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Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca announces his unexpected retirement on January 7, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Baca has decided to leave the beleaguered sheriff's department at the end of January rather than fight for a fifth term. He insisted that his sudden decision to retire was not prompted by the possibility of federal charges against him. Eighteen current and former deputies were recently indicted on a variety of charges, including mistreating jail inmates.
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors met Tuesday and among the topics discussed was an interim leader for the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.
Sheriff Lee Baca announced earlier this month he's retiring and will step down at the end of January. That leaves a vacancy at the top of the department that runs the largest county jail system in the U.S.A. and one of the nation's largest patrol forces. In addition to the jails, the sheriff's department is responsible for public safety in a large swath of L.A. County – including numerous unincorporated communities, several cities like West Hollywood, and the Metro public transit system.
The supervisors met out of the public eye in closed session. They have scheduled another meeting for Thursday to again discuss an interim sheriff.
The change comes at a time of some upheaval at the sheriff's department. In December, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced indictments against 18 current and former members of the sheriff's department. That investigation continues, along with an investigation into alleged civil rights violations. Anyone appointed interim sheriff will also be pressured to continue implementing a host of reforms recommended last year by a Blue Ribbon commission looking into a "culture of violence" at the jails.
Baca himself has recommended his Assistant Sheriff for Custody Terri McDonald take over until a new sheriff can be elected. Voters will get their first chance to cast a vote for the growing field of candidates for sheriff in June. If no single candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, there will be a runoff in November. An interim sheriff will likely serve until December.
Along with McDonald, supervisors are considering a variety of other candidates to act as a fill-in. Board of supervisors President Don Knabe said last week he favors appointing an interim sheriff who does not plan on running in June. Knabe said his office has received a large amount of emails and phone calls with recommendations on who to appoint. No consensus has emerged.