LOS ANGELES — In a major reversal, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Wednesday that the names of deputies who shoot civilians will be released within 30 days of the incident, a newspaper reported.
Villanueva’s policy switch comes after the Los Angeles Times found that the LA sheriff’s department was an outlier among some of California’s largest law enforcement agencies, which promptly identify officers involved in shootings.
Villanueva had said as recently as last month that the names would come out only after the district attorney’s office finishes its review of each shooting.
Family members of people shot by deputies complained that months or years may go by before they learn details of the incidents.
Villanueva’s announcement during a Facebook livestream came a day after the county’s Board of Supervisors directed its lawyers to draft an ordinance requiring the publication of deputies’ identities within 48 hours of a shooting.
The sheriff said the 30-day window will give investigators time to evaluate whether a threat exists against the deputy, the Times reported.
“The idea is we want to be as transparent as we can, but we can’t jeopardize ongoing investigations and we can’t create a threat to someone,” he said. “So we’re going to balance the two things and the public’s right and need to know.”
This week, the department will publish online 95 names that have not previously been released, Villanueva said.
He did not say why he had changed his mind.
Melanie Ochoa, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California, said that as long as the decision to release the names remains with the sheriff’s department, they are still in danger of being withheld.
“LASD has repeatedly violated the Public Records Act prior to his tenure and has only more brazenly done so under his watch,” Ochoa said of Villanueva in a written statement.
A Times report earlier this month found no shootings between 2018 and 2020 in which the sheriff’s department released the names of deputies on its own accord.
The Los Angeles Police Department, by contrast, publicly identified officers in each of the 88 shootings that occurred between 2018 and 2020, according to the newspaper’s review.