Buyer’s Remorse? L.A.’s New Sheriff in Hot Seat After Reinstating Fired Deputy.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva hasn’t even been on the job for two months, but he’s already under fire for his approach to reinstating problem deputies. His recent decision to re-hire an officer accused of domestic abuse and stalking has roiled police accountability and transparency advocates, with the county’s inspector general Max Huntsman describing his approach to discipline as “radical” on Tuesday. 

The move was a shock to many observers, coming from a man who promised to root out cronyism and corruption within the LASD. The reinstated deputy, Caren Carl Mandoyan, was an active volunteer on Villanueva’s campaign for sheriff. Mandoyan had been fired from the job in 2016 amid serious accusations of stalking and assault by another officer.

Villanueva has defended his decision to bring Mandoyan back on board, saying the two-year lapse between the incident and the victim’s complaint raised serious questions about the victim's credibility. Further, Villanueva believes criminal charges must always be filed by a victim in order for the department to take disciplinary action against an officer accused of domestic violence.

“We don’t operate based on allegations. We operate based on fact, what can be established in a court of law,” Villanueva said.

Those comments sent shockwaves through the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission and earned rebuke from its chair and vice chair. The women noted that domestic abuse victims are notoriously slow to come forward and that Villanueva was setting a remarkably high bar for people entrusted with the public’s safety.

Villanueva’s controversial disciplinary actions may not stop with Mandoyan. The sheriff says he’s reviewing a host of past disciplinary moves against LASD officers via a new “truth and reconciliation” commission that he will form.

Inspector General Huntsman said he’s troubled that he has not been included in that process and has formally requested that he be able to review any decisions going forward. Villanueva said he would brief commissioners on the panel’s progress.