While LA Police Department (LAPD) Chief Michel Moore seems to welcome amplified police reforms, LA County Sheriff Department (LASD) Chief Alex Villanueva had a different view last week.
Moore held an African-American Community Forum zoom meeting on July 21, where he joined a number of community members in a dialogue about the department.
Villanueva spoke live on Facebook and Instagram that same day, to address current events and answer questions from the public.
“We lost money this fiscal year,” Villanueva said, noting that in addition to being defunded, the LASD brought more than 5,000 cases to the district attorney’s office which the DA refused to prosecute. “That is one of the big reasons crime is on the increase.”
The sheriff also blamed criminal justice reform measures for the public’s eroding faith in law enforcement institutions.
“There’s a progressive movement to decriminalize everything,” Villanueva said. “It’s leading to a lawless society. It’s not working.”
When OW asked Moore if he agreed with those statements, the LAPD chief was adamant.
“No, I don’t agree that there’s a direct correlation,” Moore said. “There has been an increase in violent crime across the nation.”
Moore noted that the pandemic has affected everyone’s lives and many people nationwide have reached a point of hopelessness and frustration. He believes that the critical point, going forward, is that law enforcement agencies work together to reduce violence and save lives. He said that a smaller police department is a more reactionary police department.
“To the sheriff’s point, I respectfully disagree,” Moore said, noting that his department had lost nine employees to the coronavirus. “The complex network of public safety has been disrupted by this pandemic.”
Later in the meeting, Moore addressed the fireworks explosion of June 30.
“There were 16 tons of fireworks,” Moore said of the homemade devices. “Some were the size of coke cans.”
The LAPD Bomb Squad on the scene believed the stockpile was volatile and it would be unsafe to move it because it could unexpectedly explode. Apparently, the officers miscalculated the weight of the fireworks which were placed into the containment vessel. This operational error led to the resulting blast, injuring 17 people.
“It damaged homes,” Moore said. “Some to the point of not being occupiable.”
“My commitment is to fix that as well as to assure an event like that will not reoccur in this city,” Moore said, noting that some residents lost a great deal in the blast and need financial assistance to be made whole.
“We must restore their lives as soon as possible,” Moore said. “We have to move quickly, as many people who were impacted do not have savings. We hope to restore them and not let bureaucracy get in the way.”
Moore explained that the investigation into what he called “a catastrophic failure” is ongoing and they hope to learn if the squad failed to adhere to department standards, or if those standards failed them.
In any case, the explosives far exceeded the capacity of the chamber and the five officers involved have been removed from the field.