Wave Wire Services
LOS ANGELES — After the formality of a weekend swearing-in ceremony, Robert Luna officially assumed his duties as the 34th sheriff of Los Angeles County Dec. 5.
The former Long Beach Police chief took the oath of office Dec. 3 during a ceremony at the county Hall of Administration in downtown L.A. — his wife Celines pinning the gold star on his crisp new tan-and-green uniform while their two adult children stood nearby.
Two days later, Luna officially took command of the nation’s largest sheriff’s department, with more than 18,000 sworn personnel. Echoing a campaign theme, he said he is committed to ensuring there is “accountability” within the department.
“Accountability is not something to be feared, but rather it is something that needs to be embraced, as it is the cornerstone of any successful law enforcement agency,” Luna said outside the Hall of Justice. “All of us, starting with me, and I do start with me, will be accountable to the people that we serve.”
He also vowed to work cooperatively with the county Board of Supervisors and other oversight entities, with whom his predecessor, Alex Villanueva, often clashed.
Luna also said he would take a collaborative approach to the growing problem of drug and fentanyl overdoses.
“Our approach won’t be that we’re going to do this on our own,” he said. “We’re going to do this with our partners at the federal level, the state level, other law enforcement partners in Los Angeles County, which do include the District Attorney’s Office and others we have to work with. I don’t know if anybody in this county, which even includes our health department, doesn’t understand this needs to be dealt with.
“And it’s not just a problem here in L.A. County, it’s a problem across this country. The consumption of narcotics is outrageous, and that needs to change. And its not just the enforcement of, it’s the prevention of.”
During his swearing-in ceremony, Luna promised to be open to different approaches to tackle what he acknowledged was a rising tide of crime in the county.
“There can be no sacred cows,” Luna said.
He said the sheriff’s department has succeeded over the years because “it has never been afraid to innovate. … So we must look at policies and strategies that have succeeded in other places and not be afraid to bring them here.”
Luna also implored the public to defend “good policing,” while at the same time recognizing the need to hold law enforcement accountable.
“But even as we make mistakes, we can and we must keep the public trust,” he said.
The new sheriff said he will focus on three overriding principles:
- Integrity. “It’s about living up to the law enforcement code of ethics, doing the right thing even when no one is looking.”
- Accountability. “If crime goes, up, that’s on us. … We owe you the community a plan to reduce crime.”
And, in a veiled shot at Villanueva — who was frequently assailed by Luna and other elected officials over his contentious relationship with the county Board of Supervisors:
- Collaboration. “We will fail if we take an ‘us versus them’ attitude,” Luna said. “We cannot do that. We need less polarization and more partnerships, and we will do that.
“We are going to fix problems, not affix blame.”
Luna also mentioned the need to eliminate deputy gangs and improve conditions in jails. During the campaign, he accused Villanueva of ignoring the issue of deputy gangs, and of cultivating a hostile relationship with the Board of Supervisors.
Luna spent 36 years with the Long Beach Police Department, becoming chief in 2014. He has a master’s degree in public administration from Cal State Long Beach.
His victory in the Nov. 8 election marked only the second time in roughly a century that an incumbent L.A. County sheriff lost a re-election bid. The first time occurred four years ago, when Villanueva defeated then-Sheriff Jim McDonnell.
Luna last week announced the appointment of April Tardy, chief of the sheriff’s department’s Central Patrol Division, as his interim undersheriff, making her the first woman to hold that position in the agency’s history.
He also named Jason Skeen, currently the commander of Personnel Command, as his interim chief of staff. Tardy and Skeen are both 28-year department veterans.