- Associated Press - Thursday, January 30, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) - John Scott was sworn in Thursday as interim sheriff of Los Angeles County, two hours after Lee Baca stepped down as head of the nation’s largest sheriff’s department in the wake of a scandal over alleged jail beatings and corruption.

Scott, who used to head the department’s custody division, said he will concentrate on continuing reforms of the jail system.

“I think public trust is something that has to be demonstrated,” Scott said. “You just can’t talk about it and say it will change.”

Scott essentially is on loan from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, where he is undersheriff. Voters will elect a new sheriff either in a June primary or November runoff election. At least seven people have announced their candidacy.

Scott isn’t running, but he will serve until the new sheriff begins a four-year term in Dec. 1.

Scott, who spent 36 years in the Los Angeles County department, said he left in 2005 because he felt it was headed “in the wrong direction.”

“I saw inaction, and I saw a certain level of neglect” of some issues, such as oversight of use of force, Scott said.

But he also praised Baca for his 48 years of service with the department.

Baca, 71, retired at noon, telling reporters that after 15 years as sheriff he was leaving a department “far stronger, far more innovative (and) far more accountable.”

“I have a sense of peace,” he said.

Baca’s surprise retirement announcement Jan. 7 came in the midst of misconduct investigations.

Eighteen current and former sheriff’s deputies are under federal indictment for allegedly 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 the Men’s Central Jail in a case brought by a man who said he was severely beaten while awaiting trial.

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