Today, Sheriff Lee Baca announced his retirement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office after 15 years in office. The resignation takes effect at the end of the month. Earlier in 2013, Sheriff Baca announced his bid for reelection to Sheriff and vowed that controversies surrounding his agency would not stop him from reelection.
Public officials like the Sheriff are held accountable by the voters and must answer for the failures of their office regardless of whether they were personally involved or knowledgeable of a particular event. As the head of their office, the Sheriff is responsible for the direction of the department, the appointment or promotion of leaders and the decisions of those promoted or appointed. One way or another the Sheriff either makes the decisions directly or puts in place people to make those decisions on their behalf.
There are many similarities between Sheriff Baca and what is going on in Santa Clara County. The misconduct of Deputies and their attitudes gave indications the problems in the Sheriff’s department were “institutionalized.” Reports of negligent management, favoritism, unethical hiring practices and loss of public trust were surfacing over the past months. The one thing Sheriff Baca was that Sheriff Laurie has never been described was “accessible.” Sheriff Baca was reportedly always at community meetings and ribbon cutting ceremonies. His identity as Sheriff was his life and he spent little time doing anything but being the Sheriff. Does anyone know where Sheriff Laurie goes when she’s not trying to get re-elected?
The top themes in comments seen in articles about Sheriff Baca’s resignation revolve around the following: It’s about time, need new blood, and ego gets in the way of making good decisions.
In the case of Sheriff Laurie, she proudly talks about how she promoted everyone to their current rank; nothing but the “best and brightest.” Sheriff Laurie must be held accountable for their failures as they come to light. After all, she carefully selected each and every one of them. The department has stagnated over many years; stuck in 80’s and unable to wake up.
At least Sheriff Baca had the sense enough to resign and let the Sheriff’s department move on and allow change to occur. In his press release on January 7 Sheriff Baca said, “I don’t see myself as part of the future. I see myself as part of the past.” Sheriff Laurie isn’t smart enough to take a hint yet. Maybe after she sees her house of cards falling around her she will consider what’s best for the County, Sheriff’s department and herself.
Oh and if you see Sheriff Laurie ask what part she played in the adventures of Tom Sawyer. (Hint: It wasn’t Huck)