Media reports say that Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca informed each of the county's elected supervisors and his key staff that he will announce his retirement on Tuesday. When he would leave — whether he would serve out his term or not — remains unclear. Baca is in his fourth term as sheriff. His last few years have been rocked by one controversy and scandal after another. On Monday he came out and told reporters that he favored a plan by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to name an oversight commission to watch over the troubled sheriff's department. That seemed like a pretty big concession — until this bombshell.
The LA Times story frames Baca's news as coming "a month after federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against 18 current and former sheriff's deputies accused of beating jail inmates and visitors, trying to intimidate an FBI agent and other crimes following an investigation of corruption inside the nation's largest jail system."
Said Witness LA: "The pending announcement comes as a shock to even most of those who know the sheriff, sources told us. Baca reportedly spoke to each of the members of the LA County Board of Supervisors individually on Monday night, and briefed members of his command staff far earlier in the day."
Andrew Blankstein at NBC News:
Embattled Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca is expected to announce Tuesday that he will not run for a fifth term as the county's top cop and step down from his post by the end of the month, sources familiar with the decision told NBC News.
His decision to retire comes weeks after Andre Birotte Jr., the U.S. Attorney for California's Central District, announced charges against 18 current and former deputies assigned to the Los Angeles County jails in connection with "a wide scope of illegal conduct" including allegations of unjustified beating of inmates, unjustified detentions and a conspiracy to obstruct a federal investigation.
Separately, the U.S. Justice Department found that deputies patrolling the Antelope Valley in northern Los Angeles County repeatedly harassed and intimidated Blacks and Latinos including using racial profiling and excessive force.
And the Los Angeles Times reported last month that Baca's Sheriff's Department hired dozens of officers even though investigators found they had committed serious misconduct both on and off the job.
One source said Baca, who is 71 and has served 15 years as County Sheriff, made "a difficult decision" but one that was "in the best interest of the department and people of Los Angeles County."
This obviously will throw wide open the race to become elected sheriff in November (or June, if someone gets a majority in the primary.) Blankstein also reports that Long Beach police chief Jim McDonnell, a former senior LAPD official who looked at running for sheriff but backed off, "would be open" to getting in the race now.
Updates from Twitter:
LA Times city editor Shelby Grad:
Pasadena Star-News editor Frank Girardot won't miss a key Baca aide:
Sheriff's resignation also means the end 4 his snarling , snippy, and surly spokesman Steve Whitmore. #sayonara— Frank Girardot (@FrankGirardot) January 7, 2014
Witness LA photo of Baca