In his last report before he steps aside, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s longtime civilian watchdog accuses the agency’s top leaders of having let their worst employees run rampant, causing a series of scandals that have tarnished the agency.
Merrick Bobb has been the Board of Supervisors’ special counsel reviewing the department for 22 years. But this last report 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, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In the 62-page report released Thursday, Bobb describes 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, according to The Times.
Tanaka, the report says, 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.
Baca, who unexpectedly resigned in January, was portrayed in the report as a weak leader who gave Tanaka too much power, The Times reported.
Baca was traveling Thursday but sent a statement through his former spokesman, Steve Whitmore, according to The Times.
“I have appreciated everything Merrick Bobb has done,” Baca said. “I want to thank him for his 22 years of service.”
— City News Service