Second ex-sheriff's official announces bid to challenge Baca

Paul Tanaka Hearing

Bear Guerra/KPCC

Undersherrif Paul Tanaka prepares to testify in front of the Citizens Commission on Jail Violence on Friday, July 27, 2012. The commission was formed by the LA County Board of Supervisors to investigate allegations of abuse at county jails.

Paul Tanaka, the former Los Angeles County undersheriff who left the department last year under heavy criticism for his handling of alleged abuse in county jails, announced Thursday that he'll challenge his old boss, Sheriff Lee Baca, in next year’s election.

Making his announcement to reporters on a helicopter pad at Griffith Park, Tanaka said community members are long overdue for a new direction from their sheriff.  

"The lack of accountability at the sheriff's department has been well chronicled," Tanaka said.  "It is an embarrassment to the thousands of hardworking employees and necessitates a change in command, a new vision."  

Tanaka was the second former department official in as many days to announce he would be running for sheriff.

On Wednesday, former sheriff's commander Bob Olmsted said he was coming out of retirement to clean up the department after what he called years of mismanagement. Olmsted had helped to expose jail abuses and has been critical of both Tanaka and Baca.

Tanaka's remarks echoed Olmsted's call for departmental housecleaning. He emphasized that as sheriff he would bring credibility to the department and "bring much needed order to the house" by "putting in place an organizational structure that is clearly defined and sensible — one that is no longer blurry or confusing."

Tanaka said he would hold staffers accountable and strengthen hiring practices to ensure that only those who meet the highest standards of conduct and character become deputy sheriffs.

Asked how he would distance himself from the troubles the department has endured over the past few years, Tanaka said his campaign will aim to assure voters that he's not his former boss.

"I believe that people who know me, get to know me as we do this campaign, will see that there are marked differences... I wasn't raised to be a whistleblower.  I didn't think there were things that were being done were illegal — it was just leadership styles that I disagreed with," Tanaka said.

Tanaka says he's getting support from members of the community, police officer unions and current executives of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Bob Olmsted's last name. This story has been updated.

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