SHERMAN OAKS (CBSLA.com) — A Los Angeles County sheriff's candidate who is the subject of an ongoing federal grand jury investigation into charges of brutality and corruption at L.A. County jails is explaining why deputies under his command tried to hide an inmate from the FBI.
In an exclusive interview with KCAL9's Dave Bryan, former undersheriff Paul Tanaka said the inmate, who was also an FBI informant at the time, was moved from location to location for good reason.
"We're conducting an investigation wherein [the inmate] alleges that FBI agents are furnishing him with illegal drugs and contraband in the form of cellphones, which, as you know, are very dangerous in the jails. We had to keep him isolated for our purposes to maintain the integrity of an investigation. In other words, if you're a suspect or you're a person we have questions about, we can't let you talk to the person we need to interview until we have concluded our investigation," Tanaka said.
Asked if the person can talk to the FBI, Tanaka said, "Don't forget, he made the allegations that the FBI was smuggling drugs, illegal drugs, and cellphones into the jails via deputy sheriff's. So at that particular time, our thought process was we had to maintain the integrity of the investigation. In order to do that, we were the only ones who had to have access to him. We were keeping him away from everybody for his safety and for the integrity of the investigation."
At a sheriff's debate Wednesday night in Sherman Oaks, other candidates pointed at Tanaka as the one who was the most directly responsible for the department's problems.
"…The Commission on Jail Violence pointing fingers right back at you, saying, 'Paul, you were the problem, you're the one who perpetuated the jail violence.' And if you were the CEO of an organization, we would have fired you a long time ago. And lastly, you've got a tattoo on your ankle that has been determined by a federal judge to be a Neo-Nazi racist group. We do not need a sheriff as a Neo-Nazi racist who refuses to remove it. Tonight I'm asking you, Paul, to step down," Bob Olmsted said.
Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell said the allegations against Tanaka strengthen the argument that it will take an outsider to clean up the sheriff's department.
"I believe what the organization needs and the community needs is an outsider who has been involved in turnarounds before and are reforming departments and are moving forward and motivating employees within the organization to reach their fullest potential," he said.
Tanaka has no intention of dropping out of the sheriff's race.
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