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Baca schedules news conference; retirement announcement expected

Posted: January 7, 2014 9:25 a.m.
Updated: January 7, 2014 9:25 a.m.

SANTA CLARITA - As rumors of his expected retirement abound this morning, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has scheduled a news conference in Los Angeles.

Although no details about the conference were disclosed by media relations officers assigned to the department, speculation among some local sheriff’s deputies is that Baca is expected to announce his retirement.

“It’s a real shock,” said one sworn peace officer at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.

The news conference takes place at 10 a.m. in the Sherman Block Sheriff’s Headquarters Building in Monterey Park.

The conference comes on the heels of recent high-profile corruption probes that resulted in the arrest of at least 20 sheriff’s officers.

On Dec. 9, federal officials unsealed five criminal cases filed against 18 current and former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies as part of an FBI investigation into allegations of civil rights abuses and corruption in the nation’s largest jail system.

“These incidents did not take place in a vacuum — in fact, they demonstrated behavior that had become institutionalized,” U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said at the time. “The pattern of activity alleged in the obstruction of justice case shows how some members of the Sheriff’s Department considered themselves to be above the law.”

Four grand jury indictments and a criminal complaint allege unjustified beatings of jail inmates and visitors at downtown Los Angeles jail facilities, unjustified detentions and a conspiracy to obstruct a federal investigation into misconduct at the Men’s Central Jail.

Lt. Stephen Leavins of Valencia was among the 18 named in the probe. Leavins was assigned to the LASD’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau, which scrutinizes the conduct of LASD deputies.

The FBI has been investigating allegations of excessive force and other misconduct at the county’s jails since at least 2011. Birotte said the arrests were related to the abuse of individuals in the jail system and also allegations that sheriff’s officials moved an FBI informant in the jails, possibly to thwart their probe.
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