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Sheriff Lee Baca Retires: “I Will Go Out on My Terms” More Candidates Consider Running…& Indictments Loom

January 8th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon


It was a strangely melancholy, almost Shakespearean scene on Tuesday morning
at the Monterey Park headquarters of the LA County Sheriff’s Department where, at just after 10 am, Sheriff Lee Baca emerged and announced to a large crowd of journalists and others that he was leaving the department he had served for 48 years, and led for fifteen. His exit would be effective at the end of January.

[KPCC has most of the audio of Baca's statement and the Q & A that followed here.)

“I was elected to four terms. And I will go out on my own terms,” the 71 year old sheriff said looking fit and also fragile.

At several points in his prepared statement, the sheriff teetered on the precipice of tears.

“All the people in this county count, he said, his voice thickening. “Everybody.”

Baca said he was retiring for many reasons, But “the prevailing one,” he said, “is the negative perception this upcoming campaign has brought to the exemplary service provided by the men and women of the sheriff’s department.

“This is all about doing what is right for the people of Los Angeles County.”

Since the meaning of this statement was somewhat…unclear…a reporter asked Baca why he couldn’t just announce that he wasn’t running for a new term, but still finish out his existing elected term.

He thought of it, he said, “But I know the intensity of politics…”

Anoather reporter asked Baca if his resignation had anything to do with worry about federal indictments. He answered opaquely.

“I’m not afraid of reality,” he said. “I’m only afraid of people who don’t tell the truth.”

Hmmmmmm.

Along with the crowd of journalists recording the moment, there was also a second crowd of department members. The mood among the latter was, oddly, one of relief—as if after months of tension the storm had broken. The rain had come. There was no more wondering what would occur. Now it had happened.

Even Baca looked like a weight had been lifted.


After delivering his own news, the sheriff endorsed Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald— formerly of the California Department of Corrections, who is now in charge of the department’s custody division— as his choice for interim sheriff. (The LA County Board of Supervisors has the ultimate say about who will be chosen as interim sheriff.)

Baca also endorsed two of his assistant sheriffs as candidates for the office of sheriff, Todd Rogers and Jim Hellmold.

I spoke to Rogers after Baca’s press conference concluded. When I asked him if he planned to declare his candidacy on Tuesday, at first said he wasn’t officially declaring on this day, but another minute or two into the conversation, he changed his mind and went ahead and jumped into the race for real. He then talked about a “catastrophic failure of leadership” in the department and how Baca had trusted the wrong people, particularly Paul Tanaka. By this time, some TV reporters had drifted over, and Rogers repeated everything for the television cameras.

I had a similar conversation with Jim Hellmold, who was in his sheriff’s department uniform so couldn’t really legally talk politics. But he said he was strongly considering running, but hadn’t decided yet.

Both Hellmold and Rogers seemed very interested in whether Long Beach Chief of Police Jim McDonnell was going to jump into the race. (He has said he is now strongly considering the option. More on McDonnell later in the week.)

After the official event was over, as reporters and department members stood around talking, there was much speculation about why Baca had chosen so unexpectedly to call an end to his time in office. Most agreed it had something to do with the federal investigations, but no one seemed to know for sure.


OTHER CANDIDATES FOR SHERIFF SPEAK OUT

Candidates for Sheriff Bob Olmsted, Paul Tanaka and Lou Vince all issued statements in response to the Lee Baca’s announcement.

Olmsted (who reportedly has raised $250,000 in campaign donations thus far) wrote this:

“They said he couldn’t be beaten. They called him the Teflon Sheriff. But no man is above the law. Plagued with an active FBI investigation and a host of scandals, Lee Baca announced his resignation today.

He can run from the job, but he can’t hide from the culture of corruption he oversaw. It’s like cleaning up after a hurricane. The storm is gone, but the damage remains. It’s time to clean house, implement major reforms and restore honesty and integrity to this department……


WLA ON KCRW & PACIFICA TALKING ABOUT BACA’S RETIREMENT—AND MORE

On Tuesday afternoon, I was on KCRW’s “All Things Considered” talking about Baca’s announcement with Steve Chiotakis, and you can find the podcast of the short segment here.

Later in the day I did a segment of Background Briefing with Ian Masters. (Here’s the podcast.)

Regrettably, on Tuesday morning, I was so busy chatting with people outside the LASD headquarters that I failed to pick up the request to be on Which Way WLA? until it was too late. (Here’s the WWLA? show on Baca’s retirement announcement.)

We also recommend Larry Mantel’s show on the matter at AirTalk featuring LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Jails Commission executive director Miriam Krinsky and the So Cal ACLU’s legal director Peter Eliasberg. Definitely worth a listen.


MORE INDICTMENTS COMING?

There have been strong rumors—as yet unconfirmed—that more indictments could arrive as soon as next week—or perhaps earlier—this time involving people higher on the department food chain.

But one of the most intriguing moments of speculation came in the course of a KFI news segment on Tuesday when reporter Eric Leonard says that he has talked to a source at the federal law enforcement source who reportedly said after it was learned that the sheriff was stepping down, “The election for the next sheriff of Los Angeles County going to change dramatically again this week.” (You can find the quote at around minute 5:40)

Posted in 2014 election, Board of Supervisors, FBI, LASD, Sheriff Lee Baca | 33 Comments »

33 Responses

  1. LATBG Says:

    Well here is a recap of what I saw on TV and print media from yesterday’s circus at SHQ:

    The sheriff again dodging answers to the hard questions, which makes it painfully obvious he was not going to stomach a competitive campaign. Thank God that part of the equation is gone.

    Todd Rogers – staying away from being photographed with the sheriff, but as soon as he saw the opportunity he started his “pick me, pick me!” campaign declaration, on duty and on county time, of course. Channel 7 had an interesting quote of his: he considers himself a reformer! Todd, that is news to the rest of the department. With one of the weirdest career paths ever, sponsored by his mom working Carson city hall, poor Todd has never faced true adversity, and always looks the other way when the bad guys ran over the good guys. As a newly minted A/S, Todd has had the opportunity to correct corrupt moves from the Banaka crowd, but instead he rubber stamped them all – not sheriff material.

    Jimmy Hellmold, where do we begin? He stated on camera that he was “for the deputies” and thinking about running. Maybe he should have thought about the deputies during that fateful pursuit he oversaw in Compton, where his deputies and sergeants all got major discipline and he didn’t even get a post-it on his eval. Just like Todd, Jimmy is part of the culture of corruption so prevalent in the department and needs to go find a new career. Definitely not sheriff material.

    Tanaka was interviewed on Channel 9, and his shifty eyes and “I wasn’t in charge of custody” routine is laughable. Maybe he should have told all his acolytes not to declare they worked for him instead of their actual supervisor! It doesn’t matter, anyway. Tall Paul is on borrowed time, and his campaign is in denial.

    Olmsted was interviewed on Channel 9 as well, and he came across as sincere, articulate, and committed to reforming the Department. Definitely sheriff material.

    McDonnell was quoted as saying it was an “opportunity.” Memo to you sir: Leaders except challenges, politicians look for opportunities. Your chance came and went when you turned it down the first time, and thousands of department members will work hard to ensure you do not do an LAPD on the sheriff’s department. You do have an impressive background, however, and you would make an excellent choice for interim sheriff. The board would be wise to pick you for that time frame, but you’re no Bill Bratton.

    McDonald, well, what can we say? She means well, but she comes from a dysfunctional, corrupt, and under consent decree organization and hasn’t a clue about most of the department’s operations. Not interim material. I agree with other posters, she should have been a consultant, nothing more.

    At the end of the year, Olmsted will be sworn in as the new sheriff and the department will move forward.

  2. J.London Says:

    Politics as usual. Does everyone recall Nixon’s “I am not a crook” resignation speech? Nixon resigned and ensured that Ford became president. Ford then later pardoned Nixon and that was that! Well, Baca’s “I am not a quitter” speech will go down in county history as the the worst impersonation of Richard Nixon. Baca pretty much endorsed Rogers and in exchange Rogers will not go after Baca saying silly political crap like “it’s time to move on.” The fix is in!
    Hommold never fought crime in his life and what a suck butt!

    According to the news Hemmold told Baca to resign and Baca did? If Baca listened to Hemmold then Baca is dumber than anyone thought! Which one of the 924′s will be Hemmold’s campaign manager! LOL! Hemmold, a man with no morals, no ethics! I can see why Baca made Hemmold an A/S.

    McDonald is mentally and physically unfit for any job on LASD. Remember, McDonald said it was only a few bad apples! Well, how are the apples today McDonald. Can anyone see her in uniform? I know it hurts our eyes! She knows NOTHING about LASD or how it SHOULD work! I could go on for hours but I’m going to wait and see what the BOS does!

    I would select Ray Leyva as interim sheriff. Yes, Ray was out there yesterday but it was just happenstance. Ray has fought against Baca/Tanka and the machine. Ray knows how to properly run the place and many people will do what he says!

    Gomez and Olmsted had the stones to step up and challenge Baca/Tanaka and the whole political machine. The other names mentioned are not worth any consideration. But, I suspect the BOS will want their own Butt boy or girl so they can control the LASD as before! If the BOS tries anything funny we will fight back! We have to ensure we (LASD) get the right person and it won’t be the Johnny come latelys!!

  3. FURTHER TO FOLLOW Says:

    Does that mean ringtones on county phones will be modified? LOL

  4. ridiculousness Says:

    The recommendation of interim appointment of Terri McDonald is not just a big FU to the brass on Baca’s way out. If it happens, it will be a bigger FU to the entire department and the public LASD serves. You can’t “appoint” someone and call them a deputy, let alone a sheriff. One only becomes a deputy after years of blood, sweat and tears. A deputy’s legacy is established in a radio car. Time in custody is only the start of molding what a deputy sheriff will become.

    Putting her in charge of an entire law enforcement agency (I’m sure she knows enough about jails to get by overseeing custody division)would be like promoting a janitor to a general in the Army and expecting that person to lead troops into battle. No one can take her seriously and there will be dissention and chaos.

    They need to choose at the very least, someone who has law enforcement experience, will be taken seriously and can begin the healing process for whoever gets elected.

  5. Jack Dawson Says:

    People,
    Big Red is not going to be our acting sheriff. She doesn’t qualify for the position by law. They are looking for a person who won’t run, but can hold the ship until the voters pick.

    Also, leaders ACCEPT challenges rather than except them…

    Rants and poor grammar…

  6. It's time Says:

    Whitmore for Interim Sheriff!

  7. ChaosTheory Says:

    I love the shot of Whitmore checking his watch. He is counting the minutes until his meal ticket retires and he is licked to the curb.

  8. J.London Says:

    Did you notice Whitmore looking at his watch as Baca spoke? What loyalty!! Not!

  9. Chargin'Charlie Says:

    Making recommendations about his successor shows how tone-deaf Baca remains even as he shows signs that he’s finally hearing his career’s swan song. The direction the department was headed under his leadership was a disaster so why would anyone look to him for advice on who should fill his shoes? The best thing for the department and the county is for the Board of Supervisors to ignore his recommendations. Maybe Bob Olmsted is available to finish out Baca’s term and put all his opponents in the handicap position that challengers for the office of Sheriff are accustomed to.

  10. Almost there Says:

    Gonna enjoy the next few years before I head out to pasture. Don’t care who is elected. Not my problem after that.

  11. Wild Turkey Says:

    # 10, as someone who has 26 years left, I appreciate the sentiment and support. Thanks!

  12. Stinkin badges Says:

    Bob Olmsted: God Speed!!

    Funny how things work themselves out. First Tanaka is forced out. Then Lee Baca. It’s almost time for Andre Birotte to announce the next group of contestants in Wipeout!

    The bottom line is we need to become a professional law enforcement agency again. When I hired on, the Los Angeles Sheriffs was known as the best trained, most professional and hands down best department. Somehow, we became gangsters with badges. Sad!!!

    Tanaka took the deputy cliques with his Viking ink to a whole new level. It started when Tanaka sent his minion wanna be executives into MCJ to transform it into the minor leagues of ghetto stations. I heard floors were being separated by which stations they were loyal to. Then floors started excluding non-loyal deputies from their floor. Which ultimately culminated into deputies putting other deputies in the hospital for “disrespecting” there cliques. Absolutely absurd! 2000 boys, 3000 boys. Yes, you are boys trying to be men. Earn your bones with good ethical arrests and treating others the way you want to be treated. Thug like behavior belongs in prison, as inmates.

    Then a sergeant pointing a gun at another sergeant was a blast to watch. It turned out the subject sergeant was a Viking and ran to Tall Paul Tanaka to bail his ass out of trouble. Of course just like typical gangsters. They cover for each other. The subject sergeant was supposed to receive major discipline. But Paul used his position as a department executive to cancel out the discipline. Sheriff Baca tried to right the wrong, but again a day late and a dollar short. All we got were a disbanded review board and more policy changes. Good job Celeste covering this epic leadership failure.

    Hence, the major cultural problem we have today. We’ve become a gang of thugs with badges, who not only discriminate against the citizens of LA County, but they eat their own brothers and sisters up too. Very sad state of affairs.

    While Sheriff Baca was making deputies memorize our core values, Tanaka’s people were winking and smiling because they knew the godfather was really in charge trying to rekindle legendary lore of the 80′s. Tell Lee what he wants to hear boys. We got this. Now poor Lee Baca is out because he was too inept to see the gangsterism going on around him. At least as a retired guy, someone will have some huevos to tell him he’s got no clothes on. Hey Paul, how’d that plan work out for you?

    Advice for the next Sheriff: Weed out all the Tanaka wanna be gangsters that are spread throughout the department and especially certain units. You all know who you are. Trust me, everyone knows who you are.

    A new horizon is upon us. I pray everyday for the ethical deputies doing the lords work day in and day out!!

  13. Wild Turkey Says:

    There is a specific rumor running wild right now that claims the next round of indictments will include 1 chief, 1 commander and 1 captain. Anyone care to venture educated guesses based on their experience?

  14. leftAtTheBall Says:

    @Wild Turkey- just a suggestion, but go to work every day, do the Lords work, be safe, love your family, and don’t worry about who you are going to follow, just mentor those who are following you. That will spread slower than corruption, but it will spread. And I thank you in advance for working to restore what was manifested during my time.

  15. Jack Dawson Says:

    Leftattheball,

    Thanks in advance for your apathy, go about your job, and pay no attention to what is going around you advice. It has served our department well and I’m sure you are wonderful W/C that just feeds the beast and punches the clock in an effort not to make waves.

    Wild provides timely and accurate information so I’m sure his job does entail worrying about the strategic outlook for the department.

    On that note, the Sheriff is going to try to make Teri McDonald the Undersheriff to circumvent California State Law regarding the qualifications for the Office of Sheriff. He was told it was unethical and probably illegal, but he didn’t care. Go figure…

    I’m sure Left at the ball would be completely cool with just showing up so long as the pension and 15/30 plan was rolling along… I’m sure you got a nice boat and neat sticker on your truck to show off to your boys at the river as well.

  16. Person of Interest Says:

    Anyone want to set odds that the BOS chooses Helmhold? After all, they have always wanted a weak sycophant as Sheriff to push around.

  17. LATBG Says:

    We can only hope the BOS doesn’t pick a train wreck in the making that will only embarrass them further. Please remember that many of the problems of the department were brought to the attention of the supervisors over the years and they refused to put pressure on Baca. They also refused to back the play of any qualified candidate to challenge Baca, leaving the corruption festering till it exploded. I agree with previous posters, Ray Leyva would be a good choice for interim sheriff.

  18. Leftattheball Says:

    Jack- You misunderstand my thoughts. When I was focused on doing the job, going 10-8 and doing the Lords work, life was good. I loved my job. Heck I would work for free on busy nights. It was what I signed on for. One hell of a ride. Then when I promoted I saw the other side. The one that exists now. So my advise isn’t apathy, its my opinion the deputies need to focus on what they need to do, to escape all the other crap that is going on. My advise is to stay out of the politics and be that deputy you signed on to be. But don’t forget your family. Cause if you do you lose the truck, and the boat, plus half of your pension. (humor intended.)
    I loved my job, then I hated it. I tried to change some things and was banished, told I was not loyal. I was not RII either. So Jack I will take it I did not convey my thoughts correctly, but I was cool with anyone just showing up and occupying space or a seat in my car.
    And if more people go to work and set an example that will spread, that is what I advocate. Reputation and promotion based on work ethic, knowledge, training, and ability. Work location not needed to be noted.

  19. Tanaka who? Says:

    You hit it on the head #16….. Hellmold and tanka are boys. Tanaka use to go smoke cigars ( challenge coins anyone?) with hellmold at least once a week at century. Thanks whoever mentioned it for reminding me about the Compton incident hellmold was at. Wow. Tanaka and hellmold are the same except when you measure vertical…..

  20. Fed Up Says:

    J London/LATBG I completely agree with you Ray Leyva should be Interim Sheriff But should run again too! That guy always suited up as my EM W/C at ELA when we were stretched thin and backed me up, I have nothing but the utmost respect for him!

  21. Nancy Drew Says:

    I suspect the BOS is looking to the outside for an interim Sheriff that wants to be Sheriff, so he (or she) will be the incumbent in June AND so the new Sheriff will owe the BOS. This needs to be done quickly so he can file and get the exposure which is why Baca left now. I suspect they are privately courting McDonnell with this offer. But he is not pure…

    And as stated above, there is still a Tanaka cancer within the LASD that needs to be removed! Hopefully Todd Rogers will make that happen since he made that very clear to the media. For example, several chiefs need to go. The only way Todd can get BOS support is if he starts removing the cancer and puts true leaders in their place.

    Todd, we are watching.

  22. Nancy Drew Says:

    Let me add and comment about some of those chiefs… From the Tanaka pay to play details – (Chief) Goran family was the largest contributor, followed by (Chief) Lopez. And let us not forget (Chief) Betkey (who is slated to be Tanaka’s Undersheriff for a year $) and continues to influence Discovery responses via Tanaka’s Lt (loyalist) in DSB.

  23. SHQinformant Says:

    Rumors are floating that Cruz will get cuffed in a few days. Welcome to Hotel Federal Lock-Up.

  24. SkyIsFalling Says:

    Things are looking up.

    If we can get Rogers and Olmsted to shake hands and give it a go together, I’d be a happy dude.

  25. LATBG Says:

    Nancy Drew, Todd Rogers IS part of the cancer and culture of corruption. He stood by silently as many a good man or woman got crushed in the Tanaka machine, and his only concern was not getting any blood on his shoes. He sold his soul to the devil for those three stars and that is not leadership, only opportunism.

  26. The End is Near Says:

    Story out about Sheriff going to stay as a Reserve, at his level he could work by himself in a black and white as the story goes. The empire has crumbled and Whitmore still spewing his BS. HQ is funny right now. Lots of people know they are out of a job. All of Baca’s special employees are out of a job. Saw Maxwell having a cigar on Tanaka’s patio. Wow , what a difference a year makes. I doubt he would have been down there a year ago since he had the balls to testify against Tanaka and now suing Tanaka and Baca. Of course once he sued they promoted him. I know he was also called to the Grand Jury. Feb 1 starts a new history for the Department. Unfortunately we have to bear the election where many camps will be divided. HQ will be chaos but Deps will still do their great job as they do.

  27. Biggdogg Says:

    The current department culture is a direct result of promoting people like….

    EDITOR’S NOTE: The rest of this comment has been deleted by the management due to the fact that it consisted, almost entirely, of unproven, slanderous accusations and general character assassination. (Other than that, it was perfectly swell.)

    Use your heads, people!!! Seriously!

  28. Investigative Mind Says:

    Nancy Drew. would that Lt. in DSB be the one who got there about 7 months ago and used to work as a SGT in Narcotics Bureau for a minute????

  29. Had nothing coming Says:

    Don’t care

  30. SHQinformant Says:

    Capt. Cruz and Chief Burns…..you will be getting a door knock in a few days by the feds. Have your bail money ready.

  31. UNKNOWN Says:

    I definitely think we are moving in the right direction, but I’m fearful of whats yet to come. Tanaka’s root or followers are deep in this Dept., down to your general patrol deputy to Assistant Sheriff Hellmold. The population is dwindling, but from what i’ve heard you still have a harder time getting to a specialized unit if your not Reg II.

    I just hope that there is some real change on the horizon. All the recognized candidates that exist now are all politicians. Even the outsider from Long Beach has his own agenda, and I definitely don’t my and our dept to become anything like LAPD or LBPD.

    Who knows whats going to happen. I just want it to be over so we can take positive steps forward.

  32. ronda Says:

    Let us not forget that Lee Baca is the leader of the department which improperly arrested Mitrice Richardson with full awareness that she appeared to be in psychological distress. Instead of taking her to be evaluated, they instead had her car and belongings towed, arrested her and then released her in the middle of the night with no means of caring for herself all while knowing that she was in a mental health crisis. This is the same station that removed her skeletal remains against the orders of the corners and placed her clothing in her body bag without sending the clothing to the crime lab for analysis. He is also the leader of an agency that is continuing to hide there whereabouts of Ismael Rodriquez “IROD” who was the deputy who left right behind Mitrice when she was released. The problem with this department goes beyond the jail system. These deputies are seasoned in the jails and then set out to wreak havoc upon the very citizens they supposed to protect and serve. If anyone has any information regarding the disappearance and death of Mitrice Richardson please contact me at drrondahampton@yahoo.com or (951) 660-8031. There remains a $25,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those involved in her death.

  33. Grumpy old chick Says:

    Two things —

    1.) Representing Mitrice Richardson as “bipolar” was a way to blame the victim for her own disappearance. The Lost Hills Sheriffs department has had problems with sexual predation for over 20 years, even if they don’t think of themselves as predators. They always pulled over attractive women for no reason, and it was impossible to drive down the road without being stopped and accused of something you didn’t do. Calif. State Police too, they were all accusing people of speeding even when everyone in town was going below the speed limit to avoid traffic tickets.

    Then there was the murder of Donald Scott by Sheriffs Deputy Gary Spencer in 1992.

    Pure corruption, and no justice for their victims. The abduction and murder of Richardson being ruled accidental instead of criminal was yet another of their many crimes.

    2.) The Sheriffs Department has been corrupt for decades at least, older people might say longer, and I wonder if any one man is going to be able to fix it. I think they need a big task force. They also need better disciplinary options, where problem deputies can be shown the door or warehoused in harmless make-work jobs more easily.

    The city cops in L.A. were busted on national TV for the beating of Rodney King, too.

    I think what southern Cal. cops need are LIVES. They need to take their jobs seriously and stop wasting their time on fake traffic stops, instead spending their time on real crimes, like solving the many unsolved rapes and murders in that area. I could tell you one story about a guy who started out there as a stalker being a serial killer now, but you know that happens. Cops waste their time on dumb stuff like tickets for pretty women and beating minorities, meanwhile the future serial killer isn’t caught and allowed to progress in his career.

    I hope the next Sheriff will make needed changes to the structure of the department, union be d****d!

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