Art and Culture Journalism LASD Sheriff Lee Baca

Sheriff Baca’s Racked Up Absences from LA During Jails Scandal, Flawed Civilian Oversight of LASD, Automatic Arrest-Tracking Software…and More


As we look toward the Jails Commission report Friday, LA Weekly calls our attention to data showing that Sheriff Lee Baca was absent from the county for over a month between January and July at the height of LASD’s expanding scandal. The information came to light as a result of a records request by eagle-eye county-watcher Eric Preven.

LA Weekly’s Simone Wilson has the story. Here’s a clip:

Instead of providing answers to dozens of black-and-blue L.A. County jail inmates and the ACLU, or addressing his deputies’ brutal, gang-like policing tactics…

… Baca apparently split town as much as his travel budget would allow, making himself into some kind of international ambassador for feel-good cop philosophies like “public trust policing” and “education-based incarceration.” (Although we’re really not sure how anyone takes him seriously on those issues, considering that the level of mistrust between his department and the Los Angeles public is at an all-time high.)

Baca’s travel record shows that he took a total of 18 trips between January and July, spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on flights and hotel rooms so that he could sprinkle his L.A. Sheriff’s wisdoms all across the globe.

Here, his five strangest/silliest appearances in 2012 so far:

Feb. 11 in Washington, D.C.: Meeting with Foreign Minister of Turkey
April 13-14 in Seattle, Washington: The Pacific Institute Spirit Board Meeting
April 21-23 in Las Vegas, Nevada: Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay
May 18-22 in Doha, Qatar: Doha Forum
June 22 in Washington, D.C.: Keynote Speaker at American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Conference


The LA Times reports flaws in civilian oversight of the sheriff’s dept. Jack Leonard and Robert Faturechi have the story. Here’s how it opens:

Revelations of brutality by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and cover-ups inside the jails have exposed significant shortcomings in the department’s civilian watchdog system, which was created to prevent such misconduct.

The watchdogs have come under scrutiny from county supervisors and investigators for a commission examining jail abuse. The investigators found that neither of the two main civilian monitors regularly analyzed data that tracks violent encounters between deputies and inmates or examined how the department handled inmate complaints.


Pennsylvania reporter Andrew McGill developed an arrest-tracking tool called Philly Rap Sheet. “It’s a small entry in the growing tradition of data-journalism innovation on the cops-and-courts beat — from to EveryBlock to Crime L.A. and many more,” writes Adrienne LaFrance of Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab. This may be a good thing to consider for compiling statistics in other parts of the nation. While this technology is pulling data from public records that anyone can access, there seem to be some questions of ethics in regard to publishing—via mass email alerts—the names of those who later get their charges dropped or their records expunged.

LaFrance interviewed Andrew McGill on his arrest-tracking tool. Here’s a clip from the Q & A:

LaFrance: So what’s your vision for this thing?

McGill: I don’t know. It’s tough. I want to add historical data. So I spent a little bit of money to get data back to around 2005, which is not that far back, but at least it’s historical data. I want to backload that in. But in terms of the next step, it’s tough to say.

I want to get into a little bit more analytics. I think it’d be nice to add more realms of information to cross reference. I might look again at some things and see if I can pull some more data out of the existing sheets. Geography-wise, I do have what police district arrests are in, and I haven’t done a lot with that. So I want to try to start doing that, and maybe have a newsletter. Right now, I just have alerts.

LaFrance: And as a reporter, those are so helpful, I’m sure. You can be tracking all the murders.

McGill: That’s what I have set up for my alert. Unfortunately, it also pulls in attempted murder and stuff like that. I want to be able to get a summation newsletter out that you sign up for and say, “Okay, you’re in this neighborhood, and these crimes happened in your vicinity, and this is how it compared to last year,” and you would get this once a month or something. I don’t want to inundate people, but I think there’s room for a little more statistics pushing.


By the way, this Saturday is Smithsonian’s “Museum Day Live!”, a day of free museum entry across the nation. Of course, there are lots of museums and art exhibits you can visit for free all year long (like the California Science Center’s permanent exhibits and the Getty), but for those participating museums you can’t visit any time, you can download two free tickets per person here. Beware: this weekend is Carmageddon Part 2, so take that into consideration and plan accordingly.


  • The comment was made about Baca’s absences and bagged on him for being at baker to Vegas. I have no issue’s with that, but the other one’s?

    At least he has been around more than the mayor Tony Vilar. Different job classification but wow, the poor city of LA

  • Let’s hope that the next trip Baca makes will be to The Men’s Federal Penitentiary at Lompoc! I understand that the food is free!

  • I agree with FTF. Even though most everyone else on the department is at B2V is there on their dime, it’s fair that his being there and representing the department is part of his job. I can see the occasional DC trip, too. But the Middle East stuff, I think, is more a hobby of his than something that’s been shown to be in the department’s interest. Indeed in retrospect, as the articles suggest, his absences have/will cost the department dearly.

  • FTF: Great point! But, perhaps I could use another example of poor timing and decision. As you know our beloved Ambassador Chris Simmons was murdered and drug through the streets for nine hours. The two murdered SEALS, who fought bravely, were not there to protect the Ambassador! I strongly believe that President Obama should have cancelled his trip to Vegas to show the American People who was the Commander in Chief! Under normal circumstances I would agree an appearance of Baca at BtoV is not a problem. However, under the current LASD chaos Baca should have stayed behind. My view!


    For the record, we think Baker to Vegas was fine too, and part of the sheriff’s job.

    [The list above was cherry-picked by the Weekly, so we left it as is and credited them.]

    The Pacific Institute Spirit Board meeting, while it sounds silly on paper, is actually not a bad thing to be doing either—but not while your house is on fire.


  • Finally, somebody in the media is trying to hold the Sheriff accountable for him globetrotting the world giving speeches while his own department has seriously problems.

    I’ve been beating that drum since day one.

    That’s not his job. He chose to do that. Maybe it’s time for him to be held accountable for his piss-poor decisions. He sure had all the accolades for awhile. He’s traveled the world being the big city department superstar and pseudo-expert on everything from terrorism to community based policing.
    One problem. He hasn’t done the job he was elected and is paid to do.

    I’ll bet that if somebody was to ask him if all those trips, in light of the problems his own department was suffering, were wise decisions, he would defend his decisions and give some b.s. answer about how those trips benefit the LASD and the citizens of LA County.

    And that would tell everybody all we need to know about Sheriff Baca’s decision making abilities.

  • Sad news in Washington State. Without having a total grasp of wolf politics, why does the federal government not have a program set up to fully compensate ranchers for lost livestock?

  • Jim, you got me, but I don’t eat wolf, instead a juicy steak. why don’t the ranchers just dress the dead livestock where they were taken out? Even a few days old, it makes for a really good gamey steak. Kind of like elk meat.

    J London, you are absolutely right. Obama took his many vegas trips right in the middle of a crisis. That would be like Bush remaining in Florida for a couple days when he receive word of the towers going down.

    Baca has always courted the middle east community and especially the Asian culture. Not saying it’s wrong, that’s just Lee. He has a strong political base in both ethnic groups which further enforces the reason why he will never be de-throned. It goes back to his commander days when he locked his keys in his county ride and had to have a Temple unit unlock it for him. Where was he when this happened? Well……

  • All of you disgruntled employees and angry retired folks should be ashamed of yourselves for bad mouthing and turning your back on a great organization. Nuff said.

  • Further to Follow, you lost me on the multiple Obama trips during ONE crisis? You seem to be more aware of presidential travels than I, but my focus is closer to home.

    Regarding sheriff moonbeam, as I have stated before, this is going to be entertaining. His disproval rating sits at 52% as we speak, and that does not count all the bad news that is sure to come from the commission and the federal grand jury. Baca can court all the high rollers from as many ethnic communities as he wants, that does not mean the actual community will vote lock step for a corrupt/incompetent cop.

    Last time I checked, the overwhelming majority of voters are white/Hispanic, but no group votes as a monolith. You need to wrap your mind around the idea Leroy may resign prior to 2014. In simpler terms, there is no recovering from a federal indictment when it hits close to home.

    I hope your offer of your paycheck is still on the table…

  • FTF: You are right and I doubt that the woman will ever come forward. But, that too is Lee Baca! However, in recent days many in the Asian community are starting to doubt if Baca should stay in office. With a 52% unfavorable view and only 38% favorable I can only predict it’s going to get worse. Election time is still way off and I don’t see the scandals coming to an end anytime soon. Of course, my view. Did you read where Molina has asked for Tanaka’s resignation and also for Baca’s if Baca doesn’t follow through on the jail recs?

  • London,
    Where did you read that Molina is calling for resignations? Not aware of it. Why has Celeste not reported on that?
    Sure would love to read it.
    Give us the 411 please.
    The scandals or the feds might get him. Resignation, jail time or the BOS forcing him out by severely curtailing his budget.
    I doubt he runs for reelection.
    But, up to this point he has been able to smooth talk his way out of everything. He comes off as a progressive. He comes across, as one person has told me: “Warm and caring. Bizarrely so”.
    IF he runs again:
    If he gets enough money in his campaign war chest he will be able to pay people like Bishop Turner et. al. by the trainload to campaign for him in every demographic. They will all tell the people in their pidgeonholed demographic that Lee Baca is looking out for them. They’ll believe it.
    They have before. Time and again.

    I hope you can tell me afterward “I told you so”. Sincerely hope so.

    It’s going to take somebody with a LOT of money to beat him.
    IF he runs again.


    Okay, home and back with my own DSL.

    ATQ: J. London is right. Here’s the deal: Gloria Molina told the LA Times that if Baca didn’t embrace the commission’s recommendations, she was going to propose a resolution to ask for his resignation.

    I didn’t put it into my story about what Baca was doing in advance of the commission’s report—which would have been the logical place for it—because, when I did a canvass of the Supes’ offices, it became very clear that no one else on the board was going to go that direction, even a little bit. This means that the statement was political posturing on Molina’s part. (I don’t mean that in a negative way. She means what she says and acts as the stalking horse, so to speak, and then others come in with the more “reasonable,” moves—which is already happening. More on that part of it tomorrow. I’m not allowed to say anything tonight.)

    BTW, I’ve been on the road for more than 9 hours (with two cranky animals) so I may not be explaining any of this well.

  • So Baca implements the recomendations and then what? It all goes away? He skates for being an absentee sheriff?
    He will get the proverbial ass chewing from the Sups. and that will be the end of it?
    Gee, they could have done that without all the commission hearings at taxpayers expense.

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