Can L.A. County Sheriff Baca Be Re-Elected Amid Federal Charges?


The Los Angeles Police Department was rocked by corruption and abuse charges after the Rodney King beating, eventually undergoing one of the most complete police turnarounds in 50 years. Now, says the New York Times, the larger Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is enmeshed in a new round of allegations of pervasive civil rights violations that to some feel uncomfortably familiar. Sheriff Lee Baca is up for re-election next year. Federal indictments charge that his department has allowed and even encouraged a culture that relies on excessive force and goes to great lengths to cover up evidence of misconduct.

There are allegations of falsified reports, obstruction of justice and conspiracy with 18 officers linked to what the U.S. Attorney calls an institutionalized behavior of acting above the law. Baca faces calls to resign as he prepares to run for a fifth term overseeing the nation’s largest county law enforcement agency. “We have now again reached a moment in time where people are — and really should be — questioning their confidence in the system,” said Loyola law Prof. Miriam Krinsky, who led a citizens commission investigating allegations of abuse. “The question really is, 'How can the department function with the dark cloud that now sits over it?' This is where L.A.P.D. was at its bleakest moments, with a profound loss of the public trust. If Sheriff Baca were in this position for any private company, he would no longer be there.”

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