Robert Luna has been elected as Los Angeles County’s new sheriff, replacing the controversial Alex Villanueva.
“The results were a resounding rebuke of Villanueva’s four chaotic years in office,” the Los Angeles Times reported. It was “a tenure during which he morphed from an upstart candidate buoyed by the support of progressive voters into a conservative, combative lawman who clashed endlessly with elected officials and others who oversee him and the department.”
Newly elected Luna retired as police chief from Long Beach after seven years.
“I want to wish the incoming sheriff well,” Villanueva said in his concession speech. “The safety of the community depends on him succeeding.”
The aggressive style of rule utilized by Villanueva while leading the department provoked the creation of Measure A, written to authorize the Board of Supervisors to replace the sheriff.
During his acceptance speech Luna expressed his appreciation for the voters and called his victory “a clear mandate to bring new leadership and accountability to the Sheriff’s Department.”
Luna added, “I look forward to working with the talented and courageous sworn and professional staff of the Sheriff’s Department who are dedicated to keeping our communities safe.”
The Sheriff’s Department will undergo the fourth adjustment in management since the resignation of Lee Baca eight years ago during a federal corruption investigation that ended with his imprisonment.
Luna will inherit a bulky, troublesome law enforcement organization in charge of a web of detention centers. He also must deal with allegations of “gang-like” groups of deputies in the department, the Times reported.
Awaiting Luna are unsolved problems that have haunted the department for decades, together with recent scandals that emerged under Villanueva’s watch. In addition, the treatment offered to the mentally ill detainees is not sufficient and the facilities are seriously deteriorated and out-of-date, reported the article.
Supervisor Hilda Solis said she personally hopes the board establishes a more cooperative relationship with Luna. “We didn’t have one with this sheriff,” Solis said. “Mr. Luna’s going to have to come in, get things together, reform it and make people understand that this is a job — everyone needs to have your trust.”
A member of the civilian oversight commission, Sean Kennedy, expects that Luna will end the “controversies and stonewalling and attempts to intimidate oversight officials” that characterized Villanueva’s administration, said the article.
During his concession speech, Villanueva declared that elected officials and the Times conspired to create a “false narrative” about his effectiveness and ethics as a leader, concluding, “I remember a politician that I met early on … they told me, well, you can be a reformer, or you can be reelected,” he said. “I’m proud to say I’m a reformer. I have no desire to abandon … my principles just to get reelected.”