Sheriff Villanueva interviewed by Office of Inspector General over allegations of deputy-gangs


Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva testified Friday behind closed doors about gang-like groups within his department, a conversation the sheriff has tried to dodge for years. 

“It’s a problem of perception, but not reality,” the sheriff said seven months ago. 

LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva on Venice boardwalk
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva talks with media, homeless advocates and local residents as he walks the Venice Boardwalk on June 7, 2021.

(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)

Those remarks from Villanueva followed a report from the Rand Corporation that concluded there were gang-like cliques within the sheriff’s Department.

Last year, CBSLA spoke to deputies who did not want their identities revealed who said members identified themselves with tattoos. 

“They operate as gangs. They commit crime. They assault people,” one deputy told CBSLA. 

Villanueva was interviewed over video conference on Friday by the Inspector General’s Office, after a failed challenge to a subpoena. 

“It is an acknowledgement that there is something to look at, that they need more information, and they want to get that information under oath,” Jessica Levinson, a political analyst and Loyola Law School Professor, said. 

In a phone conversation, the Villanueva’s attorney said the sheriff answered 99% of the questions he was asked, and added that he was willing to cooperate with any investigation regarding his tenure, but had issues with being compelled to testify under oath. 

Publicly, Villanueva has clashed with the Office of Inspector General and the Board of Supervisors. 

“They have never excepted the results of the election of 2018,” the sheriff has said. 

On Wednesday, the sheriff took part in CBSLA’s Meet the Candidates Forum where two challengers attacked him on the subgroups within the department with names like the Executioners and Banditos.

“We do not have to have deputy gangs, jail abuses and coverups as our headlines,” Lt. Eric Strong, a candidate for LA County Sheriff said, “but we do and that’s because of the leadership, because of the failed leadership.” 

Another candidate for sheriff, Eli Vera, also took jabs at Villanueva on the issue. 

“Once he got into office, after a few weeks, we started butting heads, you know, going back to the Banditos issues when he intentionally lied to the public.” 

Friday’s interview with the Inspector General’s Office was scheduled for 90 minutes, but Villanueva’s lawyer said it went for nearly two hours. 

“Certainly, if the office of Inspector General finds there is criminal wrongdoing, then, yes, we can bring criminal charges. We’re not there yet. We are still in the investigation phase,” Levinson said. 

The IG said that non-confidential portions of Friday’s interview will eventually be released, but it’s unclear as to when that will happen. 


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