Outgoing Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell posted a farewell message on the department’s Facebook page late Friday, defending the reforms instituted and “promises kept” during his four-year term.
McDonnell had held off on conceding his unexpected defeat to retired sheriff’s Lt. Alex Villanueva while ballot-counting continued from the Nov. 6 election, but he finally conceded the race Nov. 26, after returns showed Villanueva’s lead steadily increasing to a 52.6 to 47.4 percent edge. Villanueva will be sworn in as the new sheriff on Monday.
In the post, McDonnell wrote about growing up in a working-class neighborhood, the child of immigrant parents; his father a laborer, his mother a domestic worker. He noted that his childhood likely was at the root of his approach to policing.
“I learned the value of hard work at an early age and I knew—by all that surrounded me—that where there is poverty, there are no guarantees. Growing up in public housing, I knew that parents wondered daily, ‘Will my child come home safely?’ Business owners questioned whether their store would be the next to be targeted. But I also learned at an early age that lives improve and opportunity can take root in communities that are stable and safe.
“I think my upbringing is why I became a champion of community policing. It is why I found myself leading early reform efforts at the Los Angeles Police Department, the Long Beach Police Department and ultimately, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. People need to be able to trust the police. The police need the trust of the community. Without that trust, there is chaos.”
McDonnell said that the sheriff’s department he took over was “deeply fractured by scandal and internal politics.” He claimed that in his four years, his administration was able to transform the LASD into “a very different organization,” and touted accomplishments such as increased accountability and bolstered oversight.
“We are now more willing to ask ourselves the tough questions about policy and procedure. For example, I instituted a shooting review process to do case analyses of deputies who have been involved in multiple shootings. And our once troubled jail system is now a national model for the reform of large jail systems.”
McDonnell seemed proudest of the LASD Human Trafficking Bureau and the Los Angeles Regional Taskforce on Human Trafficking created under his watch in 2015, noting it had helped rescue more than 300 women and children from sex trafficking.
“In doing so, we have also played a major role in changing the dialogue about those being exploited; rather than labeling them prostitution suspects, they are now rightfully recognized as sex trafficking victims. We have also pioneered progressive policing policies that aim to protect the rights of transgender individuals and undocumented immigrants.
“While my decisions were not popular with everyone, my guiding principle was always to protect the lives and well being of every resident of Los Angeles County, no matter their circumstances. In doing so, we worked to win back the trust and respect of the residents that we are privileged to serve.”
In summing up, McDonnell noted that he believed the sheriff’s campaign had become a victim of these “contentious political times,” and that “allegations were made about my administration that were simply not based on fact.”
McDonnell then provided, “for the sake of history,” this link which said summarized “promises made and kept during my four years as Sheriff.”
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