Sheriff Lee Baca
[KHTS] – Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca announced his intention to retire at the end of the month Tuesday, citing political factors.
“There are many reason for why I’m retiring, both personal and professional,” said Baca, 71, in a news conference Tuesday. “But the prevailing one is the negative perception that this upcoming campaign has brought to the men and women of the Sheriff’s Department.”
When asked if the retirement announcement had something to do with his potential involvement in a federal investigation, he said he “didn’t want a campaign that was full of negative politicking.”
“Worry is not something I’m unfamiliar with,” Baca said, “but you don’t do these jobs to worry about yourself.”
He spoke vaguely about “compromised values,” without getting into specifics, avoiding a question about the potential for whether he’s going to be named in an upcoming federal indictment.
Baca said he’s been honored to serve the Sheriff’s Department for the last 48 years.
“My decision is based on the highest of concern for the Sheriff’s Department,” Baca said, noting he has two active undersheriffs who are qualified to run for the office.
Baca has been sheriff for the last 15 years, but he would have been up for re-election in June.
The decision comes after a pair of scandals for the Sheriff’s Department , including one about questions about the department’s hiring practices after the department absorbed officers from the county’s Office of Public Safety. The other involved allegations of a cover-up due to reports of abuse in the county’s jail system, which is the nation’s largest.
“What’s more important to give others in the Sheriff’s Department a chance (to be sheriff), who would not take that chance if I were running again,” he said.
Baca also addressed the question of who will take over for him.
“I’ll make the recommendation that Terry McConnell will be the individual who will ‘holds the fort,’ as they say,” Baca said, at one time noting the difference between his retirement and resignation.
Statement from Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich:
“I thank Sheriff Baca for his 48 years of public service — and I respect his decision and wish him well. The Board of Supervisors will begin the process of appointing an interim Sheriff until a Sheriff is elected by the voters in the June election. If no candidate receives 50% plus one vote, a run-off election will be on the November ballot.”