L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca Accepts Some Blame for Jail Problems
Under tough questioning, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and his top assistant Friday told a blue-ribbon panel investigating deputy abuse that they failed to uncover problems roiling the nation’s largest jail system.
Baca, however, urged the commission to focus on solutions rather than dwelling on past shortcomings.
“We know we screwed up in the past,” Baca told members of the county Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence. “I’m a guy that says let’s go forward…. I just need this commission to understand the limits of digging up dirt that doesn’t have any water going into it.”
Baca’s testimony marked the most extensive public questioning he has faced about his management style and knowledge of problems inside the lockups since it was revealed last year that federal authorities were investigating allegations of deputy abuse of inmates.
Sounding apologetic and testy at times, Baca complained that his underlings had kept him unaware of their concerns that deputies abused inmates and covered up misconduct.
When one commissioner sought answers about a spike in use-of-force incidents at the jail, Baca interrupted: “What good does it do to talk about it now?…. We can look at a lot of charts and say, ‘Gee, if you saw this, why didn’t you just go right into action?’
“I’m one person and I’ve got a department that’s full of opportunities for mistakes,” he said.
At another point, Commission Counsel Richard Drooyan asked Baca: “If you’re to blame, how do we hold you accountable?”
“Don’t elect me!” Baca retorted to cheers from a largely supportive audience of sheriff’s officials.