Relationship between Sheriff and his Watchdogs Reaches a Nadir

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Two civilian county institutions charged with monitoring the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department say they're being stonewalled by Sheriff Alex Villanueva as they try to investigate back-to-back sheriff's shootings, leaving two men dead, and the sheriff's handling of the death of Robert Fuller, who was found hanging from a tree near Palmdale City Hall.

The two are the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission and its investigative arm, the Office of Inspector General.

Inspector General Max Huntsman said his office on Monday asked the Sheriff's Department for reports, documents and video relating to the shooting death of 18-year-old Andres Guardado, who was killed by a deputy near an auto body shop in Gardena. Huntsman said he hasn't received a response, the Los Angeles Times reported this morning.

The office also requested the report that detailed events surrounding the death of Robert Fuller's half-brother, Terron Boone, who was killed in a shootout with undercover detectives, to “analyze the underlying reason for the manner in which the arrest was conducted,'' Huntsman said, according to The Times. “But they refused to give it to us.''

The watchdogs' functions were centerpieces of reforms enacted at the Sheriff's Department following a corruption and brutality scandal in the jails that led to indictments of several deputies and high-ranking commanders, including former Sheriff Lee Baca. But the agencies have increasingly complained that Villanueva's administration is refusing to share information and stonewalling efforts to provide true oversight, The Times reported.

“We can't make recommendations if we don't get information from them. So our work can be stymied when there's not cooperation and collaboration,'' said Patti Giggans, chair of the oversight commission. “We need a willing partner in the sheriff.''

The dispute over access to Sheriff records prompted the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in January to grant the Civilian Oversight Commission subpoena power at a time of heightened tensions between the law enforcement agency and those who oversee it. The oversight agencies said they were not given access to information about the agency's internal discipline system and hiring process, as well as documents related to secret deputy cliques with matching tattoos that have been accused of misconduct.

The Sheriff's Department said at the time that increasing the inspector general's power could harm investigations and would pit county departments against one another.

On Wednesday, Villanueva declined to discuss the Guardado shooting, saying he would supply information when he could, The Times reported.

“We're not gonna piecemeal it,'' he said.

Villanueva reached a tentative agreement this week with local law enforcement leaders to have all police killings investigated by a special task force. Members would be prohibited from investigating officers or deputies from their own agencies.

The Sheriff's Department has said little about what led up to the Gardena shooting, which has sparked large protests and widespread demands for answers. Villanueva asked Attorney General Xavier Becerra to monitor the investigations of Guardado and Fuller, citing the public outcry.

Photo: Getty Images

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