Malibu Public Safety: Mayor of the Largest Contract City with LASD Tells Us the Truth About the Sheriff’s First Year in Office

In 2018, during the height of my reporting of  the Malibu Creek State Park Shootings case, I was introduced to now Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who in the home stretch campaigning for the top spot as L.A. County Sheriff. Villanueva was running against the incumbent, former Sheriff Jim McDonnell, whose department had just been exposed a few months earlier by our publication, The Local Malibu, for the law enforcement cover-up of two years of shootings at Malibu Creek State Park.

At least four shootings, dating back to 2016, had taken place in the area before the tragic murder of Tristan Beaudette on June 22, 2018. The shootings were purposely hidden from the public by State Parks officials and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department under the direction of former Sheriff McDonnell, who was complicit in the cover-up. In December 2018, Beaudette’s widow Erica Wu  filed a $90 million dollar lawsuit against LASD and the State.

Talking with Alex Villanueva during his campaign for Sheriff at a press conference at Malibu Creek State Park.

Public Safety in the Santa Monica Mountains quickly became the number one concern in our community after the Beaudette murder and the discovery of the cover-up by law enforcement. Malibu already had lost trust in Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station back in 2009, when Mitrice Richardson was released under very suspicious circumstances. Her body was found 10 months later.

The law enforcement cover-up of the shootings only created more mistrust in the community. It was  a scary time for residents and only after meeting Villanueva during his campaign that I felt we had hope (with respect to our relationship with law enforcement). Villanueva’s vision was clear and concise, and I had total faith in his goals for the department, and his ability to execute them. There was light at the end of tunnel when it came to public safety.

In last November’s election, Villanueva pulled accomplished the impossible, betaing the incumbent Sheriff Jim McDonnell with a stellar grass roots campaign. A historical win, never accomplished before.

People Who Live in Glass Houses…

Unfortunately, Villanueva got off to a rocky start at the beginning of the year. The sore losers a.k.a. L.A. County Board of Supervisors realized they could no longer control LASD under Sheriff Villanueva’s watch.

Cue the witch hunt.

Over the last 10 months, the Board of Supervisors smear campaign, starring Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, highlighted by their willing participants (the L.A. Times being the main source), were quick to jump on board the sheriff-bashing bandwagon to push the Board’s political agenda.

Sheriff Villanueva caught on quickly though, learned a few hard lessons, fine-tuned his strategy, and gained ground despite the pushback from the Kuehl and the other “Kings” ( the Board of Supervisors as they are frequently referred to).

So, while your view of the Sheriff may be a bit distorted by the propaganda pushers, keep in mind they are carefully crafting their narrative to favor McDonnell supporters, already in election mode (he’s preparing for a comeback). But here’s the good news, Mayor Albert Robles of Carson, the largest contract with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, stepped up to the plate with a stellar OP ED piece, delivering Sheriff’s Villanueva’s first year report card and it looks very promising for L.A. County (read the entire article here).

Sheriff Villanueva had not been sworn in yet, but made the time to drive to Malibu to visit deputies and first responders during the Woolsey Fire. This speaks to his commitment to keeping morale high in the department. Incidentally, former sheriff Jim McDonnell did not visit the area at all, during or after, the fire.

Here are some of most important insights from Mayor Robles: 

“Firstly, the morale among the Sheriff’s deputies throughout LA County, especially the morale of those deputies on the frontline is at an all-time high by any measure; including the one measure that counts the most, simply asking them as I have done.

Secondly, our Sheriff has shown strong independent leadership, e.g., he promptly fired a deputy for filing a false report.  The deputy was terminated, and not put on an extended vacation, i.e., paid-leave or admin-leave.  The deputy was actually fired within a week of his false report.  I have never seen any top LA County official move so quickly, no matter how egregious the act.

Thirdly, our Sheriff has increased transparency at the Sheriff’s Department by lifting the gag-rule so deputies and management must now testify on all matters, including civil service and administrative arbitration hearings.  Additionally, he removed politics and favoritism as the main consideration for getting promoted to the coveted position of Station Captain, and for the first time ever these prospective Captains are now promoted with input from the Cities the Captains will serve.

Fourthly, our Sheriff has pursued a community outreach effort that is second-to-none.  He has scheduled numerous community meetings throughout LA County (almost 30) to personally answer questions directly from residents, local businesses, mayors, and council members – something no previous Sheriff has ever done. (Editor’s note – Sheriff Villanueva has visited Malibu three times since the Woolsey Fire to address community concerns at multiple town hall meetings.)

Fifthly, our Sheriff is finally implementing body-cameras at one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the Country, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.  Every previous Sheriff dragged their feet and delayed implementation of body-cameras by asking for more studies, and causing great distress for us public servants whom from the public demanded body-cameras.  Sheriff Villanueva delivered where others stalled.  As he has said, “these body-cameras on deputies are long overdue and will help secure the fair and impartial treatment of all persons.”

The above facts, coupled with Sheriff Villanueva delivering on his top priority – our public safety – everyone should accordingly conclude that he indeed had a good first-year, because LA County crime statistics show a 7% drop, making this year the safest in a generation.  This reduction in crime includes Carson, where data shows an even greater drop in crime that makes Carson among the safest cities in LA County.

Cece Woods

The Current Report Editor in Chief Cece Woods started The Local Malibu, an activism based platform in 2014. The publication was instrumental in the success of pro-preservation ballot measures and seating five top vote-getters in the Malibu City Council elections.

During the summer of 2018, Woods exposed the two-year law enforcement cover-up in the Malibu Creek State Park Shootings, and a few short months later provided the most comprehensive local news coverage during the Woolsey Fire attracting over one million hits across her social media platforms.

Since 2020, Woods was the only journalist reporting on the on-going public corruption involving former L.A. Metro CEO Phil Washington. Woods worked with Political Corruption expert Adam Loew, DC Watchdog organizations and leaders in the Capitol exposing Washington which ultimately led to the withdrawal of his nomination to head the FAA.

Woods also founded Malibu based 90265 Magazine and Cali Mag devoted to the authentic southern California lifestyle.

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