New LA sheriff vows accountability, integrity for department

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New Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna is sworn in by the Honorable Samantha Jersey, Presiding Judge-elect of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, far left, in Los Angeles, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. Luna takes charge after the turbulent single term of former Sheriff Alex Villanueva, whose tenure was marked by clashes with members of the LA County Board of Supervisors and allegations that he downplayed accusations that gang-like groups of deputies ran amok within the agency. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

LOS ANGELES – The new head of the nation's largest sheriff's department vowed Saturday to usher in an era of integrity and collaboration after his predecessor's tenure was marked by clashes with other public officials and allegations that ganglike groups of deputies ran amok within the agency.

Robert Luna took an oath of office during a noontime ceremony with family at his side. He officially begins his term as the 34th Los Angeles County sheriff next week, after winning election last month by a landslide.

The former police chief of Long Beach, California, will take charge of an agency with nearly 10,000 sworn deputies after the turbulent single term of Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

In a 20-minute speech, Luna promised a new direction, saying he would focus on accountability for deputies and cooperation with elected officials. He will be tasked with bringing down rates of violent and property crime that have spiked in the county, the nation's most populous with about 10 million people.

Luna said he was elected “with a very clear mandate to bring new leadership.”

“We must continue to embrace change,” he said. “If our streets are unsafe for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists, if our homeless crisis causes desperation and misery ... then we will never have public safety.”

Luna said he would eliminate what he called “deputy gangs” and improve conditions in jails.

“We need to defend good policing,” he said, adding, “It is our responsibility to call out bad policing, and we will do so — that’s an element of keeping the public trust.”

Villanueva’s term was marred by clashes with members of the county Board of Supervisors and criticism that he downplayed allegations of malfeasance by some deputies. He blamed the controversies on “false narratives” by his political opponents.

Villanueva has said his accomplishments include managing the jail system during the pandemic, addressing homelessness humanely and overhauling the department’s body camera program.