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Baca steps down after 15 years as sheriff

Lee Baca left office Thursday weeks after announcing his retirement amid growing LA County Sheriff's Department scandals.
January 30, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
Lee Baca is no longer sheriff of Los Angeles County. He left office Thursday, just weeks after announcing his retirement amid growing scandals that rocked the department.

L.A. County's new interim sheriff, John Scott, stepped up to a podium and ushered in a new chapter for an embattled department on Thursday. Flanked by L.A. County supervisors and high-ranking sheriff's officials, Scott took the oath of office.

Scott retired from the L.A. County Sheriff's Department in 2005 after 36 years with the department. In 2008, he became undersheriff of Orange County. Scott made it clear he does not intend to be a "lame duck" sheriff; he says he plans to make real changes and reforms within his 10 months on the job.

Scott said back then, the department was headed in the wrong direction.

"I saw inaction and I saw a certain level of neglect," said Scott.

Scott is taking over for longtime sheriff Baca, who shocked many when he announced his resignation earlier this month.

"I just think it's important to slow my life down a little," said Baca. "And I think that that will happen."

Thursday was Baca's final day on the job after 48 years with the department and 15 years as sheriff.

Baca, 71, spoke briefly with reporters about what the future holds in store.

"I think that where I am now is -- I have a sense of peace," said Baca. "But I also have a great love for the men and women of the sheriff's department, and the great people that live in this county."

Baca's departure comes at a difficult time for the department, which has been hit with several scandals. Most recently, 18 sheriff's deputies were arrested as part of a federal investigation into allegations of inmate abuse and corruption at the county's two downtown jails.

"The public owns the sheriff's department. An elected sheriff should bring the public right into the system, and I've done that," said Baca.

"I think public trust is something that has to be demonstrated, you just can't talk about it and say it'll change, and trust us again," said Scott. "You have to demonstrate it."

Scott is essentially on loan to L.A. County until voters choose a new sheriff later this year.

The primary election for the new L.A. County sheriff will be held on June 3.


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