No Endorsement For Lee Baca, An Incompetent
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.