LA county officials want to rewrite rules to remove a sheriff

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted on a motion to explore options for removing Sheriff Alex Villanueva, including an amendment to the state’s Constitution.

The 3-2 vote directs county officials to examine ways in which they could impeach Villanueva from his position, or, at least, scale back his responsibilities. One of those options proposed would amend California’s Constitution to make county sheriffs be appointed, rather than elected.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is interviewed by Reuters in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 24, 2020. 

Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn cast the dissenting vote. While both were critical of Villanueva’s leadership, they argued that the matter should be decided by voters when he’s up for reelection in 2022.

“That’s how democracy works,” Hahn said, adding that voters “don’t [want] politicians to take power from them.”

But the decision was praised by others as a critical first step in removing Villanueva. The ACLU of Southern California praised the motion’s authors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, “for heeding the people’s call for real and lasting sheriff accountability.”

The sheriff's office could not be reached for comment. 

Sheriff Villanueva has for years been at odds with the County Supervisors, who have accused him of refusing to hold officers accountable or embrace critical reforms, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

Villanueva has pushed back on his critics, pointing to his success in implementing body cameras for deputies, and prohibiting deputies from joining secret cliques. He has derided calls for him to step down as symbolic, pointing out that no one has begun the tedious process of recalling him from office.

Still, the matter will not be decided on until January when the board is expected to receive a report of viable options, according to The Times.

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