Assistant Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim Hellmond has tossed his hat into the ring as a possible replacement for outgoing Sheriff Lee Baca. Hellmond joins a growing list of candidates who will run for the post later this year, as the department tries to refocus and reinvent itself amid a vote of no confidence in Baca from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The department also remains in the midst of a federal investigation which revealed widespread corruption from the Twin Towers jail facility downtown to charges of deputy abuse as far away as the Antelope Valley.

Hellmond, one of two insiders Baca said he would like to see replace him, is a 25-year department veteran who rose from Baca’s driver to assistant sheriff. He is said to be popular among rank and file personnel and has sought to distance himself from Baca in recent months, saying publicly that it was time for the sheriff to step down.

Hellmond told the Los Angeles Times last week that if he were elected, he would focus simultaneously on fighting crime and rebuilding public trust.

“I’m a crime fighter, not a politician. I’m more interested in building community support rather than big-name endorsements,” Hellmond said.

Hellmond joins a list of veteran law enforcement personnel wishing to replace Baca, a 48-year department veteran. They include: Todd Rogers, assistant Sheriff, who says he is a “reformer.” Paul Tanaka is a former undersheriff, himself ensnared in the Twin Towers investigation because he formerly oversaw deputy personnel there. Tanaka has gone on record stressing that he never condoned or tolerated excessive use of force or misconduct “by any sort of deputies.” Bob Olmsted, a retired sheriff’s commander, believes the department needs major changes, emphasizing more transparency. Patrick Gomez, a former lieutenant with the force, retired recently after 32 years and said the department badly needs major reform. Jim McDonnell may have the most prominent name among the candidates. He is the chief for the Long Beach Police Department, president of the Los Angeles County Police Chief’s Association and was a member of the command staff with Los Angeles Police Department.

“Our greatest strength is in our ability and willingness to work together to provide world-class service to those who live, work and visit Los Angeles County,” McDonnell said.

Baca, 71, will leave his post at the end of next week after serving 15 years as sheriff. He has recommended assistant sheriff Terri McDonald step in as interim sheriff. The nomination period for the post is from February 10 through March 7, with the election set for June 3. The winning candidate must receive 51 percent of the vote; if no person earns a majority, a runoff will take place in the November general election.