News Column

Embattled LA Sheriff Announces Retirement

January 7, 2014

By Tami Abdollah, Associated Press

Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca announced he is retiring at month's end. (AP)
Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca announced he is retiring at month's end. (AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) Embattled Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said Tuesday he will retire at the end of the month. Baca leads the largest jail system in the U.S.

The 71-year-old Baca's department has been under increasing scrutiny, including a federal indictment of 18 current and former deputies allegedly involved in jail violence or cover-ups.

The Sheriff's Department oversees a jail system with more than 18,700 inmates.

Baca has acknowledged mistakes but distanced himself personally from allegations.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the Sheriff's Department in 2012, saying the sheriff and his top commanders had condoned violence against inmates. The organization released a report documenting more than 70 cases of misconduct by deputies.

A federal jury in October found Baca personally liable for $100,000 for failing to stop inmate abuse by deputies in Men's Central Jail in a case brought by a man who said he was severely beaten while awaiting trial.

The Sheriff's Department also faced recent scrutiny over hiring. The department announced it was reforming hiring practices last month after it was disclosed that 80 deputies had criminal convictions, histories of misconduct or other problem backgrounds.

Last year, a Justice Department investigation found deputies made unconstitutional stops, searches, seizures and used excessive force against blacks and Latinos on the outskirts of the county. Baca disputed the findings but said he had instituted reforms.

Baca was criticized in 2007 when he ordered Paris Hilton released from jail under house arrest after serving only few days of a multi-week sentence for driving-related offenses. The sheriff said the socialite developed psychological problems, but a judge put her back behind bars for another 2 1/2 weeks.

A year earlier, Baca had to defend his department's handling of Mel Gibson's drunken driving arrest in Malibu, rejecting claims that deputies tried to cover up anti-Semitic comments made by the actor, who had helped a charity organization for the Sheriff's Department.

Less than a year ago, Baca was picked as the nation's Sheriff of the Year by the National Sheriff's Association, which cited his providing educational opportunities for inmates and efforts to work with religious groups.

The group also noted the vast size of the Sheriff's Department and the relatively low crime rates in areas patrolled by deputies.

Source: Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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