COMPTON — New Mayor Emma Sharif has pledged her support to the city’s former City Manager Cecil Rhambo, who has announced he plans to run for Los Angeles County sheriff next year.
Rhambo served as Compton city manager from 2017 to 2019, before leaving to lead Los Angeles International Airport’s Police Department.
“The people of L.A. County need and deserve change at the helm of the Sheriff’s Department,” Sharif said. “Chief Cecil Rhambo is precisely the leader we need to restore trust and integrity to the department.
“A lifelong and deeply accomplished public servant, Chief Rhambo stood up to corruption [in the Sheriff’s Department] once, and now he’s stepping up to run for sheriff, to do it again. I am proud to endorse him.”
Rhambo is no stranger to Compton having grown up in the city. In 2000, after the city disbanded its police department, he was assigned as captain of the Compton Sheriff’s Station.
During his three years in that role, Rhambo heavily focused on community policing, which resulted in a dramatic reduction in crime, gang activity and traffic fatalities while establishing the city’s first youth boxing and recreation center.
Compton recently filed a lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Department due to “minutes fraud” allegations levied by a whistleblower in the department.
The whistleblower alleged the city is essentially paying for services it is not receiving.
Current Sheriff Alex Villanueva publicly sparred with Compton’s former mayor, Aja Brown, for what she described as his department “terrorizing” the residents.
Rhambo also served as assistant city manager in the city of Carson, between 2014 and 2017, and has the support of that city’s mayor, Lula Davis-Holmes, in his bid for sheriff.
“Chief Cecil Rhambo represents the change we need at the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department,” Davis-Holmes said. “His dynamic experience is unrivaled, and more importantly, Cecil will enact much-needed reforms at the LASD.
“He also served the people of Carson as assistant city manager, and I know he will be a champion for good for our city. For these reasons and many more, I am pleased to give Chief Cecil Rhambo my enthusiastic support.
Rhambo has worked in law enforcement for 33 years.
In his “For Good” campaign video, he said he wants to address issues in the department such as deputy gangs and the continued rise of murders and shootings in Los Angeles, where violent crime is increasing at a rate not seen in decades.
As a Black and Asian man, he said he understands what it’s like to walk down the street as a person of color.
He accused Villanueva of eroding public trust in the agency, saying he “used fear to consolidate power, and tried to rehire ex-deputies that committed domestic violence or excessive force and who make us good cops look bad.”
Villanueva has fiercely defended his record as sheriff, insisting he undertook sweeping action to eliminate deputy gangs and lashing out at the Board of Supervisors for what he has called dramatic budget cuts — or “defunding” during a time of rising crime rates.
Rhambo’s other supporters include California Legislative Black Caucus Chair and state Sen. Steve Bradford; California Assembly Democratic Caucus Chair and Assemblyman Mike Gipson; California Progressive Caucus Founder and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer; Assemblywoman Autumn Burke; and Assemblyman Jim Cooper.
Rhambo, who was born in Korean and raised in Compton and South Los Angeles after being adopted, said his experience in law enforcement includes an assignment in the Internal Affairs Bureau, where he assisted in the formation of the Shooting and Force Response Team in the wake of the Rodney King beating.
He also headed the Asian Crime Task Force, commanding a group of investigators and multilingual deputies to investigate crimes committed against Asians or by Asians. And, he said he helped start the Sheriff’s Community Oriented Policing Bureau, focused on suppressing violent crime, combating homelessness, offering quality of life programs and creating mental health response teams.
“As sheriff, I’ll stop the corruption, fight crime, address homelessness and make our criminal justice system more just and fair so that it works for all of us,” Rhambo said in his campaign video.
He said that when the department came under fire from the ACLU and the FBI for prisoner abuse, Rhambo took on his boss, then-Sheriff Lee Baca, and other people in leadership.
Villanueva was elected in 2018, ousting incumbent Jim McDonnell. Since being elected, Villanueva has fought with the county Board of Supervisors and the Civilian Oversight Commission, which oversees the department.
Several city councils that contract for police services with the Sheriff’s Department have gone on record as having no confidence in Villanueva.
Voters will elect a new sheriff in June 2022.
Also running in the election is Eliezer Vera, a chief in the department, who announced his campaign this spring. Vera has served in the department since 1988.
City News Service also contributed to this story.
2 Urban Girls is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the Compton and Inglewood areas. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.