Craig HueyArticles, Reality Alert

There is blood in the water and sharks are circling. For an easy kill?

But, hold on: these sharks aren’t lying in wait for the king, the dictator or the president. These sharks are sniffing for the blood of Paul Tanaka, retired Under Sheriff of Los Angeles County.


What possible threat could Paul Tanaka be to them?

Paul Tanaka is a candidate for County Sheriff – and therein lies the rub. Perhaps the sharks believe he is a strong candidate. Would that be reason enough for three high ranking officers from the Sheriff’s Department to join together in their denouncement of their one-time superior?

Or is there something a bit more that concerns them?

All of the seven candidates for Sheriff have years of experience in law enforcement. The three most vocal of Tanaka’s detractors have achieved high rank in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. And what is the main theme of their complaint? That Paul Tanaka allowed abuses in the system.

Well, okay; that sounds like a reasonable concern. But haven’t we heard this one before?

If memory serves, the recently retired Sheriff, ‘Lee’ Baca’, leveled the same claims at his former boss and mentor, Sherman Block, when Baca challenged Block for his job. And it took the Hand of God as well as Baca’s Department Coup to end that Reign of Terror.

So if the ‘new math’ hasn’t addled our brains and we have enough fingers and toes, we might be able to add up the number of years these allegations have been slung back and forth.

Sherman Block held the Sheriff’s Department in a death grip for fifteen years and nine months while he arm-twisted tax payers into the highest salary ever given to an elected public official up to that time. (Block’s pay: $234,016.00 per year to President Clinton’s $200,000.00 per year.) And what did upstart Under Sheriff Baca accuse him of? Civil Rights abuses by deputy sheriffs and unlawful beatings in the county jails.

Leroy David ‘Lee’ Baca wore the Sheriff’s badge for sixteen years and two months and what was the reason for his ouster? Civil Rights abuses by deputy sheriffs and unlawful beatings in the county jails.

Okay, so, if we can figure this out…nine plus two equals…then six plus five…carry the one…makes… Thirty-one years and eleven months of abuses – nearly thirty-two years which almost eclipsed the entire service of Paul Tanaka in which senior officers in the Sheriff’s Department failed – or refused – to ‘clean up the mess’ of civil rights abuses to citizens of Los Angeles County.

So…when do we start holding Tanaka responsible for the mess? And where were these other ‘high ranking deputies’ during this time? Why didn’t they ‘clean it up’?

The brutal beatings of jail inmates has been documented at length many places on the internet. Some might say that ‘these are the bad guys. They deserve rough treatment.’ Okay. But does everyone ‘deserve’ to be hang cuffed behind the back, have their eye sockets broken, their anus ‘probed’ with a flashlight and tazered multiple times while they lay unconscious in a three-foot pool of their own blood? Is this ‘just treatment’ for the crime of possession of an illegal baggie of marijuana?

The crimes listed within the jail systems are almost unimaginable. But how about the rest of the ‘law abiding’ population? Getting an unjust traffic ticket is one thing; it might leave you grumbling. But how would you feel about being hounded every time a deputy sheriff’s patrol car rolled by? Would you enjoy being hand-cuffed behind your back, shoved into the ‘cage’ in the back seat of a patrol car – where there are no door handles, so you can’t get out – with all the windows rolled up. Then the ‘deputy’ turns the heat on full blast and leaves you forty-five or fifty minutes while he chats with other officers who are also supposed to be working. And you’re ignored while you scream and holler and kick at the windows fearing you won’t be able to breath another minute.

Then – finally; mercifully – you are released because you hadn’t actually broken any law to begin with and you’re left with the threat ‘Next time, I won’t be playin’.’

So, where were these other high-ranking ‘deputies’ when all this was going on? If Deputy Tanaka was supposed to stop such abuses, why didn’t they?

The truth of the matter is, no matter how much mud is slung, I won’t know what the truth of the matter is. I wasn’t there. I didn’t see or experience any of it. I believe that abuses run rampant in the behavior of deputies because there is too much evidence to deny it. But I don’t know who is responsible and I don’t know who to blame.

I do know that Deputy Paul Tanaka was not in charge.

I do know that in Sheriff’s Baca’s four terms, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department paid out millions of tax payer dollars to ‘settle’ law suits. In fiscal year 2012-2013, we paid $37 million; in fiscal year 2013-14, we paid $43 million; and we are on track to pay $50 million in this fiscal year.

I also know that when Paul Tanaka was elevated to high rank, he was given the responsibility of managing the department’s budget – which he did with distinction. And he managed to maintain the budget while he had that responsibility.

So why are his fellow officers attacking him?

Paul Tanaka has said repeatedly that his obligation lies first and foremost with the citizens of the county, the state and the country. His job is to make the streets safe enough for any citizen to walk any street at any hour of any day. He has pledged to remove any officer who violates the public trust and/or who is incapable of maintaining that trust.

He has promised the citizens – his employers – that he will remove any officer who is incapable or who refuses to maintain that trust.

I don’t know all the details of all the abuses that have occurred in the Sheriff’s Department: I wasn’t there; I didn’t see it; I don’t know who violated anyone’s civil rights. All I can do is to make a choice based on the factual information that I do have.

Paul Tanaka has the trust and respect of his fellow citizens who elected him six times to be their mayor after he had served six years as their representative. He was respected and trusted enough to be elevated to Under Sheriff and given the responsibility of the budget for the entire city. Only time will tell if the person we elect will be a good public servant or not. If that person fails us, we need to be proactive enough to remove him.

But as for now, my dime is on Paul Tanaka for Los Angeles County Sheriff. He has my trust and he has my vote.

And as for those other ‘high-ranking officers’ who did not stop the abuses but have gathered to oppose Paul?

Sharks always gather – for easy kills and left-over spoils.

Maybe the blood they smell in the water is their own.