LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The candidates for L.A. County Sheriff returned to the spotlight Thursday as they faced off in a debate.
KCAL9's Dave Bryan reports Todd Rogers, Jim McDonnell, Bob Olmsted, James Hellmold and Lou Vince stuck to the issues at Mercado La Paloma in South L.A., after sponsors for the second major debate for the office made it clear criticism of their fellow candidates was not welcome and would be punished.
Instead, the candidates recited their campaign positions and issued generic criticism of the most obvious sheriff department problems, like the way the jails are run.
"There's no doubt there was a catastrophic failure of leadership when it comes to the jails. We have the wrong message that's being sent to our deputies and they were asleep at the wheel when the deputies took the wrong message and operated in the gray area," Rogers said.
Three of the candidates claimed they were part of fixing the jail's problems, including Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, who was part of a blue ribbon jail commission and acknowledged the issuance of a highly critical report by the commission did not solve the issues.
"Unfortunately in that interim year we saw additional scandals. We saw the indictment, of first 18, and then two additional deputies. And is there a need for change? Absolutely. Do we need to move forward with those 63 recommendations? We do as a beginning blueprint for the change," McDonnell said.
Olmsted, a retired jail commander, said when he was in charge he didn't tolerate abuses.
"When it raised its ugly head to a point where inmates were being beaten, bones were being broken, head strikes were being done needlessly, I had to go outside the organization and report it to the FBI and I would do it again," he said.
Assistant Sheriff James Hellmold claims he played a role in the reform process.
"I was brought in as a commander after the allegations of misconduct and mismanagement - as a commander to actually implement the reforms recommended by the jail commission," Hellmold said.
And LAPD senior detective Lou Vince said he would focus on the problems of housing mentally ill offenders in jail.
"You have a deputy with a high school diploma traditionally, untrained, not able to deal with someone with serious mental illness. We to professionalize the jail staff or the custody staff," he said.
Two of the sheriff's candidates did not show up.
One of them, former undersheriff Paul Tanaka, according to the sponsors, just notified them Thursday afternoon he had a previous engagement.
Former Sheriff's Lieutenant Patrick Gomez is also running for the office.
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