How Baca and Tanaka let the sheriff's department go bad

baca-grab-lamag.jpgCeleste Fremon has covered in impressive detail for many years the foibles and scandals of Lee Baca's sheriff's department, and in the new issue of Los Angeles Magazine she gets more than 10,000 words to explain for newcomers the "morass" that formed under the management of Baca and top deputy (and now candidate to be elected sheriff) Paul Tanaka. It's not all new stuff, but this has got to be a blow to Tanaka's candidacy and a boost to the rivals like the former LAPD top brass Jim McDonnell, who is running as an outsider.

Here's the link to what's online and an excerpt.

As a consequence of the sheriff’s increased inattention, many of the important positions in the department reportedly began to represent not Baca’s selections but those of Tanaka. In time there came to be an actual club for insiders, the membership of which was composed of around 100 of those most firmly in the car with Tanaka. Like third graders with a hidden treehouse, members of the club (designated as the e-mail group “Exec Staff Mtg”) were gifted by Tanaka with specially designed, sequentially numbered metal coins. Called “challenge coins,” they would grant their bearer entry into get-togethers held at a barbecue patio inside department headquarters that, built at a cost to the taxpayers of $22,726.31 in building materials alone, was used almost solely as Tanaka’s private club, where the anointed would drink Jack Daniel’s and Johnnie Walker Black and puff on cigars.

Fremon says at Witness LA that she will be on KCRW's "Press Play" with Madeleine Brand this afternoon. In a separate web teaser on the Los Angeles Magazine site, Fremon explains why this story is still current even with Baca retiring:

Mainly because I believe the story is far from over. The FBI is looking at a number of new areas of alleged corruption that fall well outside the problems in the jails. And, although Lee Baca has yanked himself from the LASD’s helm, his controversial second in command, Paul Tanaka, is running for sheriff. But no matter who is elected next November, for real reform to take place, the new sheriff will need to have a clear-eyed view of the dysfunction that still plagues this department. I hope this story can provide a bit of that perspective.

More over there.


More by Kevin Roderick:
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Recent County stories on LA Observed:
How Baca and Tanaka let the sheriff's department go bad
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Yaroslavsky makes it official: he's not running for Congress
New sheriff converts Tanaka's cigar-smoking patio
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