L.A. County’s New Sheriff Tells LASD Leadership: You’re Fired!

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is ready to clean house.

In a statement last week, Villanueva’s spokesman Danny Leserman confirmed that he’ll immediately fire a number of department officials, including much of its top brass. The undersheriff, communications director, and community outreach director are among those set to go. Villanueva has also said he plans to eliminate the constitutional policing advisor positions.

As part of Villanueva’s shakeup, some former officials will be returning to the office. Retired Cmdr. Ray Leyva will serve as undersheriff, while retired Cmdr. Robert Olmsted is coming back to serve as an assistant sheriff. Others are being promoted. Chief Maria Gutierrez will become assistant sheriff in charge of countywide operations. Capt. Tim Murakami is now assistant sheriff over patrol.

“The sheriff-elect said he was going to clean house, and he meant it. This is just the start,” Leserman said told the Los Angeles Times. “This is about getting rid of the cronyism, getting rid of the dark parts of the department, so we can really restore the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.”

Villanueva was sworn in Monday at East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park.

“We are going back to being peace officers and should be judged by how well we protect our communities,” the top lawman told the crowd. “Our immigrant communities shouldn’t have to wonder whether we’re here to protect them or deport them.”

However, as the Times notes, Villanueva has already sent some signals that could rankle progressives who supported him.

He said that he would continue to honor requests from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain county jail inmates who were convicted of serious crimes, contrary to preliminary recommendations by the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission.

“We must take advantage of this historic opportunity to ensure Sheriff Villanueva is up to date with the intricacies of immigration policy, that he understands how past administrations have completely eroded trust with our communities by aligning with ICE, and that we build together a policy that we can be proud of,” Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said in a statement.

Villanueva trounced L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell in the November election. It was the first time a challenger unseated a sitting sheriff in L.A. County in more than a century.