Who Would Mitrice Richardson Elect As Sheriff?

That’s a question that we’ll never know the answer to because tragically, the then 24-year old Mitrice Richardson disappeared after being in the custody of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s only to be found dead nearly a later. However, it’s a question that we owe her memory as well as ourselves to ask and answer to ensure that we do not elect a carbon copy of what we’ve had for the past 32 years under both Sheriff Lee Baca and his predecessor Sheriff Sherman Block.

It’s a mystery that will haunt me to the end of my life.  A young girl in the prime of her life goes into a swanky Malibu restaurant and orders a meal.  She is detained by the by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after not paying the bill and being found to have less than an ounce of personal use marijuana.  She is then released from custody in the middle of the night never to be seen alive again.  11 months later, what was left of Mitrice Richardson’s body was discovered in a Malibu Canyon

To date, no one has been charged with her murder and the sheriff’s department has seemingly washed its hands of her death and moved on with business as usual.

Flash forward five years and on June 3, Los Angeles County residents will go to the polls to elect a new sheriff to replace former top Sheriff Lee Baca.  Baca unexpectedly stepped down earlier this year amid several scandals in the Sheriff’s Department came to light and after federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against 18 current and former sheriff’s deputies accused of beating jail inmates and visitors and trying to obstruct the FBI in an investigation of corruption inside the nation’s largest jail system.

Running to replace to Baca are seven candidates—six of which who already have ties with the troubled law enforcement agency that is responsible for patrolling the county’s unincorporated areas and 42 of its 88 incorporated cities including Lynwood and Compton.  The LASD also secures courthouses — where deputies serve as bailiffs — community colleges, government buildings, parks, marinas and the vast network of buses and trains operated by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Metrolink.  Its jail system — the largest in the world — holds an average of 18,000-20,000 inmates a day, about 17 percent of whom are believed to have mental illness.

So let’s take a closer look at the candidates.

The photo above features a younger Tanaka and his Lynwood Vikings Guys, channeling their inner-gangsta personal. Courtesy of Mayor Sam and LASDAbuse.com

Gardena Mayor Paul Tanaka, a 31-year-veteran, was once Baca’s second-in-command, his Undersheriff and right-hand man, that is until they had a very bitter public falling out culminating with Tanaka’s retirement under pressure amid a federal probe over inmate abuse.

Assistant Sheriffs Todd Rogers and James Hellmold were both Baca insiders and represent two of only four Assistant Sherriff’s in the department.  A longtime confidant of Baca and once his former driver, Hellmold was the deputy mentioned in the L.A. Times’ story on the lead-up to Baca’s retirement decision as one of those who advised his boss to step down.

Retired Sheriff’s Department Lt. Patrick Gomez ran against Baca in 1998 and 2002. He once sued the department for denying him promotions and harassing his family, supposedly because he challenged Baca. He ended up winning a nearly $1 million payout

Los Angeles Police Department Senior Detective Supervisor Lou Vince volunteered in the LASD as a reserve deputy sheriff for four years.

Retired Sheriff’s commander Bob Olmstead was with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department for more than three decades.  Olmsted touts himself as the “whistle-blower” who alerted the FBI about the misconduct at the jails.  During his tenure, Olmsted commissioned internal audits that concluded some deputies used unnecessary force against inmates in the nation’s largest jail system and testified before the Los Angeles Citizens Commission on Jail Violence in May 2012.

Lastly, Jim McDonnell is currently the chief of police for the Long Beach Police Department. McDonnell is the only one considered a department outsider in the race having spent the bulk of his career at the Los Angeles Police Department where he was second-in-command to former Chief William Bratton.

Now, what should you be asking yourself after reading this and ahead of the June 3 election?

All of the candidates have the experience in law enforcement that voters traditionally feel is needed for a position like this.  That’s not the issue. All of the candidates have talked about the need for strong leadership, transparency, and accountability.  Again, that’s not hard to do and would be expected of anyone in their position.

When it comes to the LASD insiders running to be the next sheriff, this is the question that must be asked: if they couldn’t demonstrate strong leadership, transparency, and accountability when Baca was in office and when it was needed the most, why should we trust them now?

A leader to me is someone who stands up and speaks out no matter who their boss is.  It means taking the right position no matter how unpopular it’s going to be with your colleagues and weathering the storm after doing so.  Being a leader is not rubber-stamping your boss’s bad decisions or looking the other way when you know what is happening is wrong.  And frankly, that’s what a lot of the candidates running to replace Baca have spent their careers doing, going along to get along and you see where that’s got us.

For Tanaka, Rogers, Hellmold, and Gomez, it’s clear that throughout their respective careers in the LASD, they have for the most part sat by and either done nothing or actually participated in the misconduct.  And people, that’s not a sign of better things to come if either of them is elected.

I will give Hellmold credit for getting quoted in the L.A. Times as having told his former boss Baca he should step down.  The problem is, he should have done that a long time ago.

But what I can’t go for is that when it comes to Rogers and Hellmold, they come before us with the kiss of death after being named by Baca as both being potentially “highly qualified” successors.  No thank you.

While its admirable that retired Sheriff’s Department Lt. Patrick Gomez ran against Baca twice, he did nothing to demonstrate that he was willing to expose the corruption and misconduct going on inside of the department.  Instead, he opted to sue the department to the tune of $1 million dollars for his own mistreatment and harassment.

Which brings me to the only three candidate’s I would consider voting for—Lou Vince, Bob Olmstead and Jim McDonnell.

LAPD Senior Detective Supervisor Lou Vince willingly volunteered in the LASD as a reserve deputy sheriff for four years and voters like myself want to know why.  He wrote that he has had “many disagreements with Sheriff Baca” regarding what he says were the sheriff’s mismanagement of the department and that the department needs a hands-on leader who is aware of all aspects of operations and not connected to the current LASD administration.

Even though he waited until after he retired to blow the whistle on the corruption inside of the Men’s Central Jail system, Bob Olmstead blew it.  He spoke openly and unabashedly about the widespread dysfunction taking place which resulted in multiple federal investigations, indictments, and blew the lid on a long string of now very public departmental scandals. Olmstead has demonstrated to some degree that he has a conscious, ethics, and integrity—qualities that the next top sheriff should possess and be willing to use.

I know of Jim McDonnell from his days as LAPD Chief Bratton’s number two.  McDonnell brings to the race his perspective and insight as an outsider having spent the bulk of his career in the LAPD. That’s a good thing.  He also brings to the position if elected, the experience of working with and under civilian oversight, something the LASD has managed to evade for years but it is now likely soon a coming after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors finally voted to at least study creating a civilian body to monitor the beleaguered department.

Even more valuable could be McDonnell’s understanding of and experience operating under a federal consent decree from his time with the LAPD. McDonnell, because he was in the LAPD, is also likely to be more open to and at ease in holding community meetings on hot button issues than Baca who was often seemingly forced via the media and public outrage to come face to face with the community his department was accused of abusing and killing.

On April 30th Mitrice Richardson would have been 29-years-old.  We owe it to her memory, ourselves, and our community to take a close and critical look at the candidates vying to be L.A.’s next sheriff.

The deadline to register to vote in the June 3 California Primary Election is May 19.



The Court of Public Opinion

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  • chaliceme368

    Look at Google Maps for Lost Hills Station with a date of May 2012 and you see a prisoner outside of the gates cleaning up. Why are inmates allowed to roam free around the station. https://www.google.com/maps/@34.13802,-118.714476,3a,75y,150.37h,48.35t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sRtXHssmiOT3IjPY_ufYBTg!2e0!6m1!1e1

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  • cutty sark

    What you see in the Google Maps photo is an inmate “trustee” performing the janitorial activity of “sweeping”. The use of inmate “trustee” labor for janitorial, laundry and food prep and serving is integral to the day to day function of the L.A. County Jail facilities. However, the use of inmate “trustee” labor at Sheriff Dept. substations remains an unpublicized, unacknowledged and obscure fact.
    The numerous independent municipal police departments throughout Los Angeles County do not have access to this regular source of free labor. Only the Sheriff Dept., which operates the County Jail System, is able to offer a continuous source of Free labor to its substations located throughout the County.
    Only the most reliable and presentable inmate “trustees” are sent to staff the substations. They usually are inmates who do not have any “violent” related charges or convictions. They are deemed the lowest risk for “escape” – meaning they have strong ties to family, job and residence in their community. The cost of becoming a “fugitive” who won’t be able to return to their normal family and residence situation far exceeds any benefit of escaping their sentence(one year or less).
    There is usually a “trustee” cell at the substation which may be locked during the night time sleeping hours. However, the “trustees” generally need to have access to unsecured areas of the substation premises in order to perform some of their usual tasks. These tasks will include janitorial, laundry and food serving to the lock-up section of the substation which holds individuals brought in under arrest from the field.
    Although this can never be officially acknowledged, a literate and competent trustee may end up performing some routine clerical tasks at the substation, thus freeing up paid staff from some of the paperwork load.
    A sheriff substation may come to depend on its unpaid “trustees” to keep its rolling stock of patrol vehicles washed and clean on a daily basis. Deputies are usually allowed to place a personal vehicle in line for wash and detail after the County vehicles have been finished. The inmate “trustee” is not under obligation to service a deputies personal vehicle, but it is expected or they can be reassigned to the less desirable task of mopping the lock-up section and bathrooms. The deputy personal vehicles do not get serviced absolutely free by the “trustee”. The deputy is expected to place a standard cash gratuity into the car wash tip can, but its only a fraction of the cost paid at a regular car wash.

  • princeand therevolution

    What a colossal disappointment to read that Ms. Cannick has given up hope of finding justice for Mitrice Richardson. Doesn’t Ms Cannick realize how severely the movement for justice is depleted when she, of all people, publicly throws in the towel on Mitrice?
    “..take a critical look at the candidates for Sheriff…” – is that really what we owe to the memory of Mitrice?? And commit ourselves to the contrivance that her disappearance and death should forever be labeled a “mystery”?
    Ms. Cannick concedes defeat at exactly the wrong time. For one thing, we have an African-American female as District Attorney of L.A. County and an African-American female as Attorney General of California and we are soon to have a newly elected Sheriff voted in based on a stated platform of reform. These are exactly the kind of people holding key positions of authority from who we can expect and demand an actual investigation into the circumstances of September 17,2009. In spite of the significant expenditure of resources and funds by L.A. Sheriff Dept. and Los Angeles Police Dept. under the guise of “searching and investigating the Mitrice Richardson case”, there has never been any sincere effort of investigation.
    In fact, the official investigations stand as an egregious insult to the public, because the taxpayer was forced to fund the salaries of law enforcement personnel devoted to anything but a real investigation. If the public makes an honest evaluation of the official investigations, they can conclude that they were robbed and powerless to stop it. But please do not parade around the foolish and idiotic notion that $100,000 plus in law enforcement salaries was paid for anything else than a total sham.
    A second item of note which can contribute to an improved climate for demanding an actual investigation – -the monetary liability of the County no longer stands as a looming unknown which the County is striving to avoid. The civil lawsuit brought by the parents of Mitrice Richardson against L.A. County seeking damages for the actions of its employees which contributed to her demise has been litigated, negotiated and settled. A real investigation can commence with the sole objective of collecting evidence of what really happened and documenting that evidence in the form and format required for criminal prosecution.

    The third and arguably most compelling reason motivating a renewed demand for a real investigation at this point in time – the disappearance of Mitrice Richardson is hardly a mystery. A thoughtful and rational review of the publicly available reports and recordings will reveal items of inconsistency and items of ambiguity and items of contradiction and areas likely missing of detail which has been intentionally withheld. The players involved and the line of questioning which is taken by a real investigation is fairly straightforward. This was simply never done. In fact, a new set of suppositions and details can be superimposed as hypothesis over the fabrications and cheap set props supplied with the official narrative. A new and thoroughly plausible narrative emerges which is a much better fit for the timeline and events of September 17, 2009. It provides an understandable an undeniable motive for criminal actions and subsequent cover-up. The only factor which must be added is the individual members of the public who come ready to accept as reality the potential for some individuals in uniform to have willingly committed a specific series of repugnant acts.