LA County Sheriff Villanueva warns ‘zero tolerance’ policy for violence, looting due to election unrest

The Sheriffs of Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino Counties told FOX 11 their departments are all prepared for any potential civil unrest as a result of the 2020 election, and all plan to take immediate action should any problems arise.

As of Wednesday night, the LAPD declared the citywide tactical alert has been canceled.

The Los Angeles Police Department issued a citywide tactical alert Tuesday afternoon as a precaution "to ensure sufficient resources to address any incidents that may arise as a result of election day activities," the department said, but it stressed that there is no specific incident that triggered the alert.   

A tactical alert means that officers are kept on the job beyond the end of their shifts.

As businesses all across the Southland began to board up their windows in massive numbers, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told FOX 11 Monday night that he will have a "zero tolerance" policy for any violence or looting that potentially breaks out due to election unrest.

"An organized effort to create civil unrest, looting, arson, vandalism, everything we saw during the unrest at the end of May and beginning of June, that is always a concern and we’re prepared for that," Villanueva said.

Villaneuva told FOX 11 that all LASD patrol personnel are now on 12-hour shifts.

Three mobile field forces, as well as multiple Sheriffs Response Teams (SRT), will be ready to respond anywhere in Los Angeles County where there is a concern, with special attention being paid to downtown Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, retail corridors near West Hollywood and the Fairfax District, and Santa Monica, which are all areas that have been targeted by looters before.

"I think the group of people that is willing to do something stupid like start vandalizing and looting is not that big of a group, and we’re gonna be ready for them and we will take action immediately," Villanueva said.

Villanueva added that law enforcement has learned lessons since civil unrest following the death of George Floyd and that LASD will be prepared to respond to problem areas immediately without having to deal with the politics of mayors and city councils like municipal police departments sometimes have to.

"The last thing we want to do is communicate that lawlessness will be tolerated, because all that does is make the problem bigger," Villanueva said.

Villanueva said he alone will decide whether or not the National Guard needs to be requested in a worst-case scenario. He said that during the Floyd unrest, he requested the Guard, but LA Mayor Eric Garcetti opposed it, going on television and saying “This isn’t 1992."

The Guard was officially requested a few hours after that statement was made.

“I was the one who called in the National Guard, then the Mayor reversed course and called it after I called it in, I’m the coordinator for region one, so the municipalities, including LA, they ask for our help as a mutual aid request and then if we don’t have the resources, we call in the National Guard from Cal OES,” Villanueva said.

San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon told FOX 11 his department has been preparing for the election for the past year.

“We started training all the poll workers in de-escalation, then we’ve got all the polling locations for in-person voting as well as the drop boxes, put all that info into a database accessible by deputies in the cars on their computers in case they have a need to respond to anyone of those for a call to service,” McMahon said.

McMahon also said his department is also bringing in extra staffing and is on 12-hour shifts.“We have no information to suggest there will be any type of violence, any civil unrest, any anarchy, anything of that nature, but should somebody get out of line or should something occur, we have the staff ready to deal with it,” McMahon said.

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes told FOX 11 that his department has more than 800 deputies trained for mobile field force that will be ready to respond to any potential unrest.“It is clear that passions are high this election season,” Barnes said.

“Peaceful free speech will always be supported, but acts that restrict anyone’s right to vote, or cause violence and destruction will be addressed swiftly.”

RELATEDDOJ to monitor compliance with voting laws on Election Day in LA, OC counties

FOX 11 asked Villanueva what his message is to any constituents who are feeling anxious heading into Election Day.

“Things are gonna be alright,” he said. “When all the counting is done, we need to respect the results, plain and simple. It’s not the end of the world because your party didn’t win, what counts is that democracy works, and it works because we respect the rule of law and we respect the results.”

Get your top stories delivered daily! Sign up for FOX 11’s Fast 5 newsletter. And, get breaking news alerts in the FOX 11 News app. Download for iOS or Android.