After 48 years in the department, L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca is hanging up his hat at the end of January as federal probes continue into allegations of prisoner abuse in local jails and racial discrimination in an area over which his office presides.
Baca, 71, made the announcement Tuesday—an about-face from his stated position a few weeks ago—and pointed to the effects the investigation would have on his department, The Guardian reported that day:
“I didn’t want to have to enter a campaign that would be full of negative, contentious politicking,” said Baca, 71, in an emotional statement outside sheriff’s headquarters. He has spent 48 years in the Sheriff’s Department since becoming a deputy. “I don’t see myself as the future, I see myself as part of the past.”
Last month, federal prosecutors indicted 18 current and former sheriff’s deputies for alleged crimes that included beating inmates and jail visitors, falsifying reports and trying to obstruct an FBI probe of the nation’s largest jail system.
US Attorney Andre Birotte Jr said the indictments showed that “some members of the Sheriff’s Department considered themselves to be above the law” and “demonstrated behavior that had become institutionalized.”
Baca sidestepped questions about whether he was worried that he might be indicted as part of a federal obstruction of justice probe. “I’m not afraid of reality. I’m only afraid of people who don’t tell the truth,” he said.
Baca was serving his fourth term as head of the nation’s largest sheriff’s department, tied to America’s biggest local jail system, and his interim replacement has not yet been picked.
—Posted by Kasia Anderson
J Rosenfeld (CC BY 4.0)
That’ll be all: Baca, pictured here in 2010, will retire at the end of the month.