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by Peter Moskos

February 11, 2016

Former LA Sheriff Baca Pleads Guilty

I don't know much about LA county. The LA Sheriff's Department has 18,000 employees and 9,100 sworn officers. And running a huge jail system ain't easy. But Sheriff Baca and his cronies have been in trouble for a long while. His people tried to strong-arm an FBI agent investigating his department. Not cool. Perhaps we shouldn't be electing top law enforcement officials. From the NYT:
The plea agreement with the United States attorney’s office caps a stunning fall for Mr. Baca, who was among the most powerful men in Southern California during the 15 years that he led the sheriff’s department. Seventeen sheriff’s department employees have been convicted as part of the federal investigation into corruption and civil rights violations in the Los Angeles County jails during his tenure. Inmates were routinely sexually humiliated and severely beaten by sheriff’s deputies at the jails, according to the Department of Justice.
The LA Times has more of the salacious details.


john mosby said...

All very nice, but how much of this is just the second prong of the war on the police? Note that similar measures are being taken against Riker's. Meanwhile, Cook County Jail in Chicago is basically dismantling itself.

If you end broken windows and other proactive policing at one end of the process, and then you supervise the other end of the process - the jails - out of business, you basically make our big cities safe for crime.


Peter Moskos said...

It might be. But I prefer to see the downfall of Baca as more the tail end of the downfall of Daryl Gates and that era of "professional" policing.


Nor am I convinced that these jails are anything more than cesspools of criminogenic propagation. I'm not certain what the answer is (short of flogging!). But I'd be happy to get rid of them all and start from scratch.

It's important to remember the NYC reduced its jail population dramatically while bringing down crime.

aNanyMouse said...

Peter: typo alert, on “to strong-arm an FBI agentS”?

John, I must emphatically urge my colleagues to mostly stay away from rhetoric on “the war on police”, even tho there’s rather good reason to fear such, except when there’s super reason to claim such about a particular case (e.g. in Balt.). Be like a good def. lawyer, by hammering away at the weakest part of your opponents’ case, rather than “handing your foes a sword”, as Nixon famously put it.
This especially applies when cops react so strongly to a DoJ finding that “Inmates were ROUTINELY sexually humiliated and severely beaten…”, and that Baca’s pals messed with the FBI (WTF!).
Until it’s shown that THIS particular DoJ finding was a hatchet job, suggestions (e.g. on a respected site like this one) that this is part of a “war on police”, only pushes a skeptical public to fear that cops really seek a blank check for their (mis)conduct. Suggestions that this DoJ finding, and rulings against Rikers, are possibly an effort to “supervise… the jails - out of business”, hand cop-haters that much more “justification” to paint cops as dismissive of legit public concerns, or outright nuts. [The rhetoric about the Van Dyke case, from the Chicago FOP and (esp.) some others in Chitown, may as well have been scripted by cop-haters. Such rhetoric is digging a really deep hole for cops’ rep with the public. If cops are heard to be hinging their claim of “the war on police” on THAT case, we’ll really get one helluva war on police.]

Maybe if we have (publicly-viewable footage from) cameras in jail cells, (bye-bye “right” to privacy!) there’ll be no dispute as to what was done to inmates.

aNanyMouse said...

And, Peter, you might want to change spelling in the post's title, to "... Baca Pleads Guilty".

Andrew Laurence said...

I work in health care IT, and I want my incompetent or dishonest colleagues gone. I don't want them wreaking havoc on our customers and, by extension, the sick people our customers are meant to be caring for. Any honest and competent person in a responsible job should be GLAD when corrupt and incompetent people are weeded out. It makes life better for everyone: the corrupt get punished, and the incompetent can look for jobs where they ARE competent.

Peter Moskos said...

Thanks for the corrections. Always needed. Always appreciated.

Peter Moskos said...

Cops too like when corrupt or incompetent cops are weeded out and/or fired. The problem comes is how do you identify the bad, rather than those who just had a bad day. Sure, fire the bad workers, but in how many occupations are good workers so afraid of getting in trouble?

Those who talk about getting rid of bad cops are usually happy when *any* cop gets punished or fired. And when good cops think they can get in trouble, get fired, or face criminal prosecution seemingly at random -- viral video, accidental death, honest mistake, politics/pissing off the wrong person -- you're sure not going to get them to support a process that makes it easier to get screwed. Nobody wants to jackpot. Important to any cop is Numero Uno: that *I* don't get fired.

Police don't have any faith in the discipline process because it's seen as random or worse. Take the Baltimore 6. Guilty or not (and they're not) does anybody really think they're the worst 6 cops in Baltimore? Of course not. But they're the ones on trial. Every cop in Baltimore knows they could be one of those six. So what kind of message is that? There but for the grace of God.... Every. Single. Cop.

I'm curious to know how you and your IT colleagues would feel if the next time there was a mistake (or not) and somebody dies (it happens) the State's Attorney (AKA District Attorney) would press criminal charges against the first six workers on some email chain related to the patient.

Sure, you'd end up being acquitted of the serious charges, But how would you feel after that?

And you know who wan't on the chain and isn't facing charges? The incompetent bastard you had to cover for because he called in sick when he was too hungover to do his job.