MONTEREY PARK, Calif. — Embattled Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca announced his retirement Tuesday amid federal investigations that have targeted abuses in his jails and discrimination against minorities in one of the communities his deputies patrol.
Baca said he would step down at the end of the month and wouldn't seek re-election because he was concerned about the "negative perception" the forthcoming campaign would have on his department.
"I didn't want to have to enter a campaign that would be full of negative, contentious politicking," said Baca, 71, in a statement outside sheriff's headquarters. He was first elected in 1998 and has spent 48 years in the Sheriff's Department since becoming a deputy.
Baca has acknowledged mistakes while strongly defending his department and distancing himself personally from allegations of misconduct.
Last month, 18 current and former sheriff's deputies were indicted, accused of crimes that included beating inmates and jail visitors, falsifying reports, and trying to obstruct an FBI inquiry into the nation's largest jail system.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued the Sheriff's Department in 2012, saying Baca and his top commanders had condoned violence against inmates.
A federal jury in October found Baca personally liable for $100,000 for failing to stop inmate abuse by deputies in Men's Central Jail in a case brought by a man who said he was beaten while awaiting trial.
Last year a Justice Department investigation found deputies made unconstitutional stops, searches, seizures and used excessive force against blacks and Latinos in the Antelope Valley in the outskirts of the county. Baca disputed the findings but said he had instituted reforms.