Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca announced his retirement ahead of the upcoming election, and most of the readers who have sent letters reacting to the resignation have welcomed the news.
As I've noted in the past, reader opinion (including that of one L.A. County supervisor) late last year had turned decisively against the embattled sheriff, whose department is under a jail abuse investigation by federal authorities. After news broke that 18 former and current members of the department had been criminally charged as part of that investigation, I wrote that "if The Times' letter writers were solely responsible for picking the L.A. County sheriff, Lee Baca would probably be out of a job."
Now, with Baca bowing out, many readers are moving on to the question of what's next, although some are still unsparing in their criticism of the sheriff. Counting the single submission published Tuesday about what Baca's departure might mean for jail inmates, only one writer so far has defended the outgoing sheriff's job performance.
Silver Lake resident Chamba Sanchez says Baca's departure allows the county to consider reforms:
"I have been a harsh critic of Baca, and I have to say that I was taken aback by his decision to step down. It was his finest hour. He deserves credit for putting the Sheriff's Department ahead of himself.
"I hope that we take advantage of this window of opportunity and begin to consider amending the state Constitution to make our sheriff an appointed position overseen by a commission, just as we have with the Los Angeles Police Department chief. Of course, this will take time.
"In the meantime, in the 2014 election we shouldn't vote for any candidate from the Sheriff's Department. We need an outsider who can make the needed changes."
Ken Brock of Upland explains why the Sheriff's Department will have a hard time finding a true reformer:
"Unfortunately for Los Angeles County residents, Baca's exit may not improve the department because the candidate field is limited to L.A. County residents.
"With due respect to the potential candidates, there will be no wide-ranging search like that which produced former LAPD Chief William Bratton, who was pulled in from New York City to run the Police Department, or the current search for an L.A. city fire chief.
"Without a nationwide search, the pool of top-notch candidates is too small."
Orange resident Dave Helsel checked his calendar:
"When I picked my L.A. Times Tuesday morning, the headline reporting Baca's pending resignation caught my eye. I quickly checked the date of the paper to see that it wasn't April 1.
"It's about time."
George Vreeland Hill of Beverly Hills speaks up in the sheriff's defense:
"Baca did a great job for Los Angeles County. He was a no-nonsense sheriff during a time when we needed just such a leader.
"Baca was controversial at times, loved many times and even hated sometimes. When you do your job in law enforcement correctly, such opinions go with the territory. He did not view his position as a popularity contest. He simply did what he felt was right for L.A. County.
"Thank you for your service, Sheriff Baca, and for a job well done."