The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has its work cut out for them; LA is one of the highest crime areas in the nation. However, staying true to the honor behind the badge is not always the route police officers take.
Sheriff Leroy D. Baca, 71, was elected in 1998 and has been re-elected consistently based on his popularity.
The influx of accusations surrounding the Los Angeles sheriff, Lee Baca, appeared to be what caused him to announce on Tuesday that he would retire at the end of the month and not seek re-election. The department is under federal investigation amid accusations of widespread misconduct.
“I will go out on my own terms,” Mr. Baca said Tuesday morning during an emotional news conference, flanked by dozens of top deputies. “I know I turn 72 in May. I don’t see myself as the future; I see myself as part of the past. I see it as important to allow the future to run.”
In the past few months,18 officers and deputies were indicted on federal charges of abusing inmates and visitors in the county jails.
In recent years, there were more than 70 cases of misconduct by deputies, prompting the American Civil Liberties Union to sue the Sheriff’s Department, claiming that Baca and his top associates had allowed this violence to take place and in doing so, caused serious harm and even death to inmates.
A federal jury in October found Baca personally liable for $100,000 for failing to stop inmate abuse by deputies, mostly concentrated in the Men’s Central Jail due to a case initiated by a man who said he was severely beaten while awaiting trial.
Even as the F.B.I started investigations into the complaints and subsequent problems in the largest jail system in the country – the officers involved began an all out “cover-up” in an effort to hide their actions, according to federal prosecutors.
Although there is no valid excuse for the use of violence against inmates, Baca did receive the “Sheriff of the Year” award last year from the National Sheriff’s Association. The award was in recognition of the educational programs offered to inmates, and efforts to work with religious groups.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is the largest in the United States, with a staff of 18,000 and a budget of $2.5 billion.
Image via LA County Sheriff’s Department