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Baca might stay with Sheriff's Department

Baca might stay with Sheriff's Department
With his command staff standing behind him, L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca announced Tuesday that he will not seek a fifth term and will instead retire at the end of January. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Lee Baca might not be leaving the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department after all.

His spokesman said the sheriff, who announced earlier this week that he was stepping down, is planning on becoming a reserve deputy for the agency -- volunteering to patrol the county in a sheriff's black-and-white.

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At the news conference where he announced his retirement, Baca told reporters the title he was most proud of during his nearly five decades with the department was deputy sheriff, not sheriff. If Baca ends up becoming a reserve, his spokesman said, he is expected to serve in its most advanced designation, allowing him to patrol alone and make arrests.

(The work can be exciting: Two years ago, a sheriff's reserve deputy was the first to spot the Hollywood arson suspect being pursued by hundreds of law enforcement officers around the area.)

Baca, facing a string of scandals in his agency, announced Tuesday his plans to retire as sheriff, saying that stepping down would help the rank-and-file recover after several years of tumult and criticism.

Most recently, the sheriff came under fire after 18 of his deputies were charged by federal authorities, and after a Times investigation found his agency hired dozens of applicants with histories of serious misconduct, including some who were friends or relatives of sheriff's officials.

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