A top Los Angeles County sheriff's official has resigned amid mounting criticism over emails he sent mocking Muslims, blacks, Latinos, women and others from his work account during his previous job with the Burbank Police Department, the Sheriff's Department announced Sunday.
After previously saying that he had no immediate plans to discipline his chief of staff, Sheriff Jim McDonnell said in a statement that he had accepted Tom Angel's resignation and intended to turn the controversy into a “learning opportunity” for his department employees.
“This incident is one that I find deeply troubling,” McDonnell said. “Despite the Sheriff’s Department’s many recent efforts to fortify public trust and enhance internal and external accountability and transparency, this incident reminds us that we and other law enforcement agencies still have work to do.”
McDonnell said he would introduce random audits of employee email accounts and would meet with community groups to “share thoughts and ideas about improving our understanding of the varied cultures and orientations and deepening our appreciation of the many ethnicities and religions that are part of the vibrant fabric of the population we serve.” The department would also examine its training and existing policies for “ensuring accountability and enhancing cultural and ethnic sensitivity,” he said.
Angel's resignation came after The Times published emails obtained under the state's open records act. The forwarded emails prompted numerous civil rights advocates to call on the sheriff to discipline his chief of staff. By Sunday, the consensus was that Angel should step down or be fired.
Angel did not respond to messages seeking comment. He previously told The Times that he did not mean to embarrass or demean anyone. He said it was unfortunate that his work emails could be obtained by the public under the state’s records laws.
It is unclear what lasting effect, if any, the controversy will have on McDonnell’s standing among local civil rights advocates.
McDonnell was elected in November 2014 as an outsider promising to steer the agency past an era in which some deputies beat jail inmates and others were found to have singled out African Americans and Latinos in the Antelope Valley for harassment. He brought Angel, a veteran sheriff’s official, back from Burbank as a key member of his reform administration.
Angel’s resignation was welcomed by many of the civil rights advocates who had called on McDonnell to act, though some said the sheriff should have done more sooner. McDonnell had previously said he was disappointed by the emails but didn't have plans to take action because Angel sent the messages while working for Burbank.
Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said Angel’s resignation was not a moment to rejoice but to “roll up our sleeves and help the sheriff develop a culture of partnership and accountability and transparency within his office.”
Haroon Manjlai, a spokesman for the greater LA chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the sheriff's decision to accept his chief of staff's resignation sent an important message going forward… – Courtesy Los Angeles Times