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May 12, 2022

At The Pleasure of The Sheriff? Not in Los Angeles County

Every man and woman who works for a Sheriff’s Office in America will tell you they serve at the pleasure of the Sheriff of their respective county. That was true until April 5th of this year in Los Angeles County. The county Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance, in a 4 to 1 vote, giving the county personnel director full authority to discipline and fire any employees who do not comply with the county COVID-19 vaccine mandate.  

County Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Holly Mitchel introduced the proposal in February citing “lax compliance” at the LA County Sheriff’s Office. LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has repeatedly rebuked the ordinance as nothing more than a power grab by the county Board of Supervisors. Sheriff Villanueva went so far as to slam the Board of Supervisors for being “the only government entity in the entire nation that has doubled down on defunding law enforcement. They have a hiring freeze on my department as I’m facing a huge deficit of personnel.”  

Sheriff Villanueva released a statement back in February claiming the enforcement of the mandates would start the process to fire an estimated 4,000 deputies for not being vaccinated. Sheriff Villanueva was criticizing the board for showing deliberate indifference to the impact on public safety their decision would have, in the name of public safety. Sheriff Villanueva also noted in his statement he was informed he did not have the authority to hire and fire his work force at the beginning of his tenure as Sheriff of LA County. Now it seems the supervisor board is claiming the opposite is true by passing the ordinance to remove that delegated authority from him. 

Sheriff Villanueva argued that since February of this year his department’s fully vaccinated members had tested positive at a rate of 3.46%. During the same period of time the unvaccinated members of his department tested positive at a rate of 3.83%. That’s only a .37% difference, which is within the margin of error by any metric of data collection.  

A search of the county Board of Supervisors revealed only one supervisor with any connection to law enforcement. Kathryn Barger of the Fifth District is married to a retired Sheriff’s Deputy and was the only on record supervisor to vote against the ordinance to remove the powers of Sheriff Villanueva from deciding how to enforce a mandate he clearly doesn’t believe in.