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Supervisors name interim LA County sheriff

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- An interim sheriff was appointed Tuesday to temporarily replace Sheriff Lee Baca, who retires this week amid allegations of deputy misconduct and abuse of jail inmates.

John Scott, who is undersheriff of Orange County, was appointed by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Scott will take over on Friday as head of the nation's largest sheriff's department. Voters will elect a new sheriff later this year. Scott will not run for the office, but he will serve until the new sheriff's term starts Dec. 1.

Scott has 36 years in law enforcement and was the Los Angeles department's chief of custody operations before retiring in 2005. He joined Orange County in 2008 shortly after its sheriff, Michael S. Carona, retired to defend himself against federal corruption charges. Carona later was sentenced to prison for witness tampering.

“I think we found the right person,” Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky told KCAL-TV. “He's got some experience with crisis management in Orange County ... We don't want a caretaker, we don't want somebody who's just going to mark time. We want somebody who's going to take the opportunity in the next 10 months to tee it up for the new sheriff.”

Baca, 71, steps down on Thursday. First elected in 1998, Baca announced his retirement earlier this month in the midst of investigations of alleged deputy misconduct.

Last month, 18 current and former sheriff's deputies were indicted for alleged crimes that included beating inmates and jail visitors, falsifying reports, and trying to obstruct an FBI probe of the nation's largest jail system.

Federal prosecutors said the charges showed that some sheriff's employees thought they were above the law and exhibited behavior that had become institutionalized.

A federal jury in October found Baca personally liable for $100,000 for failing to stop inmate abuse by deputies in Men's Central Jail in a case brought by a man who said he was severely beaten while awaiting trial.

Baca has acknowledged mistakes while strongly defending his department and distancing himself personally from allegations of misconduct.

Last year, a Justice Department investigation found deputies made unconstitutional stops, searches and seizures, and used excessive force against blacks and Latinos in the Antelope Valley on the outskirts of the county. Baca disputed the findings but said he had instituted reforms.

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