Lee Baca, Sheriff of Los Angeles County, is said to be resigning on Tuesday. This come one month after several deputies were taken into custody as the result of a federal investigation over allegations of corruption and abuse of civil rights that were said to be taking place in the county’s jail system.
Los Angeles reporters said on Monday that Baca had made his plans to resign known to senior staff and other county officials. Baca, 71, began serving as the county’s Sheriff in 1998. His term was to end later this year but he was originally expected to run for re-election.
Baca’s department employs more than any other sheriff’s department in the country. It is the fourth largest law enforcement agency in the nation. Only Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago have police departments that are larger. Baca’s department contained 9,000 officially sworn-in deputies.
The FBI investigation that led to Baca’s resignation has been ongoing since 2011; the investigation looked into accusations of several issues of misconduct including excessive force. Four indictments from the grand jury and an unsealed criminal complaint issued a month ago accuse the department of beating inmates and visitors in the jail without any justifiable reason. There are also allegations of unnecessary detentions and conspiracy to obstruct an investigation into misconduct at a men’s jail facility on the federal level. Another unsealed indictment issued in November charged two lieutenants and five other deputies with the conspiracy as well as obstruction of justice.
The seven deputies named in the indictment were said to be allegedly trying to stop the Federal Bureau of Investigation from interviewing or contacting an inmate who was aiding federal investigators in a probe in to corruption and the violation of civil rights. Court documents show that one of the investigations involved the possibility of a deputy providing an inmate with a cell phone in exchange for a bribe. The documents reportedly say that the inmate was relocated to hide him from investigators and many items were falsified in the department’s databases to give the appearance that he had actually been released.
Prosecutors say that two sergeants and one lieutenant tried to obtain a court order to force the FBI to provide some documentation in an effort to get more information on the federal investigation. When the proposed court order was denied by a state judge, an attempt was made by the two sergeants to intimidate one of the lead agents with the FBI outside her residence. The agent, according to the indictments, was falsely told that a warrant would be sought for her arrest.
In 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the Sheriff’s department claiming Sheriff Baca and his top deputies had turned their backs on violence against inmates and, in fact, condoned it. The released report from the ACLU documented over 70 cases of law enforcement misconduct.
When the indictments were originally issued, the Sheriff strongly objected that the accusations should not reflect on the entire department and said that the majority of his deputies were good at the jobs to which they were assigned. His resignation comes as the investigation continues.
By Rick Hope