Sheriff Lee Baca’s will end his long-time tenure at the helm of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department today, less than a month since announcing his retirement and just under a year before the end of his fourth term.
Baca, 71, has been with the department for 48 years. He and the sheriff’s department have been under fire over allegations of mistreatment of jail inmates, capped so far by the indictment of 18 former and current sheriff’s deputies in an ongoing federal investigation.
Announcing his plans on Jan. 7, Baca denied his decision to step down was prompted by the possibility of federal charges against him, and said he wanted to go out on his own terms and cited department morale.
“The reasons for doing so are so many,” Baca said at the time. “Some are most personal and private, but the prevailing one is the negative perception this upcoming campaign has brought to the exemplary service provided by the men and women of the Sheriff’s Department.
On Tuesday, the County Board of Supervisors appointed Orange County Sheriff’s Department Undersheriff John Scott as an interim replacement for Baca.
The board’s 4-0 vote, the result of several closed-door meetings, came less than 48 hours before Baca’s scheduled retirement date, which is noon Thursday.
Scott has 36 years of experience with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, last serving as its division chief of custody operations before retiring in 2005. He joined the Orange County force in 2008. ife, Alice, was a captain with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, but she has also retired.
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky noted that Scott was hired to help turn around the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and has experience in crisis management.
“What we’re looking for is someone who’s not going to be a caretaker for the next 10 months, just marking time,” Yaroslavsky said. Instead, he said, the board wants Scott “to begin the process of reforming” the sheriff’s department and “teeing it up” for whoever voters elect as the next sheriff.
Scott said Tuesday he will not act as “a placeholder” for the next sheriff, but would begin working on reforms immediately.
Voters will elect a new sheriff either in a June primary or November run-off election to serve a term that begins in December.
The competitive field includes Long Beach police Chief Jim McDonnell, former sheriff’s Cmdr. Bob Olmsted, former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and former Lt. Patrick Gomez, as well as Assistant Sheriffs Todd Rogers and James Hellmold and Los Angeles police Detective Lou Vince.