LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Sheriff Alex Villaneuva said Wednesday his department is establishing a policy of releasing within 30 days the names of deputies who fire their weapons at suspects, and 95 previously unreleased names will be posted online this week.
"The idea is we want to be as transparent as we can, but we can't jeopardize ongoing investigations," Villaneuva said during a talk on social media.
The announcement came one day after the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion recommending that an ordinance be drafted requiring the names of deputies involved in shootings be released within 48 hours.
The Los Angeles Times reported this month that the sheriff's department routinely rejects public records requests seeking the names of deputies involved in shootings, despite a state Supreme Court ruling generally requiring such disclosures.
Villanueva, during a social media chat Wednesday morning, said the department will create a 30-day window for releasing deputies' names. He said the window will give the department time to assess any possible threats of violence against involved deputies.
"That 30-day window will give us the opportunity to measure if there is a threat or not," he said. "We had one of the recent deputy-involved shootings where there was a very specific threat from a criminal gang from prison, putting what they call a `green light' on deputies. So that name will not be revealed."
The sheriff did not specify which shooting case resulted in the threat. He said if somebody wants to "complain" about the affected deputy's name being withheld, "Well, you should complain to the people who are making threats against the deputies."
Villanueva said deputy names would be posted online during the 30-day window. He said 95 names that had been previously withheld will be released this week.
According to the sheriff, the department is "doing a ton of reform measures that we'll be announcing in the coming days."
The motion approved by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday also called for a review of whether the county, rather than the sheriff's department, can manage the release of records on deputy misconduct, shootings and use of excessive force.
The motion, authored by Supervisors Holly Mitchell and Hilda Solis, recommended that attorneys draft a set of best practices for full compliance with Public Records Act requests and Senate Bill 1421, which calls for the release of law enforcement records once held confidential.
Mitchell and Solis recommended in the motion that an ordinance be drafted requiring the publication of such records online in a searchable format within 30 days.
Villanueva on Wednesday insisted that his department is in full compliance with SB 1421 records requests, despite assertions that there were thousands of overdue records requests. He also repeated his contention that when the department was behind on the requests last year, the county rejected six department requests for funding to help fill the requests.
Critics have said the sheriff's alleged full compliance in responding to SB 1421 requests includes any written correspondence, including confirmation of receipt, rather than a complete response.