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Retired sheriff commander to challenge Baca in re-election

City News Service | 8/14/2013, 1 p.m.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — A retired Los Angeles County sheriff’s commander who played a role in exposing abuses inside the agency’s jails says he’s going to challenge Sheriff Lee Baca in next year’s election.

Bob Olmsted promised to clean up a department that he says has been beset by scandal because of mismanagement and cronyism by Baca, the Los Angeles Times reported in  an article on its website.

Baca, who has been sheriff for about 15 years, enters his reelection campaign amid several scandals. Over the weekend, Supervisor Gloria Molina published a letter in The Times blasting Baca and expressing disappointment at the absence of challengers.

Two others have entered the race, but Olmsted is considered the most serious challenger to Baca, who has high name recognition and significant fundraising resources, The Times reported

The 62-year-old Olmsted was one of the first sheriff’s officials to break rank with his old boss, according to the newspaper. In 2011, he went public with his criticisms of the four-term sheriff, telling The Times that he warned Baca about deputies using excessive force against inmates but was ignored until the problems grew into a scandal.

Olmsted’s public statements contradicted Baca’s claims that he had been kept in the dark by his top aides about jailhouse problems, according to The Times. Olmsted also commissioned internal audits raising alarms about jailer brutality nearly two years before Baca acknowledged that it was a problem.