How Baca defended himself in The Times during the jails scandal

How Baca defended himself in The Times during the jails scandal
Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca leaves the federal courthouse in downtown L.A. on Wednesday after pleading guilty to lying during a federal probe of the jails he ran. (Nick Ut / Associated Press)

Ex-Sheriff Lee Baca admitted this week that he lied on April 12, 2013, to federal agents investigating inmate abuse at Los Angeles County jails. Around the time investigators had interviewed him, Baca wrote several letters to The Times defending his reforms at the jails — which editorials derided as inadequate — and his broader record as sheriff.

Baca characterized one report as "sensational" (in a letter published on Dec. 24, 2013) and bristled at a Times editorial encouraging him not to run for reelection (ultimately, he would resign before his term expired). The former sheriff announced his resignation on Jan 7, 2014; he was defending himself on The Times' letters page right up until his departure from office.


Here are two letters from Baca in 2013 explaining his actions as the jails scandal was unfolding.

On Feb. 12, 2013, Baca responded to an editorial critical of his actions on jails:

Your editorial ignores what my staff and I have done over the last several years to ensure the safety of Los Angeles County jails.

The incidents of alleged excessive force have been thoroughly investigated and turned over to the U.S. attorney's office and the Los Angeles County district attorney's office for their disposition.

Furthermore, I implemented a Custody Training Bureau that ensures deputies' methods of force are well within the standards of justice. I have also created a force prevention policy, the first and only one of its kind in the nation.

I selected Terri McDonald as the new assistant sheriff for the custody division to continue our efforts to be the safest and most rehabilitative jail system in the nation. McDonald is going to focus on state realignment and the recommendations made by the Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence. She is the perfect choice.

On Aug. 6, 2013, in response to an editorial, Baca laid out his case for reelection:

I find it disconcerting that The Times has decided it should deprive voters of the right to select whomever they please as the next sheriff. Democracy is about giving voters choices, not denying them.

In 2014, I intend to seek reelection on my record, which includes:

- Leading the effort to reduce crime and violence to historically low levels;

- Guiding the Sheriff's Department through a period of excruciating state and local budget cuts, without reducing programs to protect the safety of L.A. County residents;

- Bringing the county's forensic capabilities into the 21st century and dramatically improving our capacity to solve and prosecute crimes;

- Implementing effective programs to dramatically reduce the recidivism rate and prevent future crimes;

- Responding vigorously to the instances of abuse in the county jail system and leading the effort to institutionalize far-reaching reforms.


This is a record I am proud to place before the voters of L.A. County.

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