Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, facing a tough battle for reelection amid scandals in his agency, plans to announce his retirement as soon as today, reports the Los Angeles Times.Baca, 71, told top county officials yesterday he believes stepping down will help the department recover after several years of tumult and criticism.
Baca’s decision comes a month after federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against 18 current and former sheriff’s deputies accused of beating jail inmates and visitors, trying to obstruct the FBI, and other crimes following an investigation of corruption inside the nation’s largest jail system. Baca won his job in 1998 after his rival, incumbent Sheriff Sherman Block, died days before the election. Baca advocated education and rehabilitation programs inside the jails and reached out to the Muslim community after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. His tenure was also marked by periods of jail violence as well as overcrowding, which prompted the department to release inmates after serving only a small fraction of their terms.