Monday, May 29, 2006

No Endorsement For Lee Baca, An Incompetent

One of the most important aspects of elections in our democratic system is to put on pressure for change. Even if incumbents have only minor opposition, whatever votes are cast against them are valuable in situations where the incumbents have not been doing their jobs. Just as a minority of shareholders can put pressure on a recalcitrant CEO, so a minority of votes can often induce politicians to sit up and take notice.

These facts are particularly important this year in the June 6 primary in relation to Sheriff Lee Baca. As violence continues to reverberate in the sprawling Los Angeles County prison system, he has not only failed to quell it, he hasn't even done very much about it.

The L.A. Times had a shocking article Sunday, by police investigative reporters Matt Lait and Scott Glover, about the 43-year-old man who went into jail for drunk driving and was dead five days later, the victim of an apparent beating and failure to provide medical treatment for his diabetes.

A picture of the guard who is suspected of beating him ran in the story, and Lait and Glover reported this woman has been the suspect in other beatings over the years.

The question that has to be asked, that the electorate of Los Angeles County, cannot avoid, is why this woman has not been removed from the guard ranks long ago.

Yet aside from a lot of talk, nothing is happening to improve conditions in the jails. The sheriff has done little but talk, and the Board of Supervisors, to which Baca is responsible, has not forced him to undertake systematic reforms. From racial fighting in the jails, to mistreatment of odd or sick prisoners, we see one outrage after another. Budgetary problems are not an adequate excuse.

There's something badly wrong with the Sheriff's office in this county, when one considers the reigns of Pete Pitchess, Sherman Block and Lee Baca. All were rogue officers of one kind or another. Yet none of them had substantial opposition when they were first elevated (Block died before Baca was elected), and all had only scattered opposition for reelection.

Somehow, that has to change. Even if most people who are in jail deserve being there, society has an obligation to see they are treated fairly once they are there. Sheriffs who cannot provide that should be retired.

I wrote just recently, in a followup to a column in the Times by Steve Lopez, that the supervisors are not adequately doing their jobs, and called for votes against the two incumbents who are running June 6, Zev Yaroslavsky and Gloria Molina. The unquestionably intelligent Yaroslavsky in particular has been trying, but after his reelection, for which he is an odds-on favorite, he should try harder. Molina and the Sheriff, Baca, I have to say, have few redeeming characteristics.

So every negative vote in these races might do some good. We've reached the point where a voter two-by-four to the side of these officeholders' heads might at least shock some sense into them.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lee Baca should leave justice to the Court System and not impose his will. Letting Hilton out compounds the feeling that the rich gets away and the poor gets the sentence.
Mr Baca deserves no respect and ought to hand in his badge ..... do you hear, Yaroslavsky and Molina?????

6/07/2007 8:02 PM  
Blogger Mz. Lissette said...

Found this after doing some research on the Sheriff - the more I learn, the more dissapointed I am in the justice system in L.A.
The link to the sheriff's office is slow so I imagine that everyone's doing the same thing I's like one big cyber-WTF!

6/07/2007 10:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Son left early this morning for work release to take care of a 240 day sentence for stealing a few baseballs in a stupid high school prank. We both agree the system is so unfair. I volunteer at a prison and I wonder what Lee Baca would say about all the suicide and attempted suicides that occur in our prisons all the time. I'm sure these inmates are under some psychological stress as well. Some have been relieved from it because they are now dead. I hope Lee Baca does not get re-elected! He is totally out of touch with the general population. Paris Hilton should go back to jail!!!!!!!!!

6/08/2007 8:12 AM  

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