The Sheriff came to town … a town hall meeting.

Palmdale – Captain Todd Weber and Captain Ron Shafer of the Lancaster and Palmdale Sheriff’s Stations opened the Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, September 12 welcoming everyone for “coming out for the Sheriff to speak to you.”

The Pledge of Allegiance was recited followed by a 2-minute video of the Sheriff’s Department history starting in 1857 to date.

Photo : Captain Ron Shaefer, Palmdale Station, Sheriff Alex Villanueva, Captain Todd Weber, Lancaster Station

Sheriff Alex Villanueva opened by thanking the audience saying, “We get stronger when we get together and ask the strong questions.

This is my eighteenth town hall. How we divide and separate is by not listening. We gotta talk. We have to make our city safe. Everyone has a right to be safe. Where it was once a wild west outpost before law and order came to town, we introduced the area to law. It was wild. In 1857 the Sheriff was murdered in a shootout.”

The Sheriff talked about:

Us: What we do. You: What we should do WE: Make it work.

He said, “I took office in December 2018. We were short 958 deputies. We were juggling priorities, lifesaving calls and then routine calls. We have to appreciate each other. You need to appreciate what we do. We need to appreciate what you don’t know.

“You need to get to know your neighbors and deputies need to know your routines. On social media, don’t tell everyone what you are doing. Tell us.

“An improvement we have made is we hire locally, Los Angeles County, not out of state. The applicants in Kansas can handle their own problems in Kansas. We are hiring 20-25 per day to hire 2,170 deputies in 2 years. We expect to be fully staffed again by December 2020. “If our deputy sees a car and the plates are from another area, it’s a good stop to ask them what they are doing here. It interrupts crime. Deputies see what sticks out. It’s the same for you.

Call us if it doesn’t belong. Keep each other safe. Our Deputies enter into the ‘unknown’ on every call. It’s not like SEB who gets called out and they know exactly what they are going to. Work together, exchange information, build strong bonds.

“We are making policy changes where all of the needles are moving in the right direction. We want to de-escalate situations. Our drive is not to take people to jail. We want to de-escalate and resolve the issues, not get someone into the system, but to keep people at home, keep kids at home and in school, not in the system.”

The program then moved to audience questions of which there were many and all of them good sincere questions. The first area of concern was drug education where the Sheriff said, “We have the STAR program, but you want more in your schools. Go to school board meetings. Point out your priorities. Put the heat on the board. They will go along with their priorities unless you point out yours to them.”

Speed limits around schools was second in concern. CHP handles traffic issues in the unincorporated areas. Incorporated areas call your station to ask for help. “Let your station know. People can get black and white fever at the sight of a black and white and they will put their brakes on,” quipped Villanueva.

Smoking at gas stations was brought up to which Villanueva advised, “If someone is smoking, LEAVE! And don’t use your cell phone while pumping gas as cells can generate enough static electricity to cause a fire. Don’t handle it yourself. Go to another gas station.”

ICE was covered, women being promoted to higher positions, diversity, the department reflecting the communities it serves and employees earning rank through hard work and education. Concealed Carry, street racing, graffiti, employee accountability, body cams and dash cams, domestic violence, trust issues between the public and the Department, controlling marijuana in schools and alcohol in schools. The one solid solution to school issues is to be active in your school board meetings. Find out what the boards are doing. Present your priorities to the boards. Captain Shafer answered a question about rapes in the Valley. He pointed out that there are no ‘stranger’ rapes where someone breaks into a bedroom and commits a crime, but rather within the family. People meeting on social media and confrontations that involve drugs and alcohol are happening. Using common sense and making sure you are taking precautions to keep yourself safe is the solution.

Trust issues was discussed in length. The Sheriff said, “We will have an open community to trusting the Department. Everything goes on the website; all products of the Department will go on the website that is legal. Deadly force is no different in use due to ethnicity according to a recent UCLA report. Perception is the issue manifested by social media. Deadly force is a last resort. While other issues are in a down trend, the uptrend is suspects who are armed and dangerous.” Three question cards did not have questions but expressed thanks and gratitude for the service provided by the Sheriff’s Department. Judy Cooperberg, Executive Director of Mental Health America (MHA) was called up to talk to the Sheriff about how her staff that was in the MHA building which is just north of the Lancaster station coped with the incident three weeks ago. She explained how her staff was so thankful with how well the deputies handled the lock-down in their offices.

An update was given on the homelessness issue, why Deputies get involved where there is criminal activity. The Sheriff remarked about plans being put together to help solve the crisis saying, “We are stitching together all of our available resources for maximum results.”