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Campaign For LA County Sheriff Goes Into Total Free For All

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca seen at a previous inspection of Deputies at the Cerritos Sheriff’s Station.  Baca announced that he is stepping down as Sheriff amid controversy on January 31.   Randy Economy Photo

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca seen at a previous inspection of Deputies at the Cerritos Sheriff’s Station. Baca announced that he is stepping down as Sheriff amid controversy on January 31. Randy Economy Photo

 By Brian Hews

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca dramatically ended his career on Tuesday morning by announcing that he has decided to step down from the position he has held for the past 15 years and where he spent 48 years working his way up the ladder.

Baca made his stunning announcement during an emotional press conference held in Monterey Park at LASD Headquarters flanked by several uniformed members of his department standing behind him.

Baca’s decision to retire comes weeks after Andre Birotte Jr., the U.S. Attorney for California’s Central District, announced charges against 18 current and former deputies assigned to the Los Angeles County jails in connection with a wide scope of illegal conduct including allegations of unjustified beating of inmates, unjustified detentions and a conspiracy to obstruct a federal investigation.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is the official policing agency for several municipalities here in Southeast Los Angeles County including Cerritos, Artesia, Commerce, La Mirada, Norwalk, Lakewood and Pico Rivera.

Baca said he will stop working at the end of January.

“I have been proud and honored to serve the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the people of Los Angeles County for the past 48 years – which has made this decision the most difficult of my professional life,” Baca told reporters.

“I am not going to seek re-election to a fifth term as Sheriff, and I will retire at the end of this month,” he said with his face looking down at his prepared remarks.

Baca continued to tell reporters that “the reasons for doing so are many, and some are most personal and private, but the prevailing one is the negative perception this upcoming campaign has brought to the exemplary service provided by the men and women of the Sheriff’s Department. They have conducted themselves with the utmost integrity and professionalism, resulting in yet another year of historic crime reductions not seen in nearly half-a-century.”

Baca, was full of praise for the “institution” of the long historical law enforcement agency.  “Your Sheriff’s Department is the greatest law enforcement agency in the nation, and I want to thank the men and women of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for their hard work, dedication, and sacrifice exhibited daily.”

Baca, who in the past has denounced “the politics of having to be an elected Sheriff,” said he wanted to “directly talk to the people of Los Angeles County”
during his remarks by saying “I also extend a deep sense of gratitude for allowing me to serve for the past 48 years.”

Baca said that he tried to “stick to core values” during his entire tenure as the County’s “top cop.”

“As your elected Sheriff for the past 15 years, I have held fast to the Core Values of this great department. As a leader of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, I commit myself to perform my duties with respect for the dignity of all people, integrity to do right and fight wrongs, wisdom to apply common sense and fairness in all I do, and courage to stand against racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and bigotry in all its forms.”

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will be responsible for naming an Acting Sheriff to replace Baca whose term ends in 11 months. Several candidates have already lined up to run for Baca’s job in the upcoming June California Primary election including former Under Sheriff Paul Tanaka, Retired Commander Bob Olmstead and LAPD Sergeant Lou Vince. Lakewood Vice Mayor Todd Rogers who serves under Baca as the Assistant Sheriff told HMG-CN that he will also be entering the campaign to replace his longtime friend and ally.  Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnel who publicly said that he would not be a candidate for LA County Sheriff just a few weeks ago, is now reconsidering his decision and may enter the fray as early as next week.

Tanaka, through campaign spokesperson Kelsey Eiben quickly responded to the news about Baca’s sudden decision.

“Sheriff Baca and I have had our differences regarding the leadership and management of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He’s voiced his opinions publicly as have I. I’ll talk about that during my campaign, but I want to put politics aside for today and applaud him for his dedication to public service. This is a tough job and I want to thank Sheriff Baca for his decades of public service to Los Angeles County,” Tanaka said.

Olmstead, who oversaw operations at the Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles before his retirement two years ago, said Baca, “can run from the job, but he can’t hide from the culture of corruption.  It’s like cleaning up after a hurricane.  The storm is gone, but the damage remains.  It’s time to clean house, implement major reforms and restore honesty and integrity to this department.”

“As a former Commander in the Sheriff’s Department, I went to the FBI about misconduct in the Department only after Sheriff Baca and his crony, former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, refused to do anything about it,” Olmstead told the media through a press statement.

“It’s a new day in Los Angeles County – and I think it’s a sunnier one with Lee Baca gone – but we’ve still got a lot of work to do to make sure that we replace Lee Baca with a transformational leader who can reform the department, not somebody who will continue the same corrupt practices under a different name,” Olmstead said.

Challenger Lou Vince told HMG-CN that Baca’s announcement was “long overdue.”

“This morning Sheriff Baca held a press conference announcing his retirement at the end of his current term. I have had many disagreements with Sheriff Baca in the past in regards to his mismanagement of the Sheriff’s Department, including the County Jails. However, it is time for Los Angeles County to move forward with new and untarnished leadership,” Vince said.

“The next Sheriff of LA County must be a hands-on leader who is aware of all aspects of the operations of the department as well as the actions of his administrative staff and the deputies on the street and in the jails. He must possess strong leadership and management skills. He must be ready to work in conjunction with local and federal law enforcement organizations, other governmental agencies, and civic groups in establishing, promoting, and monitoring public safety for all residents of LA County. Most importantly, the new Sheriff must not be connected in any way to the current LASD administration to move beyond the corruption, scandal, brutality, and discrimination that pervades the present and past executive level personnel,” Vince continued.

“I would be honored to provide my decades of law enforcement experience and leadership to the people of Los Angeles County to move their Sheriff’s Department in the right direction, and I look forward to discussing my public safety vision with the voters this year,” Vince stressed.

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  • Mike Ruehle says:

    In 2012, Long Beach police chief Jim McDonnell was appointed by County Supervisor Knabe to chair a commission investigating misconduct of the Sheriff’s department. McDonnell personally criticized Sheriff Baca’s department for a “culture of violence and persistent pattern of unreasonable force through its entire chain of command dating back many years.”

    In the past month, Long Beach Chief McDonnell was forced to announce the formation of a NEW committee to investigate the growing number of complaints regarding his OWN Long Beach police department for misconduct and excessive force. This committee is IN ADDITION to the Long Beach charter mandated Citizens Police Complaint Commission (CPCC) and its own Internal Affairs department. Apparently two existing groups tasked with oversight of Long Beach police misconduct is not enough.


    How is the sheriff’s department misconduct McDonnell was so outspoken about in his 2012 Commission report any different than on-going issues with the Long Beach Police Department requiring appointment of another police oversight committee? How can anyone believe McDonnell would be able to enact positive change in the Sheriff’s Department when he can’t even control his own, much smaller, Long Beach police department?

  • Ramona Roman's Ghost says:

    Heck no kid, I’m goin’ for CECIL!