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Sheriff Baca plans to retire at end of January

January 07, 2014|By Robert Faturechi, Jack Leonard and Kate Mather

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca announced Tuesday that he would not seek a fifth term in office and would instead retire at the end of the month.

Baca — who spent 48 years with the department including 15 as sheriff — was at times emotional as he explained his decision, which he said he made three days ago, the Los Angeles Times reports

"I will go out on my terms," Baca, 71, said. "The reasons for doing so are so many, most personal and private."

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Baca insisted his decision to step down was "based on the highest of concern for the future of the Sheriff's Department. He repeatedly cited the upcoming campaign, which he said had already brought "negative perception" to the department.

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

Baca declined to endorse a candidate in the upcoming election but said he had recommended that the L.A. County Board of Supervisors appoint Asst. Sheriff Terri McDonald to oversee the department after he leaves.

He said his greatest accomplishment would be reducing crime rates, and he commended his deputies for their work.

“They have conducted themselves with the utmost integrity and professionalism resulting in yet another year of historic crime reductions in nearly half a century,” he said. “In my opinion, your Sheriff’s Department is the greatest law enforcement agency in the world.”

The news of Baca's decision to step down stunned people inside and outside the agency. He was locked in a tough reelection battle amid several scandals that had beset the department.

Baca told top officials in county government late Monday that he believed stepping down would help the department recover after several years of tumult and criticism, according to sources familiar with the conversations.

His announcement comes a month after federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against 18 current and former sheriff's deputies accused of beating jail inmates and visitors, trying to obstruct the FBI and other crimes following an investigation of corruption inside the nation's largest jail system.

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