LAX police chief to challenge Sheriff Alex Villanueva in 2022

Los Angeles International Airport Police Chief Cecil Rhambo announced Monday, July 12, that he will challenge Sheriff Alex Villanueva in the 2022 election.

Rhambo, a former assistant sheriff, has worked 33 years in law enforcement and also served as city manager of Compton, from 2017 to 2019, and as assistant city manager for Carson before that for several years.

He said he wants to address issues in the department, such as so-called deputy gangs, and the continued rise of murders and shootings in Los Angeles. As a Black and Asian man, he said he understands what it’s like to walk along the street as a person of color.

He accused Villanueva of eroding public trust in the agency, saying he “used fear to consolidate power and tried to rehire ex-deputies that committed domestic violence or excessive force and who make us good cops look bad.”

Villanueva has fiercely defended his record as sheriff, insisting he undertook sweeping action to eliminate deputy gangs. He has lashed out at the Board of Supervisors for what he has called dramatic budget cuts – or “defunding” – in a time of spiking crime rates.

Rhambo, raised in Compton and South Los Angeles after being adopted from Korea, said his experience in law enforcement includes an assignment in the Internal Affairs Bureau, where he assisted in the formation of the Shooting and Force Response Team in the wake of the Rodney King beating.

He also headed the Asian Crime Task Force, commanding a group of investigators and multilingual deputies to investigate crimes committed against Asians or by Asians.

And, he said, he helped start the Sheriff’s Community Oriented Policing Bureau, focused on suppressing violent crime, combating homelessness, offering quality-of-life programs and creating mental-health response teams.

“As sheriff, I’ll stop the corruption, fight crime, address homelessness and make our criminal justice system more just and fair so that it works for all of us,” Rhambo said in his campaign video.

He said that when the department came under fire from the ACLU and the FBI for prisoner abuse, Rhambo took on his boss, then-Sheriff Lee Baca, and other people in leadership.

Also running in the 2022 election is Eliezer Vera, a chief in the department who announced his campaign this spring. Vera has served in the department since 1988.

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