Throwback Thursday with Police "Chief" Baca

Yesterday Los Angeles former Police Chief Lee Baca was convicted in a corruption scheme to thwart FBI investigation of mistreatment at the Men’s Central Jail, Los Angeles. Lee Baca and I, years ago, before he was ever criminally charged, were at a cocktail party in a private residence. I shared with him a series of events which happened to me and a client at the Men’s Central Jail. I wanted to inform him of the conduct of his deputies so he could do something about it. Little did I know then that he was responsible for the culture there. Here’s what I told him, with changes to protect the privacy of my client.

I had one occasion to visit Men’s Central Jail. Only few of my clients are in custody and if so, they tend to be in federal custody, not in a county jail. This was my first and only time to the Men’s Central Jail. I will never forget how traumatizing it was.  

My client was never charged with a crime. He arrived at jail bleeding, was deprived prescriptions and never saw a doctor. A dirty wash cloth was all he had to shield his wound. He had never been arrested and was so petrified he could not sleep at all there.  When I interviewed him, there was no privacyl; we had to whisper and hope we were not being listened to as there were what looked like listening devices all around. Where was our Constitution? I feared for him.

When in a jail, there is very little free movement, of course. Locked doors everywhere are welcome as jails are dangerous places and safety of visitors is critical. Exiting this place was a little tricky. From the locked interview area, a Deputy Sherriff had me pass through to another room. He had me walk in front of him, as though he was a gentleman. I took a few steps toward what I thought was the exit door I thought I’d entered through. This room had two unmarked doors, neither of which said, “Exit.” Apparently I was walking toward the door leading to the innards of the jail instead. Rather than directing me in a normal voice to the correct door, the Deputy became agitated, spoke loudly and threatening. He asked me if I “really wanted to go in there” as though I intentionally walked toward the wrong door, and he was going to make that happen. I made clear: 1. I had never been in that building; 2. He had me pass in front of him; 3. I took just a few steps; and 4. I believed I was going toward the exit. Why on earth would I, a petite woman, ever want to enter the depths of a men’s jail, illegally? Actually, he should have never let me walk in front of him, then blame, insult, intimidate, try to manipulate, and absurdly treat me illegally.

When I shared this with Police Chief Baca, he seemed truly surprised. Little did I know then that he may be convicted of having allowed the illegal LA Sheriffs’ culture. When I think back to the speech he gave that day lauding God and Jesus, like a shield, it makes me sick. No one ought be above the law and use what is meant to be ultimate goodness to protect against their evil.

President Trump has fired the prosecutors who would have Baca convicted had this case started today. Let’s not allow this conviction to be an example of a memory past. We need our U.S. Attorneys who work for the President to uphold the law, with justice for all.