to do.
As Police Chief in Long Beach, I partnered with the Long Beach community to understand the complexities of homelessness. Non-profits, academics, legislators, public safety organizations, and community residents came together to come up with creative solutions. As a result, while I was Police Chief, the city of Long Beach’s homeless count either went down or remained flat prior to the pandemic.
Do you agree with the ‘defund’ movement?
No. Law enforcement agencies need sufficient resources to help keep our communities safe.
Are you aware of the West Hollywood City Council decision to increase the unarmed Block by Block ambassadors at the expense of the trained armed sheriffs deputies. Where do you stand on that?
While I oppose defunding the Sheriff’s department, I support adding additional resources and personnel to provide alternative responses instead of law enforcement in certain situations. For example, I support having mental health professionals respond to mental health calls.
Do you know the Command Captain Ed Ramirez, or deputy Lorena Gonzalez, both from West Hollywood who work in Central Command next to Villanueva?
No, I currently don’t know them. But I look forward to getting to know and working with them and all of the members of the LA Sheriff’s Department if I am elected.
IF you are elected do you bring in your own central command or do Ramirez and Gonzalez retain their positions just outside the Sheriff’s main office?
As Sheriff, I will evaluate personnel to make sure that they meet the needs of our communities. I will work with contract cities to determine if they are satisfied with the performance of the services and personnel that the Sheriff’s Department is providing them.
How often do you get to West Hollywood?
I love the city of West Hollywood. As a lifelong LA County resident, I have had the opportunity to enjoy West Hollywood’s rich culture.
What are some of your favorite places?
I am a classic burger guy, and so you can believe that I am a big fan of Astro Burger on Santa Monica.
Anything you would like to say to the voters of West Hollywood?
I am running for Los Angeles County Sheriff to make sure you and your families are safe, restore public trust, modernize the Sheriff’s Department into a 21st century sheriff’s department, address homelessness, and improve deputy and employee wellness.
As the Chief of Police for Long Beach, the 2nd largest municipal police department in Los Angeles County, I am a capable and experienced career law enforcement leader with a proven record in transforming policing policy and culture to build and maintain community trust. In my current role, I accomplished this through the framework of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing established by President Obama.
I look forward to campaigning in West Hollywood and across the County to bring new leadership and accountability to the Sheriff’s Department.