Undersheriff Paul Tanaka is leaving.
Here’s how the Official announcement that went out Wednesday afternoon began:
Undersheriff Paul Tanaka today announced his retirement to the Sheriff and the Department’s executive staff. His retirement will be effective August 1, 2013
. The undersheriff has been with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department for 33 years.
Sources say that the August date was likely picked because it is shortly after the undersheriff’s 55th birthday, which is the magic age for sheriff’s department employees who wish to get their full retirement.
However, word is that this has been in the works in one form or another for a while, at least as far back as December, and likely earlier.
Until recently, Mr. Tanaka has been viewed as a sort-of shadow sheriff, the person behind Sheriff Lee Baca who, many in the force felt, held the real power in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s department.
WitnessLA’s Matt Fleischer first broke the news that the largely unknown Mr. Tanaka wielded a startling amount of control in the LASD, which—with 18,000 employees—is the largest sheriff’s department in the world, and runs the nation’s largest jail system.
While the announcement suggests that Tanaka’s retirement was his own idea, sources inside and close to the department tell us otherwise. They portray “an uneasy rift” between Mr. Tanaka and the sheriff in the last few months, which became “very noticeable” before Christmas 2012.
While the sheriff forced into retirement, many of those who who had some responsibility for the deputy-abuse-of-jail-inmates scandal, he seemed stubbornly disinclined to hold his second-in-command accountable, telling the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence during his testimony last year, that he had no intention of getting rid of his undersheriff, that he was too crucial, particularly when it comes to balancing the department budget.
Then as the year came to a close, reportedly Baca’s attitude changed.
“I think that all the things began to add up for the sheriff,” said one source. “The talk of pay-to-play, the cigar club, the whole thing of working the grey, the way the federal investigations were handled, the problems in the jails, and all the rest.”
For much of the back story on these issues, see the following WitnessLA reports:
The Prince, about Tanaka as the power behind the throne, so to speak. Internal Affairs about the undersheriff’s habit of urging deputies and supervisors to “work the grey.” Pay to Play, reports of an alleged quid pro quo system of promotions inside the department, in which loyalty was rewarded over competence