Paul Tanaka, who is running against Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, his former boss, in next year’s election, issued a statement on Dec. 19 in response to a Los Angeles Times report alleging wrongdoing in the Sheriff’s Department.
The newspaper said on Dec. 18 that Baca maintained a special hiring program that granted preferential treatment to friends and relatives of department officials, including some candidates who were given jobs despite having troubled histories.
Tanaka, who resigned as undersheriff earlier this year, commented, “The sheriff’s personal hiring program known as ‘Friends of the Sheriff’ is just one of many reasons why the department has been riddled with scandal. The profession of law enforcement officer requires the highest standard of conduct and character. Any law enforcement agency, not just the LASD, is required to hire only the best of the best as guardians of the law without favoritism or nepotism. Each applicant must possess a lifelong history demonstrating exemplary conduct.
“As sheriff, in addition to fixing the organizational structure and levels of accountability, I will ensure that our department is hiring only the highest level of individuals to become a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy.”
On Dec. 11, Tanaka made his first public statement after the federal government arrested 18 current and former members of the department in a jail abuse and corruption scandal.
“The residents of Los Angeles County deserve better, as do the hard-working men and women of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department,” Tanaka said. “It’s time for the sheriff to take responsibility for the decisions he has made as the top public safety official in the county.
“I’m running for sheriff because I believe we can do better, and we can do it together. It’s time to end the blame game, and give the residents of Los Angeles County a department they can trust and one in which deputies can be proud to serve. That’s why I’m running for sheriff.”
Tanaka, who was also criticized in a county commission’s report on inmate abuse in the jails, and another former member of the department, retired Cmdr. Bob Olmsted, are the major candidates challenging Baca’s bid for a fifth term.
The Times quoted Olmsted — whose campaign slogan is “Olmsted Instead” — as saying that the arrests are further proof that neither Baca nor Tanaka is qualified for the job.