FBI LA County Jail LASD Paul Tanaka Sheriff John Scott Sheriff Lee Baca The Feds Trauma U.S. Attorney

LASD: a “Toxic Culture” or a “Few Bad Actors”…..Eric Holder Replacement…..A Head Start Program That’s Trauma Smart…Long Beach Police Chief’s Dealings With Officer Involved Shootings


A new LA Times editorial rightly points out that— contrary to what Sheriff John Scott has apparently said—“the sentencing Tuesday and likely imprisonment of six sworn Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, sergeants and lieutenants does not reflect merely the actions of a ‘few’ bad actors.”

The Times’ statement—which is really a rather sizable understatement—also applies to the rest of the 21 indicted department members, whose cases, which primarily involve brutality and corruption in the jails, will be coming to trial later this year and early next year. Those indictments do not represent “a few bad actors” either.

When the six, who were just sentenced this week, were convicted of obstruction of justice last July, then U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte talked about “criminal conduct and a toxic culture” inside the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department that the convictions represented.

“These defendants were supposed to keep the jails safe and to investigate criminal acts by deputies,” said Birotte. Instead they “took measures to obstruct a federal investigation and tamper with witnesses…. While an overwhelming majority of law enforcement officials serve with honor and dignity, these defendants tarnished the badge by acting as if they were above the law.”

Yet while all this tarnishing was going on, someone—or more accurately several someones—gave the various orders that resulted in hiding a federal informant, threatening an FBI agent, and intimidating witnesses in a federal investigation. Furthermore, it was a deeply-entrenched culture of arrogance, everyday corruption, and a venomous us-against-them contempt for anyone outside certain favored circles—a culture that had, for years, emanated from the LASD’s highest levels—which made orders to obstruct justice seem perfectly natural to seasoned department members who should have known better.

It was that same psychological environment—which U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson labeled a “corrupt culture” on Tuesday as he handed out sentences—that allowed for the actions of those who have been indicted and will likely be convicted for allegedly blithely brutalizing jail inmates and visitors. After all, such behavior had long carried with it little threat of adverse consequences. In fact, some of those in charge even signaled tacit approval.

Here’s more of what the Times wrote:

They earned their sentences; but as obstructors rather than defenders of justice, they were not self-taught. They operated within an ingrained culture of contempt, mismanagement, dishonesty and gratuitous violence. It is important to remember that they were trying to block a probe into the widespread use of excessive force, and that such force has been documented against visitors as well as inmates in Los Angeles County jails. It is important to keep in mind also that the department’s Antelope Valley stations were found to have engaged in patterns and practices of racially based discrimination and unconstitutional stops, searches, seizures and detentions. Settlement talks are ongoing in a lawsuit alleging that top sheriff’s officials condoned a pattern of violence against inmates. A court-appointed monitor is operating under a similar lawsuit alleging mistreatment of mentally ill inmates going back decades, and the U.S. Department of Justice advised the county earlier this year that it too would go to court over treatment of the mentally ill in the jails. Meanwhile, a Times investigation found fluctuating hiring standards that sometimes drop so low as to suggest the department will hire, at times, almost anyone.

In other words, despite the many decent men and women who daily do good, honest, tough-but-fair-minded work as members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, this is an agency still in deep trouble, and reforming it in any meaningful way is going to be a challenging endeavor.

Which brings us back to the sentences handed out on Tuesday: at the risk of sounding like a broken record, we truly hope that this summer’s convictions are simply the starting point, and that the government’s prosecutors go on to indict some of those who gave the orders that have resulted in six department members losing their careers and—barring some kind of appellate intervention—heading for prison. (More accurately, make that seven department members, counting James Sexton, whose retrial and conviction is another topic altogether, which we’ll discuss at a later time.) Such additional indictments would signal, with more than mere rhetoric, that it is the department’s culture as a whole that needs fixing, not just the actions of 21 individuals.


Which Way LA? with Warren Olney did a show on Tuesday’s sentencing of the six LASD department members that features Brian Moriguchi, president of Professional Peace Officers’ Association (PPOA), and Peter Eliasberg, legal director for the Southern California ACLU. It’s definitely worth a listen.


Attorney General Eric Holder’s surprise announcement Thursday of his resignation has many speculating who will replace him.

For justice activists Holder has been a mixed bag. They point to his unwillingness to prosecute “too big to jail” banks and others responsible for the 2008 financial crisis, and his support of government spying, and the like.

Yet in the last few years, Holder has become very active in the criminal justice reform arena, particularly when it comes to disparities in sentencing, and issues of juvenile justice.

So, as the speculation revs up about who will replace Holder, activists are preemptively worrying that many of the justice reforms Holder has recently supported, will not be a priority for his successor.

Interestingly, Yahoo News and CNN put Kamala Harris on their list of possibles, while the New York Times did not. (Thursday, Harris issued a statement saying she intends to stay in California.)

Here are the Wall Street Journal’s picks, which also include Harris. And here’s USA Today.

We will, of course, be keeping an eye on the matter of Holder’s replacement—with justice issues in mind—as it unfolds.


Some kids are so adversely affected by trauma at an early age that when they show up at preschool they have trouble behaving appropriately. In the past, teachers tended to expel such acting out-prone children from preschool programs, not always out of lack of compassion, but because they simply didn’t know what else to do.

Then in 2005, a study startled educators by showing that preschool kids were three times more far more likely to be suspended or expelled than those in any of the K-12 grades—numbers that have continued to worsen in the years since.

Recently, however, certain preschool programs around the country have begun experimenting with methods that address the causes of trauma-based behaviors in young children that, in the past, risked derailing a three or four-year-old’s academic future before it ever started.

The PBS Newshour with host Judy Woodruff and correspondant Molly Knight-Raskin looked at one such program last July. And, as we were surveying this year’s important stories on the issue of childhood trauma, we decided that this show was too important to miss.

Here are some clips:

Every year, thousands of children in this country are expelled from school before they reach kindergarten. In fact, studies show that preschool children are expelled at significantly rates than those in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Special correspondent Molly Knight Raskin reports on a program in Kansas City, Missouri, that’s trying to stem this trend by looking beyond the classroom to the issues these kids face at home.

MOLLY KNIGHT RASKIN: In many ways, Desiree Kazee, is a typical 5-year-old girl. She’s bubbly, bright and affectionate. Her favorite color is pink. And she enjoys drawing and dancing.

But, two years ago, when Desiree began preschool at a Head Start program near her home in Liberty, Missouri, she didn’t seem to enjoy much of anything.


MOLLY KNIGHT RASKIN: Janine Hron is the CEO of Crittenton Children’s Center, a psychiatrist hospital in Kansas City. In 2008, Hron and her team developed Head Start Trauma Smart, an innovative program that evidence-based trauma therapy into Head Start classrooms.

The program was created in response to the pervasiveness of trauma in the Kansas City area. Of the 4,000 kids in Head Start, 50 percent have experienced more than three traumatic events.

JANINE HRON: This is not a one-and-done kind of a bad experience. This happens over and over and over, and it becomes rather a lifestyle of trauma.

MOLLY KNIGHT RASKIN: Studies show that one in four preschool-age children experience a traumatic event by the start of kindergarten. Because so many of these children respond to traumatic stress by acting out, they prove a challenge to teachers and caregivers, who find that traditional methods of, like scolding them or putting them in a time-out, don’t work. In fact, these methods often makes things worse, leading to suspension or expulsion.

Avis Smith, a licensed social work at Crittenton, explains why.

AVIS SMITH, Crittenton Children’s Center: Their behaviors are so extreme, that the adults don’t know how to keep everybody safe….


In 2013, 15 people were shot—or shot—at by Long Beach Police officers, a rate that was about twice the average for the city. Community members were very upset. Long Beach Police Chief and candidate for LA County sheriff, Jim McDonnell, was front and center as the man held responsible.

KPCC’s Rina Palta has the story. Here’s a clip:

Nearly a year after her son was shot and killed by a Long Beach police officer, Shirley Lowery still keeps the urn holding his remains on a makeshift alter on a bar near the back door of her house.

“I was going to deposit his ashes,” Lowery said, “but I just can’t let him go.”

She still can’t sleep well either, her mind racing.

“The other night, I woke up at 3:15 and it was like a recording,” she says. “When he was born, when he learned how to walk, the first time he went snowboarding, the first time he went surfing. It keeps flashing.”

Her son, Johnny Del Real, was one of 15 people Long Beach police officers shot or shot at in 2013— about double the average in the city, records show.

The rash of shootings provoked protests, lawsuits (including Lowery’s current $10 million claim against the city) and questions about the tactics used by the Long Beach Police Department.

At the center of those questions was Jim McDonnell, the current police chief and frontrunner to win the job of Los Angeles County sheriff in the November election.

Darick Simpson, head of the Long Beach Community Action Partnership, said one of the men shot last year was friendly with kids in one of his group’s youth programs.

When Sokha Hor, 22, was critically wounded by police, at first his family was kept from seeing him in the hospital. Public outrage ensued and a lot of kids in Simpson’s program participated in protests.

But McDonnell and his staff’s willingness to share information – and desire to hear the kids’ side of the story – helped mitigate the tension, Simpson said.

“You know there’s three sides, right? Your side, my side, and the truth of any given story,” he said. “We came to a greater understanding of a truth that diffused an issue that could have been blown up into bigger than what it needed to be.”

McDonnell said he reacted to the spate of 2013 shootings by looking at the evidence in each case. Most involved people who were armed with real or replica weapons.

“To try and say why is one year higher than another year is difficult,” he said. “We look at each officer-involved shooting based on the merits of that shooting. The circumstances that led up to it, the tactics the officers used, the use of force itself. And then what they did after the use of force.”


  • I am still not sure if I believe there was systemic violence in the LA county jails. I have heard differing opinions from trustful department personnel however the toxic culture did exist, lead by Paul Tanaka and condoned by Lee Baca. Baca and Tanaka used the structures of the Department to hammer those who did not support them. They had a different set of rules for themselves and their inner circle and than everybody else.

    Personnel connected to them got slaps on the wrist for wrong doing. But anyone else got hammered. It you were in the car not only did you get choice assignments and promotions, you got the personnel and equipment to do your job, while others were starved for resources. When you complained you were targeted.

    Look at the Paul Tanaka donors list if you want to know who is in the car! The donations to Paul go back a decade. Parra, Goldman, Goran, Hellmold, Waters and so many more supported this toxic culture with these donations. Goldman and Water’s were Paul’s fiscal bullies! They regulated who got what resources.

    Goldman made sure Paul’s people were taken care of to curry favor with Paul. Everyone of these guys could have done what a lot of unknown men and women did! They refused to pay and play. They retired as Deputies, Sergeants and Lieutenants or left in disgust because they could not bring themselves to engage in the same behavior!

    Plenty of executives resisted these guys and paid a heavy price. Many left in disgust! To see these guys continue to influence the department is disturbing! Many are now saying they were just doing what they had too. No you did not have too.

    I pray that McDonnell chooses wisely who’s advice he takes. He might start with avoiding those, who did not support Paul with donations the last five years and who does not smoke cigars!

    The ones he needs to be most careful of are those who supported Paul until he left. Those who continued to support Paul were his misguided or corrupt minions at least really believed in him. Those who suddenly stopped are the ones who only cared about themselves. The did not care about Paul, Lee or the Department. Goldman is a prime example of such a creature but there are many!

  • The former US is out, but will remain not indicted.

    The former Sheriff is out and only suffered a loss of legacy, but I could die a happy man on that pension.

    Yet, there are Chiefs, Commanders, & Captains who supported this op and nothing.

    You don’t have three divisions working together in several different facilities without uniform support from the 4th floor.

    I’m tired of calling them out. It’s just sad, and they all could not recall anything when asked by a few good attorneys who knew they were lying. It’s beyond taking care of your troops.

    It was saving their own ass at the expense of others lives…. That’s why Baca, Parra, Rhambo, Abner et al. Never took the stand. Couldn’t impeach their “I don’t recall.”

    That’s poison in the water and the origin of OUR toxic culture.

  • Good Article !!!!

    I have read comments where people have written that these Convicted 6 were good people… Glad that the L.A. Times called it as they and others see it.

    My experience with Internal Affairs Criminal Investigations was that they knowingly tolerated crimes by Deputies for some ” Higher Purpose “….Unfortunately, they could not see that they condoned violence and criminal acts against people who relied upon them for protection.

    I was saddened by the minimal sentences the Convicted 6 Deputies received. I thought it should have been more, so as to set an example for others to follow. Perhaps Karma will put these deputies in a prison where the jailors mistreat them and they have no recourse.

    Lets all say a prayer that the Sheriff’s Dept finds courage to do the right thing.

  • Shame on Tanaka, Shame on Thompson ( he has no shame) and shame on ALADS for not doing anything for the deputies. (Assigning attorneys is a no brainer).

    Not even a press conference stating dissatisfaction with the whole “Pandora’s Box” Be forewarned that you are on the radar and deputies are not happy.

    The majority of deputies “in the know” knows that it is just a matter of time, before you will be dealt with.

  • The toxic cultured is still there because the corrupted are still there. “Tough” supervisors often shouter at deputies in briefings, “hurry up and go 10-15” (arrest). This tough supervisors are the type that continue the practice and pattern of the past, yet, “tough” as they are, they quitted the field to become supervisors and do nothing. They love to tell others how great they are and because they passed a test, now they know everything..

  • Karma: What has always set our Department apart from others, was our ability to be proactive. “To arrest people”. It’s too bad a sergeant has to remind you of your duties. Please try rolling down your windows and go 10-8.

  • Bandwagon, by your comment one may assume you are one of those deputies who did not want to work the field and chose to promote, good for you. Field work is tough, and not many want to do it. You must be a Tanakita, who preached pro-activity, aka as “working the gray.” In reading The LA Times, one may deduce it has Not worked well for many department members, many are not longer peace officers and many are going to prison….there goes your proactivity

  • Handicapper, you are right on. There are many in all ranks who sold their souls. You only named a few. Its funny how if you were not in the car back then they wouldn’t give you the time of day. Now they want to network and be friendly. Its so easy to see through guys like Goldman. I would include Jimmy Lopez and Todd Rogers. They are so phony and insincere. Both are over ranked. All Rogers cares about is how he can make the next rank. How he kept his rank as AS was unfair.

    I just cant wait for November when Mcdonnell comes in and fixes this mess. See you all at the polls!

  • Speaking of toxic culture and corruption, the sheriff needs to do a forensic audit of the department regarding employees falsifying their time records, starting with supervisors and managers.

  • First things first, if you read the LA Times, slap yourself; realize you are perpetuating a group of people that sensationalize a topic or story with a headline and not all the facts. If you are cops you have all been at a scene described by the LA Times and when you read it, you say to yourself, “I was there, that’s not what happened.” Why do we still comment on stories these liberal maggots spew to the ignorant public! Imagine one of these UCLA, Berkley, liberal graduates going 10-8. Pulling over a car three deep; telling them to get out of their ride and they refuse. After they pissed themselves, they would simply say sorry you may leave. Put one of these clowns in 3600 for two hours and see if they slap the shit out of someone! Guaranteed they would lose it, and commit that horrible crime of Civil Rights Violations!

    Did the six go too far, yup, they sure did. Did they follow orders from a sadistic little man that would be happy to crush your career if you failed to follow his directions, “Yup.” There comes a point when you have to say no, but this did not happen out of fear, self-gratification, or the thought of promotion for their actions. I will tell you that this could have been most anyone under that’s little man’s spell. If you can look at yourself and say you would never have got caught up in such a thing, you need to check yourself…or you’re a Saint and I apologize to you. We have all done things in patrol to make ourselves look good to our superiors; and in the Grey?, most likely yes. Please don’t throw stones at these six, while you worked a glass radio car!

    This is a great Department, with tremendous personnel working 24 hours a day to keep the public safe. There are going to be cases of misconduct, it is a statistical fact. Take some time to see how many FBI agents were fired in 2013 for misconduct! See how many prosecutors were suspended or disbarred in 2013 for misconduct. Let’s not forget that we are all human, make mistakes, and unfortunately make mistakes that cost our livelihood. What separates us from the rest is that “WE” run to the gun fight, not away from it. Any one of these six would have run alongside you into that gunfight. They messed up, let it go…

  • Sheriff Scott’s letter to the LA Times is just a way to pacify the public. The culture of corruption inside the rank of captain and above is alive and thriving. Nothing inside LASD management will change until these folks are demoted, fired or retired. Start with Pandora’s Box, who knew about the operation and did nothing to stop it, then work your way backwards. Who was in the IAD and CD chain of command and did nothing? Two Divisions and not one single manager knew of this stupid operation?

    Nothing changes, it will be the same faces in the same places. And the Tanaka brass will be clapping the loudest, smiling their smiles and slapping McDonnell on the back when he takes office, proclaiming “Thank God your here Sheriff, it was so horrible around here. But all my people are so happy you’re the Sheriff now, LASD is back. By the way boss, call me if you need anything. I’m your go-to person for whatever you need. By the way, do you like cigars?”

  • Tanakitas: Remember the old saying about assuming…no you would be wrong…did many years in patrol before promoting to sergeant. Getting off your ass and going 10-8 is what every deputy should aspire to. If not, may you should think about a career change!

  • Slow ur roll: I take it you have never been “victimized” by an IAB investigator putting a case on you…out of fear….self gratification…or promotion. I’ve have little sympathy for them. My sympathy is for the good cops that have lost their careers due to a corrupt system. I’m no saint….but I HAVE SAID NO.

  • Just based on the fact that the weeding process is not thorough enough, is more reason to have McDonnell bring in his own people.

  • Tanaka claimed to support the hard working deputies, yet it seems those who wrote checks got his support rather than the hard workers! If you want to weed out corruption, start with Tanaka’s donor list.

  • Sachamoe, spot on. The $64,000 question is whether or not McDonnell is going to seriously clean house, or take what he thinks the path of least resistance is and let all the cancers remain in the leadership ranks.

    That is the difference between reforming the LASD within his first term in office, or many years of fake reform efforts while the same game is played with almost the same names, and quite a few eager acolytes willing to sell their souls just like their mentors.

    There is a gross mismatch of individuals based on their experience, education, and integrity, and the positions they occupy. That is the crowd of useless supervisors, managers, and executives who haven’t a clue what to do unless told so and have nothing to contribute to the reform effort. There is a huge pool of untapped talent throughout the department, and external to the department seasoned law enforcement executives with a history of reform AND ethical decision making.

    The ball will be in McDonnell’s court.

  • Unquestionably, a ton of executive changes will be necessary to restore LASD. Just remember that changing the present culture doesn’t mean changing LASD traditions. It is up to you and your generation shepherd the new deputies in the right tradition. Good luck to you all.

  • Bandwagon; No I have never been “victimized” by an IAB investigator putting a case on me! I don’t understand what you mean by that. The process of an IAB investigation is initiated by a Captain or above. The investigator is simply used to obtain statements and factual data, which is all recorded in the presence of representation of council or union rep. When the investigation is complete, the unit Captain, Commander or Chief of the Division declares guilt or innocents. In some cases, the incident is reviewed at an even higher rank. To spew that an investigator can put a “case” on you is simply ridiculous. Sounds like you listen to a great deal of stories and rumors of what you think are the truth, and the alleged “evidence planting by the Man.” I have never worked IAB; I have had three IA cases “put on me” and am still here! You talk about a corrupt system, get your facts straight, investigate the whole truth and then we can talk. By the way, I have read a great deal of your posts; you are very negative, sound bitter, and overall you show a disdain for this department. If it is that bad, go away! Nobody is making you stay.

  • Slow ur Roll. We must be talking about two different Departments. Evidently, in your Department, everything is rosy. In my Department both the Sheriff and UnderSheriff were forced to retire. Also, seven deputies will soon be headed to prison.

  • And let’s cut the bullshit about Internal Affairs. Former IAB investigators have already commented on Executive interference on investigations. Being told who they can interview and what questions to ask.

  • Yes, I am bitter, having dealt with some unethical IAB investigators. So go back to your IAB cubicle and continuing living in ur fantasy world!

  • By the way I am retired. Been so for several years. I just feel the need to respond when comments like urs sugarcoat everying occurring on the Department. Keep up the good work….everything is fine…nothing to see here!

  • @Slow ur roll. Obviously, the initial investigation is generally begun at the home unit. I would use the term “putting a case on you” to indicate unethical or unprofessional behavior by IAB investigator to deny you a fair and impartial investigation . Just my opinion.

  • The Department is far from perfect, and yes there are cases of malfeasance by the upper management, I will give you that. My comments to you are because of your broad brush approach by a few misguided or in some cases down right criminal employees. I am not is a “cubical” and don’t work IAB. I appreciate the satire, and I am happy that you are retired! This Department needs to move forward, and cynical spectators are always needed on the sidelines! Just please make sure you have the facts before you type. Have a great retirement. I will be going those ranks shortly.

  • Slow ur roll: I base my comments on 26 years of service and personal knowledge. I try not to make statements that are not supported by facts. The simple truth is the Department has been corrupted for many years now and needs new leadership. Enjoy your retirement.

  • Slow ur roll: On a personal note: I do have to fight my occasional bouts of arrogance and self righteousness.
    But my overwhelming desire is to see the Department return to the type of organization I joined in 1982. We have a long way to go!

  • @ Bandwagon, fortunately the Department back in 1982 started with Sherman Block (June/July 1982).It peaked with Block at the helm.

    You may or may not agree…..However the only chance that we have is to start fresh and new with McDonnell.We must have “new blood” and “fresh eyes”, then we go on from there.

    You already know the options. Starting here in 1981 (Peter Pitchess last “full” year) and still here…..I concur with you.

  • @ Still Here: I now work for a couple of retired LAPD sergeants who know McDonnell very well. He’s no push over. He supports line personnel and will bring the Department back where it belongs. The Executives on the Department will need to retire or go along with the new program. I think now I will be able to start recommending our Department again to folks who want to be cops!

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