Sheriff Lee Baca should stay in office, supporters say at rally
The group included clergy, civil rights activists, former inmates and sheriff's Explorers. Many were members of Baca's Executive Clergy Council.
The Los Angeles County jails are at the center of a widening scandal over alleged mistreatment of inmates.
The FBI is investigating the allegations of abuse and other misconduct, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California has called for Baca's resignation. The sheriff has admitted that he was out of touch with goings-on in the jail.
The clergy and activists who gathered Monday said they back Baca because of his work in the community and do not believe he should step down. They carried signs in English and Spanish, reflecting their support for the sheriff, and chanted, "He's not going anywhere! No where! No where!"
"I agree heads should roll, but not the sheriff's," said Celes King IV, vice chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality of California.
King blamed mid-level management for allowing the abuses in the jails.
The Baca supporters called the sheriff a humanitarian and praised what they described as his open-door policy with a wide swath of the community.
The participants included leaders from the Muslim community, who said they appreciated the sheriff's outreach efforts in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, when many Muslims feared harassment and discrimination.
"It was his vision that protected us," said Qazi Asad, a Muslim leader and member of the sheriff's clergy council.
Debvin Mitchell, 18, who went through the sheriff's Explorers program for teens and is applying for a job as a custody assistant, said he met Baca several times through the program. The first time, he told the sheriff he wanted to be a deputy.
"He told me to keep my head up, and I'll make it one day," Mitchell said.
Mitchell said Baca helped him set up an appointment to test for the job.
The activists said they plan to hold more rallies to support Baca as well as a town hall meeting Oct. 27 at the Imperial Church of Christ in Los Angeles to discuss the jail issues.
-- Abby Sewell
Photo: Men's Central Jail. Credit: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press