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Baca Names New County Jail Chief

Sheriff Lee Baca on Monday introduced the new chief who will preside over the troubled Los Angeles County jail system, the largest in the nation with more than 18,000 inmates.

Terri McDonald, the newly named assistant sheriff of the Custody Division of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, is a former appointee of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who chose McDonald to help the state oversee county jail systems.

The jail system she will oversee for Baca has nine custody and correctional facilities. McDonald will also head up the Education Based Incarceration Bureau, which focuses on deterring crime by investing in inmates through education and rehabilitation. There are 67 such programs operating in the jail system.

McDonald’s appointment follows the March 6 resignation announcement of Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, the department’s embattled second-in-command.

Tanaka, who has been with the department since 1982, came under fire last year in a report by the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence, which was created to investigate allegations of abuse against inmates in the county’s lockups.

The panel’s investigators found that Tanaka — as overseer of the jail system — not only failed to address concerns about violence against inmates by discouraging investigations into alleged deputy misconduct, but actually urged deputies to be aggressive against inmates.

The investigators also faulted Baca, saying he failed to discipline Tanaka or other top managers despite acknowledging errors in judgment. Baca acknowledged that some deputies had “done some terrible things” in the jails, but took issue with the panel’s characterizations of deputies running rampant in the lockups.

McDonald has been with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for the last 24 years, most recently as the Undersecretary of Operations. She has also headed up the Ombudsman’s office in the state incarceration system.

McDonald has a public administration degree from the University of San Francisco and began her career with the state as a correctional officer.

Also on Monday, Baca also introduced the new chief of the Homeland Security Division, Ted Sexton. The former Tuscaloosa County sheriff will oversee the operation of 1,100 sworn and civilian personnel within the Homeland Security Division, which includes the Special Enforcement, Transit Service, Reserve Forces, Emergency Operations, Aero, Community College and County Services bureaus.