L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, who faced a tough battle for reelection amid scandals in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, plans to annouce his retirement, law enforcement sources told The Times.
Baca’s decision comes a month after federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against 18 current and former sheriff’s deputies accused of beating jail inmates and visitors, trying to intimidate an FBI agent and other crimes following an investigation of corruption inside the nation’s largest jail system.
The timing of his announcement remains unclear. But it was confirmed by multiple sources, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Baca won office in 1998 when his rival, incumbent Sheriff Sherman Block, died days before the election.
In the next three elections, he easily won in primaries against fields of lesser-known candidates, avoiding head-to-head runoff elections. By 2010, no one bothered to challenge him.
This election was going to be different, even before the indictments.
Baca already was coping not just with the FBI probe but criticism of his leadership from members of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and a special commission on jail violence. The Times also reported that the department had hired dozens of officers in 2010 despite background investigations that found significant misconduct.
The only political consolation for Baca as he gears up for the June election may be that two of his rivals — former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and former sheriff’s Cmdr. Bob Olmsted — also could be put on the defensive by the continuing criminal probe of alleged misconduct in the department.