LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — As the California Primary elections quickly approach, the race for the next Los Angeles County Sheriff heats up.
The most controversial candidate, according to CBS2’s Dave Bryan, is former Under-Sheriff, Paul Tanaka, who served as second-in-command under former Sheriff Lee Baca.
Tanaka, who reportedly ran the day-to-day operations of the department under Baca, grew up in Southern California, and is the current Mayor of Gardena.
The jails commission had accused Tanaka of fostering a climate of violence.
“If you look, and you talk to the thousands of people I’ve worked with over the years, Paul Tanaka never condoned, encouraged or tolerated abusive behavior by deputy sheriffs or misconduct,” Tanaka told Bryan.
Among the members of the commission that accused Tanaka is former Long Beach Police Chief and current front-runner, Jim McDonnell.
“I came out (to California), did the testing, and was able to get hired by the LAPD back in 1991,” McDonnell said. “I think (the department needs) somebody coming into the organization with a lot of experience, that’s been through the issues before, and somebody who isn’t encumbered by alliances or relationships within the organization for three decades.”
McDonnell, who rose to second-in-command of the LAPD, developed a plan for community policing, prior to his role as police chief in Long Beach.
Perhaps the most outspoken candidate to take a strong stance against the department’s problems is retired Sheriff’s Commander Bob Olmsted, who was in charge of three detention facilities at Los Angeles County Jail.
“If inmates are being beaten up needlessly, then we have a significant problem, and I’m going to have to go to the FBI,” Olmsted said of having to go above Baca’s head to pursue the department’s issues.
Another candidate is Assistant-Sheriff Todd Rogers, who says the department’s issues are not a laughing matter.
“There are many, many of us who have stood firm against this type of behavior, and in many cases, have actively fought it,” Rogers said.
Asisstant-Sheriff James Hellmold, another candidate for Sheriff, says the departments problems stemmed from leadership lapses from the Under-Sheriff.
“…and putting out a mentality of talking tough, but then at the end of the day, that’s not what the community wants,” Hellmold said. “Yes, we want to be tough on crime, but we want to be respectful to people. Implementing the reforms, working with the jail commission, and then solving problems.”