Rafu Wire and Staff Reports

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca’s announcement on Tuesday that he will not seek re-election to a fifth term is having a big impact on the field of candidates.

LAPD Deputy Chief Terry Hara, the first Asian American to be promoted to that rank, said he is mulling a run. He has been with the LAPD since February 1980 and was named to his current post in January 2008.

Terry Hara
Terry Hara

“With the announcement of Sheriff Baca resigning, it opens the door for new leadership for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department,” Hara said in a statement. “With that opportunity, I’m considering running for sheriff to bring best practices and the public safety service that the Sheriff’s Department should be and can be — but it will only occur with the right leadership in place.”

Last year, Hara ran for the Los Angeles City Council in the 9th District, previously represented by Councilmember Jan Perry. In the March election, Hara finished fourth out of seven candidates. The May runoff was won by Curren Price Jr.

“While the results were not what we had hoped for, I was still encouraged by how welcoming the community has been,” Hara said at the time.

Two former members of the Sheriff’s Department, former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and former Cmdr. Bob Olmsted, had already announced their intention to challenge Baca in the June 3 primary.

Tanaka, who resigned as Baca’s second-in-command last year, is serving his third term as mayor of Gardena.

The other previously announced candidates are Sheriff’s Department Lt. Patrick Gomez and LAPD Sgt. Lou Vince.

Baca, who plans to step down at the end of the month, said he was recommending that the Board of Supervisors appoint Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald to oversee the department until a new sheriff is elected.

Baca also said he hoped his decision to withdraw from the race would open the door for Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers and Assistant Sheriff James Hellmold to run for the post.

Shortly after Baca’s press conference, Rogers said he plans to run. Hellmold said he still had not decided.

“There has been a catastrophic failure of leadership in the Sheriff’s Department,” Rogers said. “A lot of these leaders are now gone. We have some that are still remaining and we need to fix that.”

According to KPCC, he singled out Tanaka as “one of those leaders who failed the sheriff.”

Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell’s name has also been mentioned as a possible candidate. He issued a statement Tuesday saying he was “humbled” by the consideration.

The job of sheriff “would truly be a unique opportunity with both challenges and rewards,” McDonnell said, but he stopped short of announcing his candidacy, saying he would make a decision “in the very near future.”

Baca was facing a tough re-election campaign, given the scandals that have rocked the department and questions that arose about the sheriff’s level of involvement in or knowledge of alleged wrongdoing by deputies.

He denied that his decision to step down was prompted by the possibility of federal charges against him. Eighteen current and former deputies were recently indicted on a variety of charges, including mistreating jail inmates.

Additionally, the U.S. Justice Department last year accused sheriff’s deputies of engaging in widespread unlawful searches of homes, improper detentions and unreasonable force as Antelope Valley authorities conducted an effort to discriminate against black residents who received low-income subsidized housing.

At the local level, the Sheriff’s Department was under criticism by a blue-ribbon commission appointed by the Board of Supervisors to examine allegations of jail abuses and was facing the prospect of official oversight, with the board last month approving the appointment of the county’s first inspector general.

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