Sheriff’s aide enters race to replace Lee Baca

With his command staff standing behind him, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca announces he will not seek a fifth term.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Another candidate is entering the race to replace Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.

Jim Hellmold, a 25-year department veteran who rose from Baca’s driver to assistant sheriff, told The Times that he would be making a formal announcement soon.

Hellmold is one of two department insiders Baca said would be strong replacements for him.

Hellmold, who is well-liked among the rank and file, sought to distance himself from the embattled Baca, saying publicly that it was time for the sheriff to step down.


In an interview Thursday, Hellmold said that as sheriff he would focus on building public trust and fighting crime, with a stronger focus on cybercrime.

“It’s going to be the new issue facing us in the coming decades,” he said.
Hellmold framed himself as a “crime-fighter, not a politician” and said he was more interested in building community support than big-name endorsements.

Earlier this week, Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell entered the race with just that, boasting a long list of supporters including Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, her predecessor Steve Cooley and Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck.

With his high-profile backers and distance from the scandals that have mired the sheriff’s department, political observers say McDonnell should be considered a front-runner.

Though Hellmold, 46, is a self-described “company man” at the sheriff’s department, he is promising to reform the agency, and in recent years, burnished those credentials by serving on a special commanders panel Baca created to reform the jails in response to the inmate abuse scandal.

As a captain, Hellmond was a perennial favorite in the deputy union’s member-voted ratings.

Hellmold said he may formally announce his candidacy in front of the storied First African Methodist Episcopal Church in South L.A. on Friday. But he said he may delay his announcement out of respect for the people affected by the Colby fire.

Sources within the department have said that with Baca packing up his belongings and cleaning out his office and two of his top aides angling to replace him, the mood at headquarters has been tense.

Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers entered the race the day that Baca pulled out. Two of Baca’s former top aides are also running: ousted undersheriff Paul Tanaka and retired sheriff’s commander Bob Olmsted.


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