At 10:30 on Thursday morning, four retired undersheriffs for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department announced their collective endorsement of Long Beach Chief of Police, Jim McDonnell, for the office of Sheriff of LA County.
The retired officials making the announcement were Robert Edmonds, Jerry Harper and Paul Myron, along with the fourth of the group, Theodore von Minden who was not present. Taking turns reading from a prepared statement in front of the cluster of reporters who had gathered for the press conference held in front of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, the three said that they had carefully considered all seven candidates before making their selection of McDonnell.
“We are here today because we care deeply about the leadership entrusted to the next elected sheriff of Los Angeles County. We believe that the people of this county and the nearly 18,000 member of the sheriff’s department sorely need and want a leader who can insure the public trust.”
And that person was McDonnell, they said. explaining that they didn’t see the Long Beach Chief as outsider, “but a prominent, highly respected member of the greater law enforcement family of police agencies that our LASD deputies work with 24/7.” The department needs a fresh perspective, they said, and McDonnell was the most qualified to bring that perspective.
The men did not simply praise their candidate of choice., They were also highly critical of retired Sheriff Baca and his former second in command, Paul Tanaka, who is one of the six other candidates for for sheriff.
“We sadly recognize that the administration of retire Sheriff Lee Baca and former undersheriff Paul Tanaka was beset with major problems which have damaged the department as well as the public trust,” they said in their prepared statement. said the three. “These failures were of their own making.”
Once the formal presentation was over, Harper, Myron and Edmonds went further in their criticism of Tanaka. “We don’t think he is qualified. He should not be running,” said Harper.
Paul Myron said he hoped the voters would take the time to inform themselves by “reading the report from the Citizens Commission on Jail Violence.”
Edmonds pointed to the federal charges of obstruction of justice that have been brought against seven department members. “When you have deputies go out and brace an FBI agent, there’s no way that would happen without higher command being involved.”
All three talked about Tanaka’s reported speeches to deputies urging them to “work the gray.”
“We all know what that means,” said Harper, dismissing Tanaka’s contention that the phrase was a harmless one merely referred to deputies using discretion in certain situations. “There’s such a thing as discretionary law enforcement.” Telling young deputies “to work in the gray is totally different.”
The three did have praise for three of the other candidates, Jim Hellmold, Bob Olmsted, and Todd Rogers, all of whom they said had a lot of strengths. (They felt that Pat Gomez and Lou Vince did not have enough supervisory experience to run an complicated agency the size of the sheriff’s department.)
When asked about the endorsement and the criticism, Tanaka campaign spokesman, Reed Galen, told reporter Ruby Gonzales of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune that “apparently these gentlemen have been off the job too long to understand and appreciate Tanaka’s 31-year career in the sheriff’s department”
The four retired undersheriffs have a collective 48 years serving in the two highest ranks in the LASD under that of the sheriff. Von Minden was as assistant sheriff for Peter J. Pitchess, and the first undersheriff for Sherman Block. Edmonds and Harper both served as assistant sheriffs and undersheriffs for Block. Myron was the first undersheriff for Lee Baca.
Two of the four have sons now working in the department.