By Associated Press - Wednesday, January 22, 2020

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has voted to give the Sheriff’s Department’s civilian watchdogs power to subpoena internal records.

The unanimous vote Tuesday came amid a lengthening conflict between the supervisors and Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who took over the nation’s largest sheriff’s department in December 2018.

Subpoena power will allow the county’s Civilian Oversight Commission to direct the Office of Inspector General to compel documents from the Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Last week, Inspector General Max Huntsman told the commission that his requests for information under the county code are repeatedly ignored.

Assistant Sheriff Steve Gross told the supervisors that increasing the inspector general’s power could harm investigations, and a county lawyer advised the board that the department could challenge subpoenas in court.

Villanueva said during his monthly media briefing Wednesday that he wants to work collaboratively with the oversight committee and inspector general based on mutual trust.

“When we have a situation where it devolves into a weaponized system that’s just served for political attacks, well, they lose their effectiveness and their credibility internally and their product externally doesn’t have the same luster, the same legitimacy because it becomes a political bashing exercise,” the sheriff said.

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