Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca Retiring Thursday - KMSP-TV

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca Retiring Thursday

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca is retiring at noon on Thursday, culminating a career that spanned more than 48 years, 15 of them as  the head of the department.

Baca retired in response to a number of scandals, including the abuse of  inmates in Los Angeles county jails. He will be replaced on an interim basis  by Orange County Undersheriff John Scott, who was with the Los Angeles County  Sheriff's Department from 1969 to 2005, retiring as division chief of custody  operations.

Scott was appointed by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on  Tuesday as the interim replacement for Baca.

WATCH: Shariff Baca's interview on Studio 11 LA.

"The Sheriff's Department is at a crossroads, and John has the necessary  experience and skills to step in right away and lead in the interim," said  Supervisor Don Knabe. "During his tenure with Orange County, John has been  instrumental in turning around a department that faced similar conditions to  those we face today in Los Angeles County."

Baca, 71, and his department have been under fire over allegations of  mistreatment of jail inmates, capped so far by the indictment of 18 former and  current sheriff's deputies in an ongoing federal investigation.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky noted Scott's experience in crisis management  and said he expected changes.

"What we're looking for is someone who's not going to be a caretaker  for the next 10 months, just marking time," Yaroslavsky said. Instead, he  said, the board wants Scott "to begin the process of reforming" the sheriff's  department and "teeing it up" for whoever voters elect as the next sheriff.

In announcing his retirement plans on Jan. 7, Baca said he wanted to go  out on his own terms and cited department morale.

"The reasons for doing so are so many," Baca said at the time. "Some  are most personal and private, but the prevailing one is the negative  perception this upcoming campaign has brought to the exemplary service provided  by the men and women of the Sheriff's Department."

Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald took over management of the county  jails last year in response to demands for reform from the Citizens' Commission  on Jail Violence. Baca suggested that she would make the best choice for  interim sheriff, but McDonald did not meet the state qualifications for the  job.

Scott said he'd already met with McDonald. "She's somebody that I can  work with," he said.

Voters will elect a new sheriff either in a June primary or November run- off election to serve a term that begins in December.

Thefield includes Long Beach police Chief Jim McDonnell, former  sheriff's Cmdr. Bob Olmsted, former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and former Lt.  Patrick Gomez, as well as Assistant Sheriffs Todd Rogers and James Hellmold and  Los Angeles police Detective Lou Vince.

If one candidate gets a majority of the vote, eliminating the need for a  run-off, the board will appoint that sheriff-elect to the interim position. Otherwise, Scott will serve until December.

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