Outgoing Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca attended a multi-faith service at St. Leon Cathedral of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church in Burbank on Friday. It was the first public event he's held since he announced his retirement earlier in the week.
Each year Southern California clergy, many of whom are unofficial advisors to the Sheriff, gather for the joint-prayer service and breakfast.
Father Alexi Smith of the Ecumenical Affairs for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles prayed for Baca’s remaining time as Sheriff and the department.
“Surround him with your sustaining spirit that while yet in office, he may not falter in the just exercise of his responsibilities nor in his commitment within in the continued reform of our detention system,” said Fr. Smith.
The outgoing sheriff faced a friendly crowd of faith leaders, politicians and community members that have worked closely with the Sheriff’s Department on immigration and incarceration issues.
Rabbi Jonathan Bernhard offered praise for the education-based incarceration programs Baca's introduced in the county jails.
“All of these programs were done in the sense to fufill the psalm, to help people lift up their eyes and see what was possible,” Rabbi Bernhard said.
Baca talked about his faith as well. He said he was committed to “enhancing the journey of life and to recognize the challenged that all human beings have.”
Vanessa Martinez, who attended the church service, said she’s gone to several community faith meetings with Baca over the years. She came to the church service to support him. Martinez called Baca a good Sheriff but is struggling with why he has decided to leave early.
“It’s just so confusing,” she said. “We don’t know his personal reasons that he has for leaving us. And it’s saddening because we don’t who is going to take over.”
Baca’s term would have been over in November. Instead, he’ll be leaving the department at the end of this month.