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Endorsement: Robert Luna for L.A. County sheriff

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Voters ought to hold two targets in thoughts when deciding find out how to mark their poll for Los Angeles County sheriff within the June 7 main election. The primary is to take away the harmful, pricey embarrassment that is incumbent Sheriff Alex Villanueva by voting for one in every of his eight challengers. And the subsequent is to select the challenger with the expertise and integrity to reverse the division’s slide into chaos and rebuild belief with the general public that Villanueva has destroyed together with his lies, self-serving stunts and normal incompetence.

A number of present and former sheriff’s deputies and command employees who’re justly indignant at Villanueva lined as much as take his place, however most are steeped in the exact same dysfunctional tradition that has marked the division for many years. And most challengers lack the management expertise wanted to pilot a regulation enforcement group of almost 10,000 deputies and as many unsworn employees.

One candidate — former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna — has a stellar regulation enforcement report from exterior the Sheriff’s Division, together with management roles in nationwide police organizations with a reform bent. After many years of sheriff scandals and ineptitude, and greater than three years of Villanueva’s makes an attempt to withstand civilian oversight and scuttle hard-won reforms, Luna could be the division’s final greatest probability. The Instances recommends a vote for Luna for sheriff.

Lengthy Seaside is Los Angeles County’s second-largest metropolis, and Luna is broadly praised there for his work as police chief for seven years, capping a 36-year regulation enforcement profession that concluded in late 2021. In marked distinction to the present sheriff, Luna labored productively with town’s leaders and his officers alike, helps accountability and civilian oversight and is mostly well-regarded by a number of segments of his very various metropolis. His management function in nationwide police organizations has instilled a wholesome respect for innovation and an understanding of the blended emotions harbored by residents who’ve a pure inclination to belief and respect police however usually discover their religion in regulation enforcement wavering after seemingly countless reviews of extreme drive, corruption and racism.

Luna says that his profession is partially a response to such blended emotions in his personal group as he was rising up in unincorporated East Los Angeles, which is patrolled by the Sheriff’s Division. He remembers being an enormous fan of TV’s “Adam-12″ — the Seventies cop present that featured heroic and well mannered officers who handled everybody with respect, together with these they arrested for horrible crimes. Why, Luna requested himself, do sheriff’s deputies not deal with his Spanish-speaking, law-abiding dad and mom — his immigrant father from Sinaloa and his Modesto-born mom, a baby of farmworkers from Michoacán — with the identical respect? Like many first- and second-generation Latino households, his was cut up amongst those that had been indignant at regulation enforcement and people, like him, who joined it and tried to enhance it.

His expertise and credibility separates Luna from many of the different challengers. Eli Vera, the retired commander who’s backed by one in every of two sheriff’s worker unions, is spot-on in his withering critique of the incumbent however envisions a division through which all is because it as soon as was, earlier than Villanueva, and even perhaps earlier than the disgraced and convicted Sheriff Lee Baca. The identical is kind of true of LAX police chief and former Assistant Sheriff Cecil Rhambo, who was a part of Baca’s command crew, and retired Capt. Britta Steinbrenner, former Capt. Matt Rodriguez and present Deputy Karla Carranza. Just like the insider candidates, state parole agent April Saucedo Hood acknowledges Villanueva’s fecklessness in combating crime but additionally lacks a forward-looking imaginative and prescient.

Sheriff’s Lt. Eric Sturdy has a greater grasp than they do of the path regulation enforcement should go to extra successfully serve the county’s folks, however he lacks Luna’s management expertise. Sturdy has so much to supply, and if the division may be circled he could sooner or later make sheriff. But it surely’s Luna who’s greatest ready to tackle the duty in the present day.

Jim McDonnell was likewise a Lengthy Seaside police chief when he efficiently ran for sheriff in 2014 and started to place in place a collection of disciplinary and oversight reforms in response to misconduct so sweeping that it resulted within the conviction of Baca, his undersheriff and quite a few deputies and command employees on fees that included conspiracy, bribery and extreme use of drive.

McDonnell fell brief, partially as a result of the division’s issues had been too deep to expunge in a single time period. He misplaced reelection to Villanueva, who positioned himself as somebody who would drive tougher to realize further-reaching reforms than the incumbent. And he received, largely with the naive help of the Los Angeles County Democratic Celebration, immigration advocates who paid an excessive amount of consideration to his rhetoric and too little to his report, and progressive activists who somehow believed he meant to supply a brand new degree of accountability to the households of individuals killed or mistreated by deputies.

However that was never his intention. As soon as elected, Villanueva moved instantly to reverse the landmark reforms that McDonnell had begun to place in place by returning to obligation deputies who beforehand had been fired for good trigger, ending self-discipline proceedings for dozens of others, reversing new efficiency requirements and undermining jailhouse conduct requirements that had been adopted within the wake of gratuitous inmate beatings and different unconstitutional acts. His objective was for the Sheriff’s Division to raised serve sheriff’s deputies, not Los Angeles County residents who should dwell with the crime he fails to curb, and pay the payments for the deputy misconduct he continues to allow.

His higher-profile antics — reminiscent of sending deputies into Venice, exterior his service space, on the identical time he complains (falsely) about being underfunded — are too quite a few to catalog right here, and though they’re alarming and can find yourself costing taxpayers, they’re virtually irrelevant compared to the outrageous reversals of wanted reforms.

Los Angeles County is in want of a regulation enforcement grown-up to get the Sheriff’s Division again on observe. It wants a considerate, sober chief. It wants Luna.

Learn extra endorsements at: latimes.com/endorsements.