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In his own words: Paul Tanaka

Paul TanakaThis article is copied from City Watch LA

FIRST PERSON – During my 30 years with Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, I had the privilege of working with some of the most dedicated, driven and hard-working men and women the public safety profession has to offer.

However, over the years I have seen a once proud organization turned into an institution with a reputation for corruption, scandal and deputy misconduct. We desperately need to restore trust, accountability and transparency to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. In order to do so, I believe we need new leadership.

That is why, after careful consideration and the support of my friends and family, last month I decided to announce my candidacy for Sheriff.

After my election, restoring order to the Department will by my primary order of business. First, I will ensure the institutional hierarchy of the department is clearly defined and sensible. Second, I will strengthen the hiring requirements for all new-hires, which will ensure that we hire only the best of the best.

Lastly, I will ensure that we implement an accountability system that is fairly and equally applied to all deputies, without exception. Public safety officers must have the highest level of professional conduct; a standard set forth by the department and by society.

With over 17,000 employees, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is the largest sheriff’s department in the world and the fourth largest community policing force in the country. The department contracts with 42 of Los Angeles County’s 88 cities and provides direct law enforcement services to over three million Los Angeles County residents. In addition, the department is also responsible for staffing the county’s various jails.

I believe the department needs a leader who understands the magnitude of deputies’ responsibilities and who is engaged, focused, and experienced in the department’s many operations. He must also have a clear understanding of various budgetary priorities and practice fiscal responsibility.

When I was first elected to the Gardena City Council in 1999, I was shocked to find an out-of-control city budget that was $5.2 million in the red with over $25 million in outstanding loans; our city was on the verge of bankruptcy. However, under my direction as Mayor, we worked hard to dramatically alter the fiscal and economic nature of our city. Gardena currently has $10 million surplus, a Double-A bond rating and one of the best police departments in California.

Similarly in 2002, while working for the Sheriff’s Department, I was given the responsibility of managing the department’s broken budget. At that time, the LASD was $25 million over budget.

Under my leadership, over the next 11 years we repaid the overage to the taxpayers and never overspent our department budget again. It is crucial, now more than ever, that the department has an effective, consistent and sensible leader as it now faces new budget constraints, jail overcrowding and prison realignment.

In October 2011, Realignment, also known as AB 109, was signed into law and drastically changed the face of California’s criminal justice system. With the transfer of more than 30,000 inmates to local custody, L.A. County has seen a large influx of state criminals into our county jails, which has in turn caused severe overcrowding. In addition, prior to AB 109 the average stay in a Los Angeles County jail was 54 days. Currently, our jails are housing more than 530 inmates who have been sentenced to jail terms of more than five years – 43 of them for more than a decade; one inmate in particular is serving a 42-year sentence in an L.A. County facility.

Although the problems from prison realignment continue to grow, this policy is here to stay.

Therefore, it is up to the leaders within Sheriff’s Department to determine how to best allocate our resources while simultaneously protecting the safety of our staff, our inmates and the community.

Over the next 100 days I will be visiting communities throughout Los Angeles County in hopes of better understanding the needs of residents from their public safety officials. Public safety is the most important service government provides its citizens and therefore must be treated with the highest standard of care and consideration.

 

(Paul Tanaka is former Undersheriff for Los Angeles County and a candidate for Sheriff. This column was posted first at FoxandHoundsDaily.com) 

-cw


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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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