LA Sheriff Candidates Square Off in Latest Debate

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Seven hopefuls engaged in a contentious debate before an audience that has been vocal with its displeasure with the LA County Sheriff's Department. Ted Chen reports from South LA for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Monday, April 14, 2014. (Published Monday, Apr 14, 2014)

    Seven candidates running for Los Angeles County Sheriff squared off Monday in their latest debate for office.

    The following candidates met at the Historic Mt. Moriah Baptist Church in Los Angeles.

    • Former Sheriff’s Lieutenant Patrick Gomez
    • Assistant Sheriff James Hellmold
    • Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell
    • Former Sheriff’s Commander Bob Olmsted
    • Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers
    • Former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka
    • LAPD Detective Lou Vince

    All candidates promised reform.

    "Are we doing it properly? Are we protecting civil rights? Because we have not being doing that," candidate Patrick Gomez said.

    The debate was the first time all seven candidates were in the same place since the LA County Sheriff's Department announced the accidental shooting death of aspiring television producer John Winkler, 30, last week.

    'We'll reestablish public trust in what was once a great organization and will again be," candidate Jim McDonnell said.

    Many attendees however, were skeptical of the promises made.

    "I gave them an opportunity to reprieve themselves. It didn't happen," moderator Tonette Henry said.

    At times, the debate got personal. Candidate Bob Olmstead brought in a 30-year-old photo of candidate Paul Tanaka, making an issue of Tanaka's so-called Vikings tattoo, which represents a group of deputies now accused of racism and beating inmates.

    "Shame on him, that tattoo should have been taken off a long time ago," Olmstead said. "This is not something that we need as a sheriff of the LA County Sheriff's Department."

    Tanaka however, made it clear that the photo was taken when he was "twenty-something years old" when he was a deputy at Carson Station. He added that the "C" symbol he made with his hand was meant to represent Carson.

    Accounts of white supremacists in the LA County Sheriff's Department were of concern among the mostly black audience attending Monday's debate.

    "I will not tolerate any misconduct, any lack of professionalism," candidate Jim Hellmold said.

    Because of the scandals associated with the Department, some feel experience is a liability. But candidates believe experience is essential.

    "How are you going to come in from day one and fix something if you don't know the operation and you don't know the players," Tanaka said.

    Many in attendance believed that civilian oversight for the Sheriff's Department was necessary.

    The primary election is June 3.