Over the last several weeks, Sheriff Villanueva has begun fulfilling a campaign promise to reinstate deputies that he contends were unlawfully discharged under our previous sheriff. I and my colleagues on the Board are concerned that any reinstatement be managed through a fair, lawful and transparent process that does not reverse recent efforts to institute reforms in the department. Over the last five years, the County has paid out over $125 million in legal settlements as a result of excessive force, failure to protect, and sexual assault judgments against the Sheriff’s Department.
This week, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to ask County Counsel to evaluate the legality of Sheriff Villanueva’s efforts to reinstate previously dismissed deputies. Until all legal questions have been resolved, the Board instructed the Sheriff to discontinue reevaluating discipline cases and unilaterally reinstating fired deputies. In late June, a court is scheduled to hear our arguments challenging the Sheriff’s first such action, the reinstatement of a former deputy who was dismissed from the Sheriff’s department as a result of domestic violence allegations.
As I said at Tuesday’s Board meeting, “The Sheriff can’t simply invent an employee review process out of whole cloth just because he doesn’t like the results of the established review process we have under our Civil Service system. The Supervisors will not sit back as policies designed to improve accountability in the Sheriff’s Department are rolled back unilaterally without an open, transparent and lawful review.”
The Board also received reports on changes in the Sheriff’s continuing collaboration with ICE and requested an investigation into ongoing concerns about cliques of deputies and hazing of new deputies in local stations.