Robert Luna was sworn in as LA County Sheriff

Robert Luna was sworn in as LA County Sheriff

  • US News
  • December 4, 2022
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During his inauguration ceremony on Saturday, Sheriff Robert Luna vowed to lead with a spirit of integrity, accountability and collaboration to usher in a new era for the department after four years under the leadership of his controversial predecessor.

“I want to thank the Los Angeles County voters for electing me to be the 34th sheriff,” he told the crowd, “and entrusting me with a very clear mandate to bring new leadership and accountability.”

As Saturday’s ceremony at the Kenneth Hahn Administration Hall was more of a formality, Luna will officially take office on Monday noon, replacing Alex Villanueva.

Previously Long Beach Police Chief, Luna — whose record of diversity in that department emerged as a frequent criticism of his opponent during the campaign — eventually sailed to a decisive victory over Villanueva, whose tenure was a particularly chaotic time for a department long used to turmoil.

On Wednesday, Luna announced that one of his first steps will be to appoint department veteran April Tardy as the agency’s undersheriff, marking the first time in department history that a woman will take the job. Tardy is also black, which is particularly significant given the sheriff’s department’s long history of racial prejudice.

Early on Saturday, a group of MPs waited in line outside the district administration building to attend the swearing-in ceremony, which began at 11 a.m. As they talked and caught up with each other, a smiling man in a suit approached.

“New chapter today,” he told them. “We’ll see how it goes.” Several MPs nodded.

During the ceremony, Robert Garcia, the outgoing Mayor of Long Beach, spoke about working with the new sheriff during Luna’s tenure as police chief. He is a cooperative, strong and kind leader, said Garcia, who was recently elected to the US House of Representatives.

Garcia then turned to look at several members of the board of directors who had very publicly clashed with Villanueva.

“You’re about to get the best of Long Beach,” he told them. “An executive who will work with you.”

“We’ll take him,” whispered supervisor Janice Hahn loudly and smiled.

Cesie Alvarez, Luna’s daughter, later addressed the crowd and said that although she initially advised him against running for sheriff — he deserved some time off to relax, she told him — she quickly realized that he is the ideal person for the job.

He’s an attentive listener who eagerly takes her sometimes overly emotional calls, she said, the type of person who attends church every week, diligently takes sermon notes, and who on a hectic election night realizes she hasn’t had lunch and cooked her a turkey sandwich.

“My dad is a really good guy,” she said, noting that he hated it when she called him guy. He nodded.

A few minutes later, during the official pinning of his new badge, his wife Celines stood beside him and pinned the brooch to his tan uniform.

“Ouch!” Luna yelled, winced and then smiled. “Just kidding.”

After a judge swore him in, Luna made brief remarks. He began spotting the Academy Class 464 recruits, several of whom were injured when an SUV swerved into the wrong lane during a training run last month.

“Just absolutely heartbreaking,” he said. “Please keep her in your prayers.”

He then told the crowd that he was incredibly honored to stand before them in the traditional tan and green sheriff’s uniform and said it brought back memories of his childhood days in East LA and how many deputies he patrolled back then saw had inspired him.

“When my friends were playing cops and robbers, I always chose to be the cop,” he said.

“We must defend good policing,” he continued, “but I understand that it is our responsibility to do so by denouncing bad policing.”

Luna said he’s made mistakes over the years, including during his time as police chief, but he’s confessed to them.

“I’m not afraid to tell people I screwed up and I will continue to do so,” he said, adding that the department still has work to do.

“We need to eliminate MP gangs,” he said, referring to groups of MPs that have existed in the department for decades and have long been accused of using violent, intimidating tactics.

While Luna didn’t answer media questions during Saturday’s ceremony, he sat down for a full-on interview with The Times earlier in the week. His top priorities, he said, are reducing crime, tackling homelessness and restoring public confidence in the department.

In the days since his election, Luna said he has spent time conversing with the department’s chief watchdog, Inspector General Max Huntsman, as well as the five members of the board of directors and the Dist. atty George Gascón – all had publicly strained relations with his predecessor.

“There are unfortunately broken relationships that need to be repaired,” he said. “Sometimes the way you approach governance makes a big difference.”

Luna said he was determined to address pervasive issues within the department, adding that he had already begun discussions with some outside authorities over investigations into proxy gangs. He intends to offer “full cooperation” to the agencies he spoke to, he said, but declined to identify the agencies.

“We’re going to sit down with them, and I want to know: were there any obstacles?” he said. “For example, does anyone object to giving you records?”

The management structure of the department has changed several times in recent years. Luna is now the fourth person to serve in the top position since Lee Baca resigned eight years ago during a federal corruption investigation that resulted in a prison sentence.

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