LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca Tuesday announced he will retire at the end of the month after 16 years as the head of the department.
Baca, who was elected to his post in 1998 and re-elected to a fourth term in 2010, made a statement to the public at 10 a.m. about his early departure.
“I am not going to seek re-election as Sheriff and I will retire at the end of this month,” he said. “I’ll turn 72 years old in May and I don’t see myself as part of the future, but as part of the past.”
In the wake of several alleged scandals that prompted arrests within the department, the 71-year-old, who served 48 years in law enforcement, Monday had thrown his support behind the creation of a civilian commission to oversee the department.
“I think an oversight commission is important,” Baca said. “We’re in the 21st century, and we want transparency; we want to be able to have the public’s trust.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who originally proposed the creation of the commission, said that while it would not have direct authority to enforce its recommendations, it would be aggressive.
“The power to shine a light on wrong-doing is very, very substantial,” Ridley-Thomas said. “We need help to look at this, and get underneath this, and hopefully prevent it. This department has been behind the times with this kind of transparency and accountability. It’s just simply time.”
KNX 1070’s Margaret Carrero reports Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez has been calling for Baca to step down for some time.
“You could look at it two ways: he knew that stuff was going on and didn’t do anything about it, or even worse, he didn’t know what was going on under his own nose,” Lopez said. “It’s been one scandal after another for years.”
The most recent of those scandals involves the federal indictment of 18 former and current deputies in December for alleged crimes, including conspiracy to obstruct justice and assaulting inmates.
Baca would have faced a tough re-election battle this year, with his opponents challenging the department’s alleged shortcomings and failures.
“Sheriff Baca and I have had our differences regarding the leadership and management of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department,” candidate Paul Tanaka said. “He’s voiced his opinions publicly, as have I. I’ll talk about that during my campaign, but I want to put politics aside for today and applaud him for his dedication to public service. This is a tough job and I want to thank Sheriff Baca for his decades of public service to Los Angeles County.”
“It’s a new day in Los Angeles County and I think it’s a sunnier one with Lee Baca gone,” candidate Bob Olmsted said. “But we’ve still got a lot of work to do to make sure that we replace Lee Baca with a transformational leader who can reform the department, not somebody who will continue the same corrupt practices under a different name.”
KNX 1070’s Charles Feldman spoke exclusively with Baca following his announcement, and reports that, just hours before news of the retirement plans broke, Baca told CBS2/KCAL9’s Dave Bryan that he looked forward to the election race.
The primary election is set for June 3 with a potential general election on Nov. 4.
It was unclear who would succeed Baca in the interim, however, the outgoing sheriff has recommended Asst. Sheriff Terri McDonald.