One on One with LA County Sheriff candidate Paul Tanaka – Part III

Paul TanakaPart 3 – The Tattoo

The Los Angeles County Sheriff provides law enforcement to 88 contract cities, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority (LACMTA), Los Angeles Community College Districts (LACCD), Superior Courts and the jail systems.  The “bear” means they can roam anywhere they want, for ALL cities located within Los Angeles County fall under their jurisdiction.  The Sheriffs are one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the US employing more than 15,000 deputies.  On May 12, 1982, Paul Tanaka lateraled to the LA County Sheriff department from El Segundo Police.

Paul entered under then Sheriff Sherman Block and would serve under former Sheriff Lee Baca for the bulk of his employment.

From 2005-2007 Paul served over the county jails, while Bob Olmstead took the reins from 2008-2010.  After leaving the jails, Paul became Assistant Sheriff over patrols from 2008-2010.  From June 2011 until August 1, 2013, Paul served as undersheriff, second in command to Baca.  Paul was also heavily involved in turning around the department’s budget and between 2007 and 2011; crime was a record low in LA County.  Paul’s time with the Sheriff was not always roses.  He faced severe scrutiny and legal hurdles when “the tattoo” came to the public light.

While working in Lynwood, Paul would take the departments Viking tattoo and ink it on his body.

Were you aware of what the Viking tattoo symbolized when you got it?

It literally was the station mascot for our intramural softball and relay running teams so there was no hesitation to get the tattoo (I was in my 20’s). We were known as the Lynwood Vikings and there was nothing sinister about it in the 80’s. We even used the same logo as the Minnesota Vikings football team. Firestone Station was known as the Firestone Pirates, Norwalk Station’s mascot was Wolverines, and so on.

Have you removed it knowing that it has been federally identified in court?

I have not had it removed, as the Viking symbol alone is not bad – we have high schools whose mascot is Vikings, Viking Van Lines, Viking Charities, and Minnesota Vikings, to name a few. To me, removing it would be to acknowledge that there us something evil about a Viking symbol.

If you could do over again, would you have got it?

NO. If I had known this particular tattoo would become such a distraction from the accomplishments of my 33 year public service career, I would never have gotten it. I would have gotten a different tattoo!

The jails are currently a mess.  A committee was assembled around September 2011, which Paul’s opponent for Sheriff headed, that declared the jails improperly managed.  Eighteen deputies were fired and investigated.  We would see Sheriff Baca not only drop out of the sheriff race, but also step down abruptly.  Paul was also blamed.  He is quick to point out that the period being investigated was during Olmstead’s watch, not his.  When asked if he missed working for the department, he answered “I miss having the ability to help people”.

Since leaving the department, he continues to keep the City of Gardena out of fiscal chaos and most importantly keeping Gardena a desirable city to raise a family.

Paul is visible at his favorite eating establishments:  Cherrystones, Diana’s and Lomeli’s and is raising a five year old son.  He will term out as mayor of Gardena in 2017 and kept me guessing about what his future plans are.  The council has been meticulous about putting controls in place to retain the cities surplus in the bank and be prudent with spending the city’s finances.  He is encouraged by the diversity in the city which is 90% minorities and 75% democrat, who have faithfully elected Paul to the council, the only Republican, since 1998.  He has raised record amounts of money for all campaigns and beat his opponents handily.  The city continues to bring in new businesses with an In N Out slated to open soon along with other eateries and small businesses.  He has restored community pride, and restored faith in the city’s ability to meet financial obligations, which was validated with the A credit rating and Paul looks forward to serving the residents for the next three years.

That is, unless he is elected the next Sheriff of Los Angeles County.

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About Melissa

I am a lifelong Inglewood resident living in District 4. I serve on PTA and School Site Council as Vice-President, for the last 8 years with Inglewood Unified School District. I volunteer on the Wellness Committee for ICEF Public Schools. I am an alumni of California State University, Dominguez Hills with a degree in Political Science. You can find me on Twitter under @CreoleMommie

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