Jim McDonnell (sheriff)

James McDonnell is the former sheriff of Los Angeles County. McDonnell was elected as L.A. County's 32nd sheriff on November 4, 2014, defeating former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka (who is now in federal prison).[1] He replaced interim sheriff John Scott on December 1, 2014. Scott replaced former sheriff Lee Baca (who is also in federal prison).[2] Previously, McDonnell served as the Chief of Police in Long Beach, California and before that in the Los Angeles Police Department.[3] McDonnell was defeated by a margin of 51% to 48% in 2018 after only one term in office by retired Sheriff's Department Lieutenant Alex Villanueva.[4] McDonnell changed deputies' belt snaps from silver to brass and revised the capitalization of the letter "o" in "A Tradition of Service" from upper-case to lower-case on the patrol car doors, at a cost of millions of dollars to the taxpayers.[5][6]

Jim McDonnell
McDonnell in 2014
32nd Sheriff of the County of Los Angeles
In office
December 1, 2014 – December 3, 2018
Preceded byJohn Scott (Interim)
Succeeded byAlex Villanueva
Chief of Police of Long Beach Police Department
In office
March 13, 2010 – November 22, 2014
Preceded byAnthony Batts
Succeeded byRobert Luna
Personal details
Born1959 (age 61–62)
Spouse(s)Kathy McDonnell (wife)
RelationsKelly (daughter), Megan (daughter)
Police career
Department L.A. County Sheriff's Department (2014–2018)
Long Beach P.D. (2010–2014)
 Los Angeles P.D. (1981–2010)
Service years2014–2018 (L.A. County S.D.)
2010–2014 (Long Beach P.D.)
1981–2010 (Los Angeles P.D.)
Rank5 Gold Stars.svg Sheriff
4 Gold Stars.svg Long Beach Police Department Chief of Police
US-O8 insignia.svg L.A.P.D Deputy Chief
US-O9 insignia.svg L.A.P.D 1st Assistant Chief
US-O7 insignia.svg L.A.P.D Commander
US-O3 insignia.svg L.A.P.D Captain
US-O2 insignia.svg L.A.P.D Lieutenant
L.A.P.D Detective I-III
L.A.P.D Police Officer I-III
AwardsLos Angeles Police Department Medal of Valor ribbon.svg Los Angeles P.D. Medal of Valor
Los Angeles Police Distinguished Service Medal ribbon.svg L.A. Police Distinguished Service Medal
1987pv.JPG LAPD 1987 Papal Visit Ribbon
92riots.JPG LAPD 1992 Civil Disturbance Ribbon
1994quake.JPG LAPD 1994 Earthquake Ribbon
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Distinguished Service Award.png LASD Distinguished Service Medal

Early life and educationEdit

McDonnell grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Brookline, Massachusetts.[7] He graduated from Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice.[8] He then received a master's degree in Public Administration from the University of Southern California.[8]


McDonnell in 2015


McDonnell began his law enforcement career as twenty-one-year-old graduate from the Los Angeles Police Academy in 1981. During his 28 years of work in the LAPD, he held every rank except Chief of Police and served as second in command to Chief William Bratton.[8] He was considered a frontrunner for the position but Charlie Beck was appointed instead of him.[9] While at the LAPD McDonnell was viewed as an ambassador who helped the department connect with Los Angeles' diverse communities and political leaders as Bratton's chief of staff and second-in-command.[9] As a candidate for Chief in 2002, McDonnell presented a plan for community-based policing that was eventually adopted by Bratton and served as the foundation to overhaul and reform the LAPD.[9] While working for the LAPD, he held a variety of assignments in patrol, detectives, vice, gang, organized crime, homicide and other divisions. In the 1990s as a commander, he gained attention for his efforts to revitalize the LAPD's senior lead officer program and to build the LAPD forerunner to the Compstat computer crime-mapping system along with helping implement the consent decree.[7][9]


After losing the LAPD Chief's job to Charlie Beck, McDonnell in March 2010 was appointed as the police chief of Long Beach, California, replacing former Chief Anthony Batts, who left to become the chief of the Oakland Police Department. This occurred over objections by some in the department who preferred a chief from within the Long Beach Police Department and, indeed, a career LBPD officer would succeed McDonnell.[10][11] As police chief, McDonnell oversaw a large increase in officer-involved shootings and a 20% decrease in sworn officers from 1,000 to 800.[12] Violent crime also fell during McDonnell's tenure and he has received credit for improving community relations with the police, reducing gang activity, and trying to improve racial diversity in the department.[12] After McDonnell's election on November 4, 2014, Deputy Chief Robert Luna was selected to replace him to become the 26th Police Chief of Long Beach.[13] Luna was considered a frontrunner for the position before McDonnell was appointed and became the department's first Latino police chief.[13]


McDonnell has said he would work with district attorney Jackie Lacey to send some prisoners with mental health problems to psychiatric institutions rather than jail, however that did not occur.[7] McDonnell has stated that a new facility would be built to replace the dilapidated Men's Central Jail, however that also did not occur.[7] He expressed support for a civilian oversight commission to supplement the new inspector general in monitoring the department but has stated that he is still evaluating whether the inspector general should have subpoena power and access to personnel records.[7] He was sworn in on December 1, 2014 and became the first person from outside of the sheriff's department to be elected to the office of Sheriff in over 100 years.[7] His attempt at reelection was rejected by the voters in 2018. He was succeeded by Alex Villanueva.[14]

Sheriff primary results, June 3, 2014 [15]
Party Candidate Votes %
Nonpartisan Jim McDonnell 340,682 49.35
Nonpartisan Paul Tanaka 104,192 15.09
Nonpartisan Bob Olmsted 67,855 9.83
Nonpartisan James Hellmold 52,953 7.67
Nonpartisan Patrick L. Gomez 45,276 6.56
Nonpartisan Todd S. Rogers 41,855 6.06
Nonpartisan Lou Vince 37,458 5.43
Total votes 690,271 100
Turnout   14.31
November 2014
Sheriff runoff results, November 4, 2014[16]
Party Candidate Votes %
Nonpartisan Jim McDonnell 920,655 74.83
Nonpartisan Paul Tanaka 309,641 25.17
Total votes 1,230,296 100
Turnout   27.07

Dates of rankEdit

Insignia Rank Agency Date Notes
Sheriff   Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department December 1, 2014 – December 3, 2018
Chief   Long Beach Police Department March 13, 2010 – November 22, 2014
Deputy Chief   Los Angeles Police Department November 2009 – March 2010
1st Assistant Chief   Los Angeles Police Department November 12, 2002 – November 2009
Commander   Los Angeles Police Department April 2000 – November 12, 2002
Captain   Los Angeles Police Department
Lieutenant   Los Angeles Police Department
Detective III   Los Angeles Police Department
Detective II   Los Angeles Police Department
Detective I   Los Angeles Police Department
Police Officer III   Los Angeles Police Department
Police Officer II   Los Angeles Police Department No rank insignia, badge shown.
Police Officer I   Los Angeles Police Department 1981 No rank insignia, badge shown.

Personal lifeEdit

McDonnell is married to Kathy McDonnell.[8] They have two daughters, Kelly and Megan.[8]


  1. ^ "Former LA County Undersheriff Paul Tanaka begins prison term". Daily Breeze. 2017-01-16. Retrieved 2020-12-13.
  2. ^ "Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca is now a prison inmate in Texas". Los Angeles Times. 2020-02-05. Retrieved 2020-12-13.
  3. ^ "L.A.'s loss is Long Beach's gain in the hiring of Jim McDonnell". Daily News. 2010-02-04. Retrieved 2020-12-13.
  4. ^ Haskell, Josh; staff, ABC7 com (2018-11-17). "Alex Villanueva declares win in LA County sheriff race despite no concession from Jim McDonnell". ABC7 Los Angeles. Retrieved 2020-12-13.
  5. ^ Stoltze, Frank. "Alex Villanueva Declares Victory Over Jim McDonnell In LA County Sheriff's Race". LAist. Retrieved 2020-12-13.
  6. ^ Hern, Miriam; Bartley, Lisa (2017-06-01). "Eyewitness News investigates costs of replacing decals on LA County sheriff's patrol cars". ABC7 Los Angeles. Retrieved 2020-12-13.
  7. ^ a b c d e f "L.A. County Sheriff-elect Jim McDonnell has his work cut out for him". Los Angeles Times. November 6, 2014. Retrieved November 30, 2014.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Jim McDonnell Biography". Jim McDonnell for Sheriff. Retrieved November 30, 2014.
  9. ^ a b c d "LAPD's Jim McDonnell named next chief of Long Beach Police Department [Updated]". Los Angeles Times. February 3, 2010. Retrieved November 30, 2014.
  10. ^ "Sheriff-elect Jim McDonnell set to be sworn in Monday". Los Angeles Times. November 29, 2014. Retrieved November 30, 2014.
  11. ^ Saltzgaver, Harry. "Long Beach Police Chief Looks To Build On Good, Learn From Bad Of Last Year". www.Gazettes.com. Retrieved 2020-12-13.
  12. ^ a b "Jim McDonnell's career as police chief could show how he'd lead as sheriff". Los Angeles Times. October 26, 2014. Retrieved November 30, 2014.
  13. ^ a b "Long Beach selects its first Latino police chief: Robert Luna". Los Angeles Times. November 11, 2014. Retrieved November 30, 2014.
  14. ^ Board, The Times Editorial. "Sheriff Villanueva's truth and reconciliation commission is a lie". latimes.com. Retrieved 2019-03-11.
  15. ^ "Los Angeles County Election Results, June 2014: Sheriff". County of Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. Retrieved November 30, 2014.
  16. ^ "Los Angeles County Election Results: Sheriff". County of Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. Retrieved November 30, 2014.

External linksEdit

Police appointments
Preceded by
Anthony Batts
Chief of Long Beach Police Department
Succeeded by
Robert Luna
Preceded by
John Scott
Los Angeles County Sheriff
Succeeded by
Alex Villanueva