Lee Baca

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca takes questions from the media after the FBI released results of a federal probe, Monday, Dec 9, 2013 at a news conference in Los Angeles. Nick Ut — The associated press

By Christina Villacorte, Los Angeles Daily News
Posted: 12/14/13, 1:00 PM PST |

Hours after the FBI rounded up 18 of his officers for various alleged crimes, ranging from beating inmates to obstruction of justice, Sheriff Lee Baca tried to project the image of someone who had the situation under control.

“There is no perfect law enforcement agency anywhere in the world but what I do is I tell the truth,” he told reporters on Dec. 9. “I accept responsibility, and I also believe in correcting things and getting proactive.”

“You haven’t seen me retire from the job,” he added. “You haven’t seen me blame somebody else besides me for whatever the challenges are.”

Whether the 71-year-old Baca will be forced to retire will be decided by voters in June. He faces several challengers in his bid to continue leading the world’s largest sheriff’s department — one that has a budget of $2.4 billion and a staff of about 18,000 responsible for protecting about 4 million people.

In previous years, his re-election victories had been almost taken for granted.

Baca won election in 1998 after challenging incumbent Sheriff Sherman Block, who died a few days before the vote. Now in his fourth term, Baca has trounced every challenger since then and ran unopposed in the last election.

But after 15 years in office, problems in the jails have taken a toll on his image.

Early in 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class action lawsuit against Baca, accusing him of condoning a pattern of deputies using excessive force on inmates.

Late in 2012, the Commission on Jail Violence criticized Baca’s “failure of leadership,” saying he “did not pay attention to the jails.”

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