Paul Tanaka
Retired Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, with wife Valerie Tanaka, speaks to reporters while awaiting results of the California primary race for Los Angeles County sheriff. (Patrick T. Fallon / For the Times)

By Cindy Chang
August 7, 2014

In a stinging final rebuke, the longtime civilian watchdog for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department accused top leaders of letting their worst employees run rampant, causing a series of scandals that tarnished the agency.

Merrick Bobb has been the Board of Supervisors’ special counsel reviewing the department for 22 years, and has written reports on how the agency is run.

But this last report before Bobb steps aside was particularly cutting, placing much of the blame for a jail abuse scandal — in which criminal charges have been filed against 20 sheriff’s officials since December — at the feet of former Sheriff Lee Baca and his chief assistant, Paul Tanaka.

In the 62-page report released Thursday, Bobb described Tanaka, who is running for sheriff, as the leader of “an anti-reform counter movement” who encouraged deputies to “work in the gray zone” while Baca and the Board of Supervisors paid little attention.

Tanaka, the report said, has changed little since he was a member of a tattooed deputy clique in Lynwood that reportedly rewarded its members for using excessive force against suspects.

Tanaka is one of the sheriff’s officials still under federal investigation. Six deputies were convicted of obstructing the FBI, and others have been charged with brutalizing inmates and jail visitors. Tanaka is now in a runoff election against Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, but his bid is considered a long shot because he received only 15% of the primary vote.

Tanaka’s attorney, Ronald Nessim, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Baca, who unexpectedly resigned in January, was portrayed in the report as a weak and distant leader who gave Tanaka too much power.

To read entire story, click here.