The Supervisors voted 4-1 after a second reading on Tuesday, with a third and final vote coming on August 2. If the vote remains 4-1, the measure will be added to the November 8 ballot, with Angelenos given the chance to vote on it.
Should the measure make it to the ballot, voters will have to decide if they want to bestow the Supervisors with the power to remove not just the current county sheriff, but future sheriffs for conduct it deems an “abuse of power,” or “violation of law.”
“Accountability over law enforcement is public safety,” Supervisor Hilda Solis said in a statement after the measure’s first reading. “Ensuring our residents have the ability to vote on being free from law enforcement intimidation, harassment, and misconduct and holding them accountable for any ensuing harm and trauma is the Board of Supervisors’ responsibility, specifically over the Sheriff of Los Angeles County. This charter amendment would provide residents with the oversight they expect and the peace from law enforcement abuse they deserve.”
Sheriff Alex Villanueva called the measure a conflict of interest, saying the Sheriff holds elected officials accountable for crimes, and giving them power to remove a sheriff would allow the Supervisors to “basically dictate who gets investigated and who does not get investigated.”
The one dissenting vote came from Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who noted there were already three other actionable options for removing a sheriff, which include written accusation of corrupt conduct to the district attorney, legal action from the attorney general, or a recall based off signatures from at least 10% of L.A. County voters.
“I really do believe that it sets a dangerous precedent and creates a slippery slope,” Barger said of the amendment during its first reading. “The motion appears to be more about an individual than the office of the sheriff, or promoting accountability in community safety through check and balances.”
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl responded to Barger’s objections by accusing the Sheriff’s department of alleged corruption and saying the county constituents have supported the amendment.
“Somebody has to check that power,” Kuehl said. “It’s not just about Alex, but he certainly did give us reason and give us pause about all of the power.”
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