JusticeLA Calls for Cuts to Sheriff’s Public Relations Budget, Accountability for Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

By Matthew Torres

LOS ANGELES, CA – JusticeLA is calling on the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors and County CEO to address the lack of accountability within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department—last week specifically requesting a significant reduction in LACSD’s public relations budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

This request follows the recent targeting of LA Times journalist, Alene Tchekmedyian, after she broke a story involving a deputy kneeling on the neck of an already handcuffed inmate for three minutes, all caught on security footage.

She also is covering the alleged coverup by Sheriff Alex Villanueva of the incident, that happened around the same time as the trial of Officer Derek Chauvin.

The incident occurred in March 2021 and Villanueva claimed to have no knowledge of the incident until months later.

However, according to the LA Times article, “Eli Vera, a commander who oversees court services where the incident occurred, said Villanueva viewed the video at an aide’s desk within days of the incident.”

At a press conference, Villanueva displayed the photo and name of (reporter) Tchekmedyian along with photos of Eli Vera, the commander who refuted the Sheriff’s claim, as well as Max Huntsman, Los Angeles County Inspector General, whom Villanueva has previously accused of being a holocaust denier.

According to JusticeLA, Villanueva referred to Tchekmedyian’s coverage as an “obstruction of justice” and at the previously mentioned press conference he announced that the three people displayed would be the subjects of a criminal investigation.

This threat was met by a response from the LA Times legal counsel.

“You are on notice that if the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department attempts to search the property or data of Ms. Tchekmedyian or any other L.A. Times employee in this matter, the department will have directly violated the PPA and clearly established constitutional law and LA Times will seek every available remedy against you, the department, and every individual official involved in any such unlawful conduct,” said the LA Times’ lawyers.

This behavior is a pattern from the LASD, which has a history of questionable conduct regarding the First Amendment rights of protestors and journalists, said JusticeLA.

The Sheriff personally threatened to arrest Spectrum News Reporter Kate Cagle, ran campaign ads targeting a private citizen by using their name and photographs to incite violence as well as the violence toward NPR reporter Josie Huang, when they were arrested and taken into custody over suspicion of obstruction of justice.

Along with the department’s shaky relationship with the media, there have also been allegations of deputy gangs within LASD as well as the claim that they intimidate and harass the families of victims of deputy shootings.

JusticeLA states that LASD has been allocated $3.6 billion dollars to protect and serve the community, however their actions run contrary to that objective.

JusticeLA cites the multi-million dollar public relations budget as a way for the LASD to manipulate narratives and delegitimize any opposition toward the department.

JusticeLA charged that holding LASD accountable is long overdue and that Los Angeles County must address these issues by significantly reducing their public relations budget as well as taking all accountability measures available to the Board of Supervisors and County CEO.

About The Author

Matthew Torres is a fourth year Criminal Justice major at California State University, Sacramento expecting to graduate in Spring 2022. After graduation he will be continuing his studies in law school.

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