LA Times Endorses Robert Luna for Sheriff

By: 
Stephen Downing
Picture from the OIS file that shows the door was closed when Luna et al fired their weapons in 1992.

On Sept. 26 the editorial board for the Los Angeles Times published an endorsement supporting Robert Luna for sheriff. The endorsement said, “it is no knock on Luna to acknowledge that this important election is less about him than the incumbent, Alex Villanueva, whose tenure has been disastrous for the people of Los Angeles County, public safety, the rule of law and, whether or not they realize it, the nearly 10,000 deputies in the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.”

I have no argument with the Times’ litany of arguments opposing Villanueva for sheriff, but for the people to best judge between the candidates it would be fair if – in its reporting – the Times would provide at least one in-depth review of Luna’s performance as chief of the Long Beach Police Department

I for one take factual exception to the last two paragraphs in the endorsement and ask – who is your reliable source for saying, “Luna won praise for his leadership… “He supported civilian oversight of the type the current sheriff resists or rejects…” and especially “he is a professional of sound judgment and deep experience…”

I ask because Robert Luna is none of that.

The Times has not covered the LBPD over the past ten years. I have, and your praise for Luna does not square with the dozens of investigations conducted and published in the Beachcomber.

During his tenure as Long Beach Chief:

  • Luna stonewalled our civilian oversight commission, the CPCC, as they attempted to perform their chartered duties and he currently supports their dissolution.
  • For years he knowingly allowed hundreds of his detectives to use a disappearing messaging app that violated public records law and individual rights to discovery.
  • He covered up crimes committed by a Long Beach Councilmember and those in the LBPD’s crony class.
  • He oversaw the gathering of 300 unmasked police officers inside the L.B. Convention Center at the height of the pandemic.He banned the choke hold and implemented modern use of force policy statements and training only when forced to by law or public pressure following the George Floyd murder.
  • He had no risk management processes to deep dive officer performance after losing civil rights lawsuits that cost the city millions
  • He retained and promoted officers whose misconduct justified termination.
  • He routinely concealed damning documents from lawful court and public discovery.
  • And his crony command subordinates were provided a free ride when exposed for gross retaliation against stand-up rank and file officers protecting the public from racist police misconduct.

Luna’s incompetence is best evidenced by the fact that – after the LBPD lost and never replaced 200 officers in the economic downturn – the city manager saw the need to provide Luna with a crutch to hold him up in the final 2 1/2 years of his administration by installing an assistant chief to run the department – a position that has not been filled since Luna retired nine months ago.

Most egregious, during his entire administration, Luna is the only chief of police in California who prohibits detectives investigating officer-involved shootings (OIS) from interviewing the officer who pulled the trigger or witness officers.

Any investigation that prohibits interviews of participants is not an investigation – it is a process that enables cover-ups – as is the case with the cover-ups exposed by civil juries – that have time and time again validated the LBPD credo – as told to this writer by department insiders on multiple occasions – that, “there are no bad shootings in the LBPD.”

The list is unending, but if the Times wants more go to the Beachcomber “search results” where more than 150 stories can be found that report on Luna’s LBPD, his incompetence and his inability to bring a bottom-rung police agency out of the dark ages – a fact reported by Police Scoreboard that reported his department as ranking last among 365 police departments in California and fourth to last among 16,000 departments nationwide.

Police Scoreboard’s national study also reported that police departments with higher scores than Luna’s used less force, made fewer arrests for low level offenses, solved murder cases more often, held officers more accountable and spent less on policing overall – all while Luna’s LBPD had more shootings per arrest than 83% of the departments studied and used more less-lethal force than 97% of the departments.

That kind of performance spells incompetence, especially when one considers the fact that Luna’s department was better funded than 88% of the 16,000 police departments studied.

Luna was not able to lift the LBPD out of its decades of dysfunctional culture and corruption that has cost taxpayers tens of millions from civil law suits while attempting to lead a 900-member department, so there is no reason to believe he has the ability to accomplish anything close to what’s needed to clean up the Sheriff’s Department; an organization that is ten times larger than the LBPD.

Now let’s get to his credibility.

The editorial board should listen to the debates between Luna and Villanueva. Luna lied in many of his responses.

The most revealing of those lies was when Villanueva accused him of taking part in a cover-up engineered in a 1992 shooting in which Luna was involved.

Luna’s denial was so strong (and stilted) that I was prompted to review the shooting.

Senate Bill 1421 made the shooting investigation available on the LBPD website two years ago – something that the LBPD did not know would happen when they investigated the shooting in 1992.

Today, I reviewed that shooting investigation enough to be convinced that Luna did lie about it at the debate.

The investigative narrative reports that the officer’s forced entry while serving a search warrant and when the exterior reinforced screen door and wooden door was ultimately forced opened the suspect was seen to be pointing a gun at the officers.

According to the report, the officers – including Luna, fired. The suspect dropped to the floor and was immediately dragged outside.

The narrative did not explain why the gun was not retrieved by the officers, why it was later found on the kitchen table, why a D.A.’s investigator was able to report that a witness saw the gun in the suspect’s hand and took it to the kitchen table after he fell or – most importantly – how the officer-shooters were able to see the suspect with the gun in his hand at the time the door was forced open when the photographic evidence from the scene shows that the shots fired were through the closed door.

What is most important to understand about this shooting 30 years ago is that many people were at the scene and therefore many people were involved in the cover-up.

It is that fact that gives a long life to internal cronyism, more cover-ups and systemic institutional corruption – because as one climbs the ranks, they are compromised from taking affirmative action against new corruptions and soon it is endemic within the organization.

That is Luna. That is the LBPD.

 

Stephen Downing is a resident of Long Beach, a retired LAPD deputy chief of police and a writer for the Beachcomber.

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Comments

There is absolutely nothing I’ve read in all the reports by various publications on Villanueva and Luna that can convince me that one is better than the other, or that one is the lesser evil. That aside, the Los Angeles Times is nothing of its former self (not that it was stellar to begin with), it is but another cog of the status quo propaganda machine. Thank you Steve Downing and Beachcomber News for being there for Long Beach as the only remaining periodical worth reading.

Am not too concerned that the "Bias" LA times is trying to gain favor with the BOS, which endorsed incompetent and corrupt Luna, what did you really expect lol. What am concerned is that the corrupt elected LB city officials endorsed Luna. This corrupt city knows exactly how incompetent and corrupt Luna was when he was the COP and still they endorsed him. This irresponsible and unethical behavior by the corrupt LB city council and all who endorsed Luna should show all of LB that these people only care about, "the power and money that comes with their elected positions." They destroyed LB by helping cover up Luna's corrupt actions and now they are willing to destroy the entire county. They had the opportunity to tell the truth about puppet LunaI but they did the opposite. I will vote to reelect Sheriff Villanueva because at least he stand-up against the BOS. The current Sheriff's faults do not come close to what corrupt puppet Luna has done. All of the LBC should show corrupt Luna that the corruption he was allowed to get away with in LB will not be tolerated by the people in the county. VOTE VILLANUEVA FOR SHERIFF.

It obvious that Luna although a poor choice is a better choice than Villanueva. The LA County supervisors are putting a ballot initiative that would give them a way to replace the sheriff.

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