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LA Sheriff’s Candidates Come to LMU to Debate

Candidates for Los Angeles County sheriff met in a debate Tuesday afternoon at Loyola Marymount University. Their discussion ranged from policing styles to regaining public trust to term limits and relations with the Board of Supervisors.

The debate, facilitated by LMU’s Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles, brought together six of the seven sheriff candidates: Patrick Gomez, James Hellmold, Jim McDonnell, Bob Olmsted, Todd Rodgers and Paul Tanaka. Candidate Lou Vince did not attend. Fernando Guerra, professor and director of the Center for the Study of L.A., moderated the forum.

The group of experienced law enforcement professionals largely agreed on the nature of the problems facing the Sheriff’s Department, and even on many of the solutions the next sheriff must enact. The differences were primarily ones of emphasis. Some criticized Baca for neglecting his management duties and for trusting the wrong people. Others criticized Baca’s priorities in the last several years of his tenure. Twenty current or former sheriff’s officials have recently been charged by federal prosecutors, and the department admitted hiring dozens of deputies with histories of serious misconduct.

After a series of questions by Guerra, several students asked the candidates questions about gender equity, overzealous arrests and restoring trust in the communities the Sheriff’s Department patrols.

The candidates in the June 3 countywide election are vying to replace Lee Baca, who stepped down as Los Angeles County sheriff in January. If no candidate wins a majority of votes, there will be a runoff between the top two vote-getters in November.

Baca visited LMU last month to give a speech and answer questions from undergraduates.  Baca, who is widely blamed for not dealing with major problems at the agency, told the students that his biggest regret as sheriff was spending too much of his time at public events instead of managing his department.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has more than 18,000 employees, 10,000 sworn and 8,000 civilian personnel, according to its website.