An attorney appointed by the Federal Court to monitor the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's compliance with a series of jail reforms has asked Sheriff Alex Villanueva to provide proof of claims the public was misled by former Sheriff Jim McDonnell about the levels of violence inside County jails.
"I do not believe that anyone in the Department has intentionally misled us," wrote Richard E. Drooyan, who is one of several monitors responsible for ensuring the Sheriff's Department follows a 2015 court settlement with inmates who sued and complained there was a pattern of deputies using unnecessary and excessive force.
The letter, sent Monday and obtained by NBC News, questioned Villanueva's findings that incidents of violence in the jails were much higher than previously acknowledged.
"Without accurate data to serve as a benchmark, it is not possible to draw any reliable conclusions or comparisons regarding the level of force and violence in the jail during your predecessor's tenure," Drooyan wrote.
The Sheriff's Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Last week Villanueva said at a news conference McDonnell's administration had engaged in a conspiracy to conceal from the public an increase in the number of inmate attacks on deputies and an increase in the overall level of inmate-on-inmate violence.
Villanueva presented several graphs and charts that he said showed the actual level of violence had gone up following the implementation of the reforms demanded in the settlement.
Villanueva told reporters inmates and deputies were not made safer as a result of those reforms, and said public reports on the implementation of the reforms were not accurately measuring what was going on inside the jails.
Drooyan, a former federal prosecutor with many years of law enforcement oversight experience, cautioned Villanueva not to try to change any jail or use of force policies without first notifying the court.
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"Any changes in the Department's use of force policies are subject to review and approval," he said.
Drooyan previously served as president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, as deputy general counsel for the 1991 Independent Commission on the LAPD, known as the "Christopher Commission," and as general counsel of the Rampart Independent Review Panel in 2000.
The letter followed a contentious week for Villanueva, who clashed with several LA County Supervisors concerned about the Sheriff's decision to rehire a deputy who had been fired after a domestic violence complaint.
Villanueva defended his decision at several public meetings. He said the domestic violence accuser's account was not credible to him, and said there were another half-dozen deputy terminations he intended to reverse.
The Sheriff said he believed the administrative process used to evaluate deputy and employee misconduct was corrupt and that, "politics," were driving County commissioners decisions to fire the deputies.
In a Facebook post disputing the cover-up claims former Sheriff McDonnell said the information presented by Villanueva should be fact checked independently. "Sheriff Villanueva is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts," McDonnell wrote.