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Los Angeles County Sheriff: Vaccine mandate is 'definitely a backdoor way for defunding' police

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted last week to take COVID mandate enforcement responsibilities away from Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who has said since October he would not enforce the county's vaccine mandate.

Published: February 17, 2022 9:43pm

Updated: February 17, 2022 11:17pm

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva warned on Thursday about the "god-awful crisis" the city will face if the county Board of Supervisors begins implementing its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which he predicted would result in the loss of thousands of essential workers.

"The incompetence of [the Board of Supervisors] is only outweighed by the hypocrisy! #FactsMatter," Villaneuva tweeted on Thursday with a photo of a notice of suspension to a firefighter. The L.A. County firefighter faces a five-day suspension after not complying with the county's COVID mandate. 

"Because of the Department's current staffing crisis, resulting from the current COVID-19, your five (5) day suspension without pay will be served at a future date," the letter notes.

The supervisors "need to actually follow their own advice," Villanueva told the "Just the News" show on Thursday. "They keep saying that law enforcement has to deescalate and defuse tensions, and they did the exact opposite. They went and escalated it. They manufactured a crisis when there was none" by forcing sheriff's deputies to get fired or vaccinated.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted last week to take the COVID mandate enforcement responsibilities away from Sheriff Villanueva, the Los Angeles Times reported. The sheriff has said since October that he would not enforce the county's vaccine mandate. 

"The woke crowd," as Villanueva called them, was "outraged because they're all for the vaccine mandates and using the big arm of government in a very oppressive way." 

Villanueva told "Just the News" Editor-in-Chief John Solomon and show cohost Amanda Head that now the county's mandate is creating "one god-awful crisis."

In addition to the COVID-19 staffing struggles, Villanueva said he has lost more than 12,000 positions, and he is "destined to lose another 1,600 by April 1." The county board has frozen the department's ability to hire new recruits as well, Villanueva explained, so he is unable to get replacements when people quit or retire.

The vaccine mandate is "definitely a backdoor way for defunding," Villanueva asserted. 

"In the entire nation, every single government group that did the defunding and lived to regret it" ended up doing a 180 and worked to support police again, he said.

Far from expressing regret over defunding law enforcement, however, the L.A. Board is "doubling down on defunding the department," Villanueva said, adding, "We are being defunded and disbanded."

Villanueva said his department, the largest in the world, has about 10,000 vaccinated employees and 6,000 unvaccinated. However, the COVID-19 positivity rate was 3.4% for the vaccinated and 3.8% for the unvaccinated, he said.

"This entire fight in alleged harm is for a 0.4% positivity rate," Villanueva said. "So why are we not having mandatory testing for the vaccinated? Because they're getting COVID at almost the same rate as the unvaccinated. Big question for the board of supervisors they will not answer."

Law enforcement officers in L.A. are facing especially difficult challenges as the crime rate rises.

Villanueva called an increase in ambush-style attacks on his officers in September 2020 an "inflection point" and "a very scary moment."

"It changed the conversation nationally," he said. "And I think we're now seeing that pendulum swinging back. People are realizing defunding is a really, really stupid idea that has grave consequences for the very same people these crowds alleged they're trying to protect."

Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon came under fire Wednesday after reports surfaced that he has been retaliating against prosecutors who do not support his soft-on-crime approach, the New York Post reported.

During Gascon's first year in office in 2021, he declined to prosecute more than 12,600 cases for the L.A. Sheriff's Office alone, Villanueva said. 

"That's 12,608 times the crook walked away with no consequences," Villanueva said. "You're seeing the effects — 94% increase in homicides in two years. 64% In grand theft auto. I have one individual who has been arrested 23 times in one year." 

"Again and again" these cases are not being prosecuted, the sheriff said. "It is not working. We need a new DA."

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