Letters to the Editor: Trying to remove Sheriff Alex Villanueva is an undemocratic power play

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LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 30: Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and District Attorney Jackie Lacey announce an arrest of Deonte Lee Murray in the ambush shooting of two on-duty deputies who were sitting in their marked patrol car at the Metro Blue Line station in Compton September 12, 2020. Hall Of Justice on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, CA. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva speaks at a news conference in Los Angeles on Sept. 30. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Your editorial against electing sheriffs says that Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is accountable effectively to no one. I'm sure ex-Sheriff Lee Baca thought the same, and now he sits in federal prison.

The truth of the matter is that Villanueva is accountable to the voters, the Board of Supervisors, the sheriff's inspector general, the district attorney, the California attorney general and the federal government.

Villanueva has not been found to have broken any laws, but what we do know is that he doesn't go along with the Board of Supervisors' program, and the members resent him greatly for it. The supervisors have no respect for democracy if they try to remove a duly elected government official who has committed no crime.

The voters were trying to send a message for change when they elected Villanueva in 2018, so what kind of message does it send when government officials try to stifle that change? This is a very undemocratic power play by the supervisors, and they need to stop.

Steve Conaway, Lakewood

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To the editor: Your position that the sheriff should not be elected and that top law enforcement officials should not be free of accountability to the public is correct.

Police personnel, especially those in the management positions, are subject to more stringent requirements than other government employees because they testify in court, they have the power to arrest members of the public, and they can use force.

The recent settlement of $1.5 million with the former Los Angeles County chief executive, including the unprecedented agreement to fund her private security because of Villanueva's behavior, is strong evidence that your editorial is correct. If the sheriff were appointed, his acts toward to the former CEO alone would be cause for dismissal.

Michael H. Miller, Los Angeles

The writer is a former city attorney and county hearing officer who was involved in police discipline.

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To the editor: Some years back, I served a term on the Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury. Among those invited to speak to us were then-Sheriff Lee Baca and then-Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton.

The differences between the two were obvious. Baca arrived in his uniform, shook hands with each grand juror and distributed miniature badges. My impression was that he had a politician's crowd-pleasing persona. What he had to say about the Sheriff's Department wasn't particularly enlightening.

Bratton was dressed in a business suit and had a very professional demeanor. He spoke to us about some of the more substantive issues his department was dealing with and the importance of the community's input. It was an interesting and informative session.

I came away with a very distinct impression as to how superior the hired law enforcement official was to the elected law enforcement official.

Marcia Goodman, Long Beach

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.