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Assistant Sheriff James Hellmold will join race to succeed Baca

LA County Assistant Sheriff James Hellmold announced his candidacy for L.A. County Sheriff Thursday, January 16, 2014.
LA County Assistant Sheriff James Hellmold announced his candidacy for L.A. County Sheriff Thursday, January 16, 2014.
Erika Aguilar

Another candidate has joined the crowded race for the next Sheriff of Los Angeles County. Jim Hellmold, assistant sheriff of patrol and detective operations at the Sheriff's Department, said Thursday he plans to officially announce his candidacy.

Hellmold, 46, said he met with local church leaders and some community groups before making his decision to run.

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“I’ve definitely had a groundswell of support from within the department, in the community and throughout Los Angeles County,” he said.

Hellmold, who’s been with the Sheriff’s Department for 25 years, rose through the ranks from deputy, to Sheriff Lee Baca’s personal driver, to commander in charge of inspecting jail operations two years ago.

He was one of two assistant sheriffs Baca named as capable replacements for his job.

“It was a good decision for Sheriff Baca to retire because it allows new energy and new vision to come into the department,” Hellmold said.

Hellmold, who says he’s more of a “crime fighter than a politician,” said he wanted to modernize the department by introducing policing technologies such as digital video surveillance, cracking down on cyber crime, and continuing with reforms to build public trust.

He said he worked on jail reforms in 2011 with commanders to layout new procedures to protect inmates, but Hellmold said he’s also heard from deputies who had concerns.

“It’s not to say that we can’t do better, we certainly can,” he said. “But let’s not be so quick to point the finger and blame the very men and women who are on the front lines protecting us.”

Hellmold's announcement to run for Sheriff grows the pool of candidates to seven.

His decision comes on the heels of this week's entry into the race by Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell. The former high-ranking LAPD official served on a 2012 blue ribbon commission that examined violence in the county jails. McDonnell has several high-profile endorsements and  he is expected to add to that list Friday with endorsements from the other members of the commission.