Paul Tanaka is undersheriff in the L.A. County Sheriff's Department

Los Angeles County Undersheriff Paul Tanaka has been critical of Sheriff Lee Baca. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times / July 27, 2012)

Times reporter Robert Faturechi will join L.A. Now Live on Wednesday at 9 a.m. to discuss his latest story on L.A. County's embattled Sheriff's Department: an exclusive interview with Paul Tanaka, the department's second in command.

Weeks after Sheriff Lee Baca pressured him to step down, Tanaka delivered a searing critique of his old boss and the department, which he said is "on the verge of anarchy."

Tanaka alleges that Baca pressured subordinates to hire his friends and relatives. He said the sheriff is reckless with taxpayer funds, boasting about international business trips that bring little benefit to the agency. Tanaka said his boss has also undermined public safety to settle political spats, ordering, for example, that all sheriff’s deputies be removed from joint crime-fighting operations with the FBI as payback for a federal investigation of the jails -- an order Tanaka said he refused to carry out.

Tanaka’s criticism comes as he considers a run against Baca for sheriff in 2014. While he blames Baca for many of the problems facing the department, Tanaka himself has come under intense criticism as well. A blue-ribbon report last year blamed both men for an abusive culture inside the agency’s jails. Several current and former sheriff's officials publicly singled Tanaka out for creating a climate in which aggression was prized, loyalty was placed above merit and discipline discouraged.

Still, Tanaka offers an insider account of how Baca has run the department and struggled to deal with an ongoing federal investigation that has roiled the nation’s largest jail system for nearly two years.

The live chat will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

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