Max Huntsman

Prosecutor Max Huntsman, now the Sheriff's Department inspector general, delivers his closing argument in the trial of Angela Spaccia, former city manager of Bell. "It's not a problem you can fix and wake up tomorrow and say everything's great," he said of the Sheriff's Department. "We want to be there watching so if something goes wrong, we can be in a position to do something about it sooner rather than later." (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times / November 20, 2013)

A veteran prosecutor selected as a new watchdog of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said Wednesday he hopes his work will help bolster public confidence in the agency he will oversee.

Speaking hours after the county officially announced his selection as inspector general, Max Huntsman said he knows firsthand from his work in the courtroom how important a role the sheriff's department plays in the criminal justice system.

"If people don't trust sheriff's deputies, the criminal justice system falls apart," Huntsman said. "I want to make real change."

Huntsman said one of his first tasks will be to assemble a team of lawyers, investigators and support staff to monitor the department's operations. He said he believes the county's plan is to create a 26-person office of inspector general.

Creating the office was one of the key recommendations last year of a blue-ribbon commission that investigated allegations of violence inside the nation's largest jail system.

The panel called for an inspector general who would report to the Board of Supervisors and provide independent oversight of the Sheriff's Department, conducting its own investigations, monitoring jail conditions and reviewing the department's audits and inspections.

Richard E. Drooyan, the commission's general counsel, on Wednesday described Huntsman as an excellent choice for the role.

"He’s got an approach that is tough but at the same time collaborative," Drooyan said. "So I think he will be someone who will work with the Sheriff’s Department but call it as he sees it." 

Huntsman, 48, is a 22-year veteran of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office. He has worked in the division that prosecutes police officers and is now a supervisor in the unit that handles public corruption cases. He is currently trying Bell's former assistant city manager, Angela Spaccia.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to approve his appointment and annual salary of $204,423 at its weekly meeting Tuesday. 

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jack.leonard@latimes.com

Twitter: @jackfleonard