By Terry Miller
A California federal judge sentenced Leroy Baca, a former Los Angeles County Sheriff, on Friday to three years in prison for giving false statements and obstructing an FBI investigation into inmate abuse.
The judge stated that Baca’s actions embarrassed law enforcement officers who “put their lives on the line every day and serve with honor.”
According to The Washington Post, Baca found the sentence “interesting.”
Baca and his right hand man, Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, were involved in a massive corruption scandal that stirred Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department treatment of county jail inmates into the national news spotlight.
Baca, 74-years-old, walked out of court Friday after being ordered by US District Court Judge Percy Anderson to turn himself in July 25 to begin his sentence.
The judge took Baca’s doctors’ diagnosis of Alzheimer’s into consideration – he could have imposed a five-year sentence. According to The Washington Post, Judge Percy Anderson noted while Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease, it is not a get out of jail free card.’
Ron Hernandez, president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs Association made the following statement after the sentencing of Baca.
“When Mr. Baca was convicted, the jury clearly understood that the Sheriff’s Department suffered a failure in leadership under the Baca/Tanaka regime. My concern is today’s hard working front-line deputies continue to be judged based on the past actions of others. As I previously pointed out, our current sheriff and executive staff would not want to be judged according to the misdeeds of Mr. Baca and Mr. Tanaka. Many people in the department’s current leadership were also in leadership under Baca/Tanaka and should have been minding the store.
We were disappointed by the sentences that were handed down to deputies in the past year for crimes relating to the scandal, and Mr. Baca’s three-year sentence does not ease the pain felt by those deputies. Justice requires that those who directed criminal conduct should not be the least punished, nor should it parallel those who simply followed the directions they were given.
The decision today should be a message to management that they too will be held accountable for their actions and decisions. It is more important than ever that the sheriff is involved and aware of what administrators are doing in his name.
However, the department’s focus should be on continuing to fill our many vacancies with the best and the brightest candidates. This can only be accomplished with competitive pay, compensation for the many different working conditions unique to our department, and a grassroots style of recruitment, as opposed to the main focus on a social media style.
I would remind the public that the crimes committed by former department executives reflect only upon those executives and their leadership failures. We are not going to let the sins of former managers define our deputies, as that would not be an accurate representation of the honesty, hard work and integrity ALADS members and their co-workers exemplify every day.
Sheriff Jim McDonnell said: “I remain confident in the justice system and how law enforcement and its leadership are held accountable to the laws of our country and to the people we are entrusted to serve. The trials and the resulting convictions have been difficult for the men and women of the Sheriff’s Department who have always worked with integrity and continue to serve the public with honor.”