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Duffy Defiant to the Last: ‘You May Think I Care, but I Don’t’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a rare interview that could be his last before leaving office on Jan. 7, Sheriff John Duffy said he does not care how he will be remembered when he leaves office and expressed bitter feelings about Sheriff-elect Jim Roache, whom he accused of being a disloyal ingrate.

Duffy, who does not hide his antipathy for the press, was interviewed on KNSD’s “Headliners” show, which will be broadcast Sunday morning. The program featured a vintage Duffy, who lashed out at his enemies, real and perceived. He also refused to accept any of the blame for his strained relations with the Board of Supervisors and other critics.

When asked if any of the controversies that constantly swirled around him were of his own doing and shaped his negative image, Duffy replied: “I don’t think of things as my fault. That’s the way it happened.”

However, he also said that the public views him as “contentious, argumentative, doesn’t want to get along, uncooperative with everybody and secretive.”

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Earlier in the program, Duffy thumbed his nose at the public and said he does not care how people will remember him after serving as San Diego County sheriff for 20 years.

“I really don’t care. You may think I care, but I don’t,” Duffy said.

He reserved his harshest comments for Roache, a sheriff’s captain, who defeated Duffy’s handpicked candidate to be his successor, Undersheriff Jack Drown. Duffy said he has no intentions of letting bygones by bygones, adding that there is no love lost between him and Roache.

“Not a bit, ever. He destroyed any feeling I had for him with his disloyalty to the organization, not against me,” Duffy said.

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He also claimed credit for Roache’s career gains in the department and criticized him for being ungrateful.

“He forgot how he got where he got. I’m the one who promoted him to sergeant, hired him as a deputy. I’m the one who gave him every chance he had.”

Later, Duffy said he considered Roache “to be utterly stupid” for firing Drown and other administrators who worked for Duffy. He reiterated that he will meet with neither Roache nor his transition team.

“I’ve no obligation to teach him (Roache) what he considers to be my mistakes,” Duffy said bitterly.

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In the interview, Duffy also denied that he reneged on a promise to punish members of the so-called Rambo Squad, 10 deputies and high ranking officers found to be involved in illegally harassing and beating prisoners at the County Jail in El Cajon.

In August, 1989, Duffy promised to fire, demote or suspend the deputies. All of the culprits were suspended instead.

“There was what you call plea bargaining. I agreed to the plea bargain, just like any judge does for any criminal,” Duffy said.

He expressed regret, however, over not being able to punish the “captain of the Rambo Squad,” Capt. Maudie Bobbitt, who supervised the jail. Bobbitt--who was suspended for 35 days in 1989 for her connection to the Rambo Squad--was appointed an assistant sheriff by Roache for his new administration.

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Bobbitt’s suspension was revoked in October by the county’s Civil Service Commission.

Although Duffy acknowledged having a “tumultuous” career, he said he “enjoyed every minute of it” and will retire without regrets. However, he also said he enjoys a better reputation outside San Diego County, where he was sworn in as a deputy in 1953.

“Outside of this county of San Diego, I have a great reputation nationally, internationally and statewide,” Duffy said. “Whatever (reputation) I do enjoy in San Diego County is something that you’re (media) responsible for, not me.”

Several times during the interview, Duffy criticized the media for “selective reporting,” charging that reporters did not always report all of the facts when they covered him or his office.

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