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Los Angeles County sheriff candidates faceoff in first debate

Candidates for Los Angeles County sheriff met to debate the issues for the first time since Lee Baca stepped down.
March 13, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
The primary is less than three months away, and for the first time since Lee Baca stepped down, the candidates for Los Angeles County sheriff met to debate the issues.

It wasn't that long ago when the contest for the L.A. County sheriff's seat was pretty much a one-man race. But when the recent jail scandal broke and Baca retired after 15 years, it become a seven-man race.

Six of those seven faced off in a debate sponsored by the Van Nuys Neighborhood Council on Wednesday. Current Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers was unable to take part.

The theme of the night was rehabilitating the sheriff's department, which is still reeling from the indictments of 20 deputies for inmate abuse and corruption charges.

"I'm running for sheriff to restore commonsense leadership to the department, to restore public trust and accountability, get back to basics of what we cops do for a living - that is fight crime, take bad guys to jail and make your community safer," said former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, who served 31 years with the sheriff's department.

But retired sheriff's Lt. Patrick Gomez pointed the finger at Tanaka and said he wants FBI investigators to conduct a forensic audit of the department.

"Mr. Tanaka talked about being a CPA, yet the auditor released a report in January and said $138 million was mishandled from special accounts within the department. Who's responsible for that and where's the audit and where's the investigation? Nobody's doing anything about it," said Gomez.

Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell spent nearly 30 years with the Los Angeles Police Department. He's calling for more transparency and public involvement.

"I support civilian oversight and I would encourage the board to implement civilian oversight, but if they don't, I will implemented it myself," McDonnell said.

LAPD Detective Lou Vince spent 25 years with the sheriff's department. He's pushing for transparency through technology.

"I want to see cameras in the cars. I want to see cameras on lapels. I want to see cameras in every inch of the jail, and not just the jail - every sheriff's department facility," said Vince.

Retired sheriff's Cmdr. Bob Olmsted is calling for a high-level purge at the department.

"I need to go in and take the entire command staff, the executive command staff and hold them accountable for all the issues that occurred. It's a complete embarrassment that we've seen over the last three years," said Olmsted.

Assistant Sheriff Jim Hellmold, who bills himself as the stand-out Democrat in the race, took issue with Olmsted.

"The point I think that Mr. Olmsted makes is very curious because of the fact that he was in charge when all of this occurred, so he already has tolerated malfeasance," said Hellmold.

Los Angeles voters will have their first crack at choosing their next sheriff in a June 3 election. If one candidate doesn't receive at least 51 percent of the vote, the two top vote-getters will have a run-off election in November.


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