It's one of the biggest jobs in law enforcement, yet there may be one of the lowest voter turnouts in recent memory. Did you know there's a primary election in Los Angeles County in June? Yes. Did you know one of the offices that's wide open is the LA County Sheriff ? Who should replace Lee Baca after four terms.
When Baca retired months ago, it was under a cloud as there had been recent federal indictments of 18 Sheriff's deputies on obstruction of justice charges and inmate abuse in the LA County jail system. Baca's number two... Paul Tanaka, who had the role of ''Undersheriff " had 'retired'' months earlier, as rumors of (a still possible) indictment swirled around him. So, it comes as some surprise to those running to replace Baca that Mr. Tanaka is still a candidate at all.
Bob Olmsted, a former Sheriff's Commander who fashions himself as a ''whistleblower'' is leading the call for Tanaka to withdraw, saying '' the whole command structure of the Department needs to be revamped'. Tanaka, as he said at the candidate's debate I moderated at the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assocation meeting last nite, said '' "I've never condoned abusive behavior or misconduct" and said his 33 years with the Department , and his long experience as the Mayor of his home town of Gardena made him the idea man to step right into the job. Other rivals include Assistant Sheriffs Todd Rogers and James Hellmold (Baca's former drive) as well as long time LAPD official who left after he didn't get the Chief's job, now Chief of Police of Long Beach Jim McDonnell, who can run as an ''outsider''. It's going to take a lot of research and work and diligence by the relatively low percentage of voters who'll turn out June 3rd to go through the candidates qualifications, determine if Tanaka is ''clean'' or tainted by scandal, and who 's best equipped to reform and rebuild public confidence in the largest Sheriff's Department in the country.
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