Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca’s Aug. 6 response to the L.A. Times, in which he defends his record against the Times’ editorial encouraging him not to seek re-election to a sixth term, is one more example of the sheriff’s inability to take responsibility for the tragedy that is the Los Angeles County jail system.
As the Times’ noted in its Aug. 4 editorial, “Evidence that sheriff’s deputies regularly beat inmates in the jails is mounting, and a wide-ranging federal investigation has been launched, including an FBI probe into criminal wrongdoing. . . . Baca has repeatedly claimed to be unaware of the troubling goings-on in the department he’s supposed to lead—the violence, the gang-like cliques of deputies, the dearth of meaningful oversight.”
Indeed, the fact that the sheriff says he does not know what is happening inside the world’s largest jail system that he runs should be reason enough for him to step aside.
The attitude of indifference and denial that Sheriff Baca exhibits toward the people whose welfare he is in charge of is unacceptable. It is under his leadership that statistics for the most recent use-of-force incidents in the county jail system show an increase of 29 percent from January to July of this year when compared with the same time period last year; these incidents currently stand at 34 percent overall.
Sheriff Baca claims that one reason Angelenos should re-elect him as sheriff is because he is “leading the effort to reduce crime and violence to historically low levels,” and that the reported increase is because all use-of-force incidents are now being tracked when they have historically have not.
This is unacceptable.
The sad truth of the matter is that violence by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputies is a long-standing tradition, and many of the most vulnerable members of our community, the mentally ill, bear the brunt of this terrorism.
There must be civilian oversight of the Los Angeles County jail system. The system must have monitors that can, not only report, but reduce the use of force inside the jails.
It is time for a new sheriff in town.
It is time for Baca to go.
Patrisse Cullors | The Coalition to End Sheriff Violence in L.A. Jails
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