Sheriff Villanueva Provides Recap of 2021
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva provided a recap of 2021 during a press conference at the Hall of Justice on Wednesday, January 19, 2022. The Sheriff discussed the topics of crime, jail violence, personnel shortage, accountability, the Public Corruption Unit, accomplishments, homelessness and goals.
In general, violent crime went up, with a two-year increase in homicides by 94% and grand theft auto was up by 59%. Some crime went down due to the pandemic because people were home and businesses were closed.
Jail violence went down steadily for two years, but there was an uptick in 2021 and that was also as a result of the pandemic. Jail population in 2018 was 17,000, it was decompressed to 11,500 to prevent the spread of COVID in the jails, and now it is close to 13,000. The percentage of inmates suffering from diagnosed mental illnesses is up to 36%, and the lack of staffing due to budget cuts, has impacted violence in the jails.
Staffing levels in the department continue to create a challenge in daily operations. Patrol stations are operating at 71%. When deputies are either injured, relieved of duty, light duty, or retire, there is nobody to replace them. Deputies working at the stations have to cover absences and that impacts public safety. Positions continue to be filled in all other Los Angeles County departments, except for the Sheriff’s Department.
The pandemic also affected the total volume of contact with the community. It decreased from 2.5 million to 2.1 million. However, statistically, the use of force was very small. Use of force involving a fatality was even smaller. Commendations from the public were greater than complaints and that shows the department is making progress.
Accountability is something Sheriff Villanueva takes great pride in. Under his leadership, a total of 949 personnel members have been disciplined, 132 have been discharged for offenses that include use of alcohol, false statements, sexual misconduct, domestic violence and excessive force. In addition, in 2021, Sheriff Villanueva ordered an organizational change in administrative investigations that allows for a concurrent administrative and criminal investigation for specific cases to speed up investigations. Currently, there is one case from 2016, one from 2017, two from 2018, 12 from 2019 (including the Ryan Twyman case), 19 from 2020 and eight deputy-involved shooting cases at the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office that are still pending. Sheriff Villanueva expressed his frustration and said such investigations should take 90 days and not six years.
Sheriff Villanueva also discussed the Public Corruption Unit, a unit that has existed for decades but was never formalized. Since its formal inception during his administration, the unit has worked on 24 cases, 10 of them are open investigations, 14 of them are closed, three of them were presented to the DA and six of them have been presented to state and federal agencies. Sheriff Villanueva reiterated that the unit does not investigate individuals, it investigates complaints of criminal conduct.
One of the accomplishments Sheriff Villanueva is very proud of is the Special Alert System for 911 calls involving mental health crises. This program allows families to register a loved one who suffers from any impairment in our system so that deputies know ahead of time and use the best approach on the person involved.
In 2022, Sheriff Alex Villanueva will start a pilot program in Men’s Central Jail. On February 1st, the Department will begin testing the use of 50 body-worn cameras inside of the jail. On February 13th, the Department will begin testing the use of the “live streaming” feature of the body-worn cameras in patrol for the benefit of the Mental Evaluation Teams. The Homeless Outreach Services Team will continue to provide help and house homeless individuals especially on tourist destinations like they did on Venice and Olvera Street. He will continue to put dents on illegal cannabis grows. Securement of rail corridors is in his immediate plans. Fighting crime and the safety of residents will continue to be a priority, but he urged the Board of Supervisors to support law enforcement.