L.A. County sheriff subpoenaed to appear at next civilian oversight meeting

The Civilian Oversight Commission for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department voted to approve issuing a subpoena to order Sheriff Alex Villanueva to attend the commission's next meeting.

The commission used its newly granted subpoena power for the first time after Villanueva did not attend or send a representative to a third consecutive meeting. The subpoena orders Villanueva and his representatives to attend the commission's May 21st meeting.

Subpoena power was granted to the commission earlier this year by the Los  Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Voters in March approved Measure R, which also granted subpoena power to the commission.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva

"After repeated requests for the Sheriff to attend our commission meetings, no one from the department has shown up," Commission Chair Patti Giggans, Executive Director of Peace over Violence, said. "The meetings now conducted virtually twice a month due to the critical COVID-19 crisis are very well attended by the public. We are in a pandemic which calls for more oversight, more collaboration, more input into policy, not less. The role of the sheriff's Civilian Oversight Commission is a public mandate and one that every commissioner takes seriously.''

Commissioners had hoped to question Villanueva during Thursday's meeting about how his department is handling coronavirus cases in the county jail system.

Villanueva's presence was specifically requested at Thursday's meeting in a letter sent from the commission to the sheriff on Tuesday, according to Brian K. Williams, Executive Director of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission.

Williams said the sheriff informed him on Wednesday he would not be attending the meeting.

"This is the third meeting in a row where the sheriff's department has not been represented, this is unfair to the commission, the community and the men and women of the sheriff's department whose voice we also need to hear,'' Williams said.

A response from the sheriff's department was not immediately available.