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Sheriff hopefuls talk at forum

Five candidates running for Los Angeles County’s top law office discuss importance of restoring publ

Posted: April 7, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: April 7, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Working to restore public trust was among the top priorities stated Saturday by a selection of the candidates running to be the new sheriff of Los Angeles County.

Five of the candidates running for the position of Los Angeles County Sheriff gathered Saturday for a forum at the SCVTV studios in Newhall and put on by SCVTV, KHTS AM 1220, College of the Canyons Cougar News and The Signal. 

Working to rebuild the public image of the department is essential, candidates said, because of a series of controversies ranging from evidence of excessive force in the county jail system to allegations of improper hiring practices in the department.

Retired sheriff’s commander Bob Olmsted said many of those issues stemmed from a “catastrophic failure of leadership” and that public trust has been lost as a result.

“None of this occurred in a void, none of it in a vacuum,” Olmsted said. “At some point some executive in our department, in our command staff knew exactly what was going on.”

Former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka also said it is important for top leaders in the department to provide clear direction and guidelines to deputies and other employees and for the department to open itself up more to the public.

“Then and only then will we be able to restore the trust that is needed to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department,” Tanaka said.

Todd Rogers, an assistant sheriff, said he would engage in a collaborative reform process to bring in an external view of the department’s practices.

“I’ll also embrace external oversight,” he said. “It’s long overdue for the Sheriff’s Department. It’s something that I will welcome if it’s done correctly.”

James Hellmold, an assistant sheriff in the department, said issues need to be addressed, but that it’s also important to identify what the department does well to move forward proactively.

“We should take a real approach to finding out what’s wrong with the Sheriff’s Department but also build on what’s going right,” Hellmold said.

Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, who also sat on the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence that examined county jails, said the department needs to put systems in place to make its employees and leaders more accountable for their actions.

“Accountability is, at the end of the day, where we’re trying to draw the organization toward,” he said.

Each of the five are running to replace former Sheriff Lee Baca, who announced his early retirement in January. He has since been replaced on an interim basis by John L. Scott.

Other candidates for the position include Patrick L. Gomez, Bruce Medina, Dan Morse, Scott Sorensen and Lou Vince.

The primary election for Los Angeles County Sheriff is scheduled for June 3.
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