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Bye Bye Baca: Emotional Sheriff Goes Out 'On My Terms'

Sheriff Lee Baca. Photo by NewsSpy via the LAist Flickr pool.
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An emotional Sheriff Lee Baca formally announced his retirement today amid pervasive allegations of abuse of power, shady department hires and brutalizing inmates and visitors within his jails.

The 71-year-old Baca soldiered through the press conference, saying that "negative politicking" and a desire to forge a new path for the LASD influenced his decision to retire. He also claimed that he made his decision to retire only three days ago.

"I have great gratitude to the people who elected me," Baca said. "I will go out on my terms. I will not seek reelection for a fifth term and I will retire at the end of this month."

Baca claimed the reasons for his sudden retirement were both personal and private, but made a point to criticize the "negative perception" that he says has already marred the election season. Up until now, Baca had widely been considered a front-runner on the way to his unprecedented fifth term as Sheriff, but recent events that have unfolded in the past few months have steadily deflated his chances.

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"I don't see myself as the future, I see myself as part of the past." Baca said.

Baca also made sure to point out that the jail system in Los Angeles County is one of the "safest and most humane systems" in the country—this despite the fact that much of the controversy in his tenure as Sheriff stemmed from horrifying allegations of excessive force and abuse of power inside the jails, particularly at Men's Central. Those allegations eventually led to the arrest and indictment of 18 current and former department employees, many of whom worked within the jail.

Earlier this morning, an expert told KTLA's Eric Spillman that a possible reason for Baca to step down this suddenly may be a future indictment from the FBI, who are still investigating allegations at the county jail. When asked point blank about a possible indictment, Baca responded with a cryptic non-answer: "You don't become a deputy sheriff when you're afraid," Baca said. "I'm not afraid of reality. I'm only afraid of people who don't tell the truth. That's a lot to be afraid of."

Baca's decision to retire took many county officials by surprise.

"I don't think anyone expected this," L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe said. "We're all caught a bit off guard."

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Baca recommended that Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald be appointed interim sheriff after he leaves office. Baca also did not explicitly endorse a candidate, but mentioned Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers when talking about a good potential candidate for the LASD's top job. There has been speculation that Rogers might throw his hat into the ring, and now that he has Baca's blessing, he may announce his candidacy as early as today, WitnessLA reports.

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