Robert Luna Officially Assumes LA County Sheriff's Duties

Photo: Steve Gregory, KFI News

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - After the formality of a weekend swearing-in ceremony, Robert Luna Monday officially assumed his duties as the 34th sheriff of Los Angeles County.

The former Long Beach Police chief took the oath of office on Saturday morning during a ceremony at the county Hall of Administration in downtown L.A. -- his wife Celines pinning the gold star on his crisp new tan-and-green uniform while their two adult children stood nearby.

On Monay -- following a hard-fought campaign that led to the ouster of incumbent Alex Villanueva -- Luna officially took command of the nation's largest sheriff's department, with more than 18,000 sworn personnel. Echoing a campaign theme, he said he is committed to ensuring there is "accountability" within the department.

"Accountability is not something to be feared, but rather it is something that needs to be embraced, as it is the cornerstone of any successful law enforcement agency," Luna said outside the Hall of Justice. "All of us starting with me, and I do start with me, will be accountable to the people that we serve."

He also again vowed to work cooperatively with the county Board of Supervisors and other oversight entities, with whom his predecessor often clashed.

He also said he would take a collaborative approach to the growing problem of drug and fentanyl overdoses.

"Our approach won't be that we're going to do this on our own," he said. "We're going to do this with our partners at the federal level, the state level, other law enforcement partners in Los Angeles County, which do include the District Attorney's Office and others we have to work with. I don't know if anybody in this county, which even includes our health department, doesn't understand this needs to be dealt with. And it's not just a problem here in L.A. County, it's a problem across this country. The consumption of narcotics is outrageous, and that needs to change. And its not just the enforcement of, it's the prevention of."

During his swearing-in ceremony on Saturday, Luna promised to be open to different approaches to tackle what he acknowledged was a rising tide of crime in the county.

"There can be no sacred cows," Luna said.

He said the sheriff's department has succeeded over the years "because it has never been afraid to innovate. ... So we must look at policies and strategies that have succeeded in other places and not be afraid to bring them here."

Luna also implored the public to defend "good policing," while at the same time recognizing the need to hold law enforcement accountable.

"But even as we make mistakes, we can and we must keep the public trust," he said.

Luna also mentioned the need to eliminate deputy gangs and improve conditions in jails. During the campaign, he accused Villanueva of ignoring the issue of deputy gangs, and of cultivating a hostile relationship with the Board of Supervisors.

Luna spent 36 years with the Long Beach Police Department, becoming chief in 2014. He has a master's degree in public administration from Cal State Long Beach.

His victory in the Nov. 8 election marked only the second time in roughly a century that an incumbent L.A. County sheriff lost a re-election bid. The first time occurred four years ago, when Villanueva defeated then-Sheriff Jim McDonnell.

Luna last week announced the appointment of April Tardy, chief of the sheriff's department's Central Patrol Division, as his interim undersheriff, making her the first woman to hold that position in the agency's history.

He also named Jason Skeen, currently the commander of Personnel Command, as his interim chief of staff. Tardy and Skeen are both 28-year department veterans.

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