"Disaster! Very, very, very scared!" Off-Ramp for January 11, 2014, marks Northridge 20th

PHOTOS: LA County Sheriffs through the years

LAPL/Herman J. Schultheis Collection

The way we picture them. In an undated photo, two sheriff's deputies ride down a dirt road on horseback through the natural scrub landscape that surrounds the El Monte hog farm after the flood.

Blix & Ross Photographers/LAPL Security Pacific National Bank Collection

Undated portrait of "Don David" W. Alexander, 1812-1887, son of a California pioneer, councilman, sheriff and merchant of Los Angeles.

LAPL Herald-Examiner Collection

Photograph shows, from left to right, LA County Sheriff Hammel, J.B. McNamara, and Depty Sheriff Robert Braun. McNamara and his brother John J. were charged with the L.A. Times Building bombing of October 1, 1910.

Los Angeles County Sheriffs William I. Traeger (who served 1921-1932) and Eugene Warren Biscailuz (1932-1958), c. 1930s.

LAPL Security Pacific National Bank Collection

Los Angeles County Sheriffs William I. Traeger (who served 1921-1932) and Eugene Warren Biscailuz (1932-1958), c. 1930s.

Watson Photos/LAPL Herald-Examiner Collection

1948: Sheriff Eugene Biscailuz (served 1932-1958) prepares to take photo of beauties Mary Hatcher (left) and Evelyn Knight, at the Los Angeles Press Photographers Association dinner.

LAPL Herald-Examiner Collection

May 26, 1972: "Death Penalty Initiative Backers - Governor's wife, Nancy, and Sheriff Pitchess." Peter J. Pitchess was the 28th Sheriff of Los Angeles County, and served on the Los Angeles County Civil Defense and Disaster Commission during the nuclear crisis in the early 1960s.

LAPL Herald-Examiner Collection

LA County Sheriff Sherman Block, who served from 1982-1998, dying in office, displays 411 pounds of cocaine seized in one of Los Angeles County's largest drug busts. Four South Americans were in custody as a result of five raids.

LAPL Gary Leonard Collection

6/2/1999: District attorney Gil Garcetti and Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, elected in 1998, at L.A. media roundtable, Beverly Wilshire Hotel.


Off-Ramp commentator Marc Haefele calls LA County Sheriff Lee Baca's sudden exit a "puzzlement."

Related: Update: LA County Sheriff Lee Baca to retire at end of January

"All he would have had to do," Haefele says, "was pull a Lyndon Johnson and say, 'I'm not running anymore.'" Perhaps, Haefele speculates, he wants to give an underling the advantage of incumbency in the election. When asked about the suddenness of his decision, Baca said he'd simply decided he was part of the past of the department, not the future.

Haefele recalls that Baca entered office in a colorful fashion ... when Sheriff Sherman Block died in office just before the election. Haefele says Block himself had a famous exchange with feisty new LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina. Block had refused to answer Molina's public grilling, prompting Molina to call him "insubordinate." Block replied that for him to be insubordinate, he would have to be Molina's subordinate in the first place. Of course, the sheriff answers to the voters.

Check out the audio to hear Haefele and KPCC's Frank Stoltze talk about Baca's legacy, his weaknesses, and his strong points. Meanwhile, here's a random collection of LA County sheriff trivia, to accompany our slideshow:

  • LA County has had 30 sheriffs, 2 of whom served non-consecutive terms, John C. Cline and William Hammel. 2 were killed in office: James Barton in 1856 (a shootout with bandits) and William Getman in 1858 (during a pawnshop robbery).
  • In the 1800s, the sheriffs tended to hold office for a few years, but the 1900s saw 2 who exceeded 20 years in office: Eugene Biscailuz, who served from 1932–1958, and Peter J. Pitchess, 1959–1982.
  • Biscailuz ascended to the post when Sheriff William Traeger, who had been USC football coach in 1908, won a seat in Congress after being appointed to three terms as sheriff. 
  • For his part, Biscailuz (he was of Basque descent) joined the department in 1907 and helped organize the CHP. 
  • You probably know Sheriff Pitchess name from the Peter J. Pitchess Detention Center.

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