“I don’t see myself as part of the future. I see myself as part of the past.”
And with those words, Sheriff Lee Baca announced the end of a 48-year career with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department on Tuesday, 15 of those years as head of the largest sheriff’s department in the world.
Baca’s connection to the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station is memorable, according to Capt. Bill Song, the station’s commander. But his retirement will do little to affect how the 93 employees and 64 sworn deputies do their jobs. The city of La Cañada Flintridge has contracted with the Sheriff’s Department for police services since its incorporation in 1976.
Before coming to the CV station in May, Song, 48, spent many years working at the sheriff’s headquarters on the same floor as Baca.
In his 23 years with the department, Song has acquired a good sense of what it takes to police a suburban area like La Cañada and he foresees a seamless transition when a new sheriff comes to town in June.
What, if anything, will change when Baca steps down at the end of the month?
“Really nothing,” Song said Wednesday. “This will not impact the station in any way. I’d like to think he picked the right people for every station. He was always astute to our needs, even when the department was in a financial bind. Through the accounting of the department, we were in a financial pinch. But (Baca) still provided good leadership through the difficulties.”
Song said Baca, an avid runner, could be seen at every local marathon or running event.
“He had a personal involvement here (in the Crescenta Valley). He did all the runs. He attended a Memorial Day run on an annual basis. He had an interest in every station,” Song said.
The department has 23 stations, from Lancaster to Avalon, and serves more than 10 million people.
Mike Leum, reserve chief of Search and Rescue for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, has worked under Baca for 15 of his 20 years in the department. He said any changes that happen will be the direct result of who gets voted in as sheriff in June.
“I guess the short-term answer from yesterday forward is the focus will be on continuing to build on the positive programs in the department, many of which were implemented by Lee Baca as opposed to the obvious negative campaigning that was about to ensue,” Leum said.
“What the long-term look of the department will be is largely up to the new sheriff. The face of the department was much different under Sherman Block. Each administration will have its own impact on Los Angeles County,” Leum said.
La Cañada Flintridge City Councilman Donald Voss also doesn’t see much happening differently upon Baca’s retirement.
“Sheriff Baca has always been a friend to contract cities,” Voss said. “We have always maintained an excellent relationship with the CV station. We’ve been very satisfied with the county sheriff and we have no reason to expect that relationship will change under new leadership.
“Day to day, our interaction isn’t with Baca, it’s with Capt. Song,” Voss said. “That’s the key. That station has always been focused on their community presence and visibility. It’s just a terrific relationship.”
Follow Tim Traeger on Twitter: @TraegerTim.