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Music icon Stevie Wonder endorses Eric Strong for LA County Sheriff

Former Mayor of Lancaster, Bishop Henry Hearns, Lt. Eric Strong and Stevie Wonder. (Photo by AJ Calloway.)

Lt. Eric Strong’s Campaign for Sheriff held a fundraiser with Stevie Wonder this week. The event took place at glamorous Santa Monica restaurant La Conde, which promotes gold-leaf plated Wagyu steaks and mixology concoctions served in IV bags and genie bottles, on its Instagram. It was an event of stark contrasts, where the Los Angeles elite openly discussed the problems of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s deputy gangs in a restaurant that adheres to a relatively strict dress code prohibiting “loose clothing.”

Music icon Stevie Wonder said Hit LA Strong reminded him of another politician who contacted him. “When I met President Obama, he came to support him when he was running for senator from Illinois. I told him like I told Eric Strong – ‘even though I know you’re running to be a senator, I see you doing something much bigger than that. ‘I see you being president’ – because of the spirit I felt for him.

Wonder has advocated for a litany of social causes, including ending apartheid in South Africa, working to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday, and fighting for fair employment for people with disabilities. When pressed to share his feelings about current Sheriff Villanueva, Wonder avoided being explicitly critical. “I’m not here to criticize. We all know what we are not. We must arrive where we meet. He spoke in platitudes about how Los Angeles needs to come together. “It’s about fairness, equality and making sure people can feel safe – both in the hands of the system and that the police can have a better relationship with people,” said Wonderful.

Lt. Eric Strong stands next to a Stevie Wonder, seated to his left in front of a large window next to silver curtains.
Lieutenant Eric Strong next to Stevie Wonder. (Photo by AJ Calloway.)

Strong says he started talking to Wonder last June on the phone to tell him about his vision for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and gain his support. “He’s the man who’s written some of the most prolific songs about peace in the world – he’s a man of conscience and he wants to get it right,” Strong said of Wonder.

After Strong made a speech to supporters in the crowd alluding to deputy gangs and misconduct in the sheriff’s department, Wonder responded in a slightly more pointed metaphor:

“If you work with musicians and they play the wrong note, the consequence could be that they get fired. Because you’re ruining the song. So I hope you become sheriff – and you do – and that the people of the system or [in the community], when they do the wrong thing, you will give them consequences. They are responsible for what they do… and people [will know] that the system works for the people and that the system is maintained. Wonder then joked that he would be the first blind police officer, but he wouldn’t be carrying a gun.

Bishop Henry Hearns, who was elected to Lancaster City Council in 1990 and then became the city’s first black mayor in 1991, echoed this general message of social equity. “I’ve seen a lot of sheriffs going in and out of LA County,” Hearns said. Hit LA. “And what I would like to see is a fair system, so that whoever does something — gets the appropriate punishment for the crime. Not something based on their gender, color, race or anything else. Eric is that guy.

Strong previously stated, at Hit LA Antelope Valley Sheriff Forum, that it does not support LASD deputies being hired by schools to work in security. He said he would listen to the community if they didn’t want deputies in the schools because “the community knows better than the department.”

Hearns also declined to say anything negative about Villanueva, saying he preferred to focus on supporting Strong. After Strong’s speech, which was highly critical of Villanueva, he cryptically said, “When a man’s character is gone, he’s gone. I am happy to accompany a man of character.

Many participants got involved in the race because of the headlines made by the current sheriff. Several said they had become more aware of the problems within LASD as a result of Strong’s campaign. Strong thinks new voters are being drawn into the race because of Villanueva’s refusal to recognize deputy gangs, his constant insults to women and the county board of supervisors, and a lack of transparency over the department’s budget. . “This $3.6 billion budget that LASD has comes entirely from people in this room, but no one knows where that money is going.”

Scott Rowe, who previously worked with Warner Brothers in marketing and communications, said he hadn’t paid attention to the LA County Sheriff until he met Strong. ” I never knew [deputy gangs]. I don’t know if many people knew about this. He says he looked into the matter further after meeting Strong. “He didn’t go looking for Hollywood, we just met,” Rowe says of their meeting. LA County filing records show he donated $1,500 to Strong’s campaign.

Eden Alpert, daughter of jazz trumpeter Herb Alpert and partner at his restaurant Bel Air Vibrato Grill Jazz, said Hit LA that “[Strong is] so aware of the gang business… I love the police and respect what they do. But things are not going well at the moment. Alpert hosted an event for Strong on March 30. She says “nobody knows who’s on the ballot” for the race, but people need to hear that Strong “comes from a place of compassion.”

Destiny Good was thanked by Strong for organizing the event. Good founded public relations firm D. Good Publicity and partnered with 180 South Group to support the Strong campaign. good said Hit LA that the event was an in-kind contribution without a host – meaning that a good or service was donated to a campaign instead of money – and some of it was paid for by the campaign.

Good says she originally wanted to continue working on a political campaign with Strong, but was inspired by his “mission” to root out MP gangs. Strong boasted that he had investigated deputy gangs as part of the Bureau of Internal Affairs and that current departmental policies on deputy gangs had no strength to enforce. “Not voting is the same as doing nothing,” Good said. “You can march and protest all day, but if you don’t take action to educate yourself and go vote and change, then we won’t see that change and we will continue to repeat history over and over again.”

Destiny Good, wearing a yellow dress, crouched down to pose with Bishop Hearns and Stevie Wonder seated for a photo.
Bishop Hearns, Destiny Good, Stevie Wonder pose for a photo (Photo by AJ Calloway.)

Good’s mother, Rhonda Moss, was also at the event and expressed her support for Strong. In particular, she feels that Strong has more practical and compassionate solutions regarding Los Angeles’ homeless population. “Instead of receiving mental health care [services], they are criminalized. And that’s something he’s trying to change,” Moss said.

Strong’s family also attended the event. His wife, Lt. Sidra Sherrod-Strong, is currently suing the department for allegedly retaliating against her for speaking out about poorly maintained food services at department-run correctional facilities.

Strong said during his speech that “the solutions for the homeless are not inside a jail cell. It will come from sustainable resources and sustainable services. He implored the crowd to “not believe the alarmists who tell you that if we offer them services, that means we’re going to let go of all these predators and horrible people.” He also called community policing – a reform touted by law enforcement which in practice means community supervision – a “buzzword” and called on outside investigators to make the department “uncomfortable” , in order to eradicate the gangs of deputy ministers.

Strong has also always advocated for the closure of the Central Men’s Jail. At the fundraiser, he told the crowd not to believe “that if we close a prison, we are going to lose 1,000 MPs. No, we’re not.” Strong also pledged not to increase the department’s staff on duty. “We’re going to put [deputies] where they need to be – where they can serve the public and fight crime and give us resources and attention for all those things that make us a little uncomfortable right now,” he said. declared to the public. “I fear for my family. And you should now. Things are at their worst. »

Aaron Littman, a clinical lecturer at UCLA Law School, agrees with Strong on the closure of Central Men’s Jail. “It is extremely important to close the prisons, because it is one of the things that can be done to reduce the number of people in prison,” he says. “Slightly reducing the population in a prison does not save a lot of money, because the cost of feeding and clothing a person is not so high, but the cost of staffing of one unit is very high.” Littman also says law enforcement is working to “increase the demand” for policing and incarceration.

Hit LA reported that LASD misled contract cities like West Hollywood on crime rates, in an effort to wage a public relations battle over an overbilling scandal. Petty crimes like phone theft have been reported by the sheriff’s department as robbery, for example. Even more conservative media acknowledge that the homicide rate has fallen in the first months of 2022. The total number of homicides has increased slightly from last year’s totals, and the Los Angeles Time reported that many increases in crime are “far from historic highs.” Nonetheless, law enforcement agencies have historically been known to alter crime statistics to fit the narratives. Still, Sheriff Villanueva reported that the homicide solve rate, referring to the percentage that LASD solves, had hit a low of 31%.

“Anyone can say they’re going to do X, Y and Z just to win a campaign,” Good says. Sheriff Villanueva was elected on a wave of Democratic support in 2018, only to be officially asked by the LA County Democratic Party to step down in 2021. “But what sets Eric apart is he really has that compassion” , Good added. Strong preaches accountability, transparency, and overall cultural change in the department with progressive language. Only time will tell if he’s serious about making practical changes if elected – or if it’s just buzzwords like “community policing”.