“When Peter Pitchess was Los Angeles County Sheriff, his policy for issuing concealed carry weapons permits was pretty straightforward — he didn’t, except, as noted by successor Sherman Block, ‘for judges who express concern for their personal safety. In special circumstances, the request of a public office holder would be considered,’” I wrote 12 years ago.
“Fast forward to the present, and Sheriff Lee Baca,” my essay continued. “Outspokenly anti-gun where ordinary citizens are concerned, he recently established and then was forced to discontinue a ‘celebrity reserve’ program, offered exclusively to those he deemed ‘prominent,’ and requiring significantly different qualifications than the reserve program ordinary citizens are eligible to participate in.
“Dangling the promise of a badge and a gun to such notable figures as Jay Leno and Steven Segal, who, to their credit, turned down the offer, Baca had nonetheless sworn in twenty lesser civic luminaries,” that piece continued, detailing a fiasco when one of Baca’s celebrity reservists, someone with a prior house arrest sentence for a brandishing plea, by the way, ended up scaring the hell out of a couple on a date when he confronted them screaming and waving a gun with a laser sight — while in his underpants, according to reports.
A dozen years later, Baca’s criteria for issuing coveted permits is once more being challenged, this time by LA Weekly, which has found a curious correlation between permits the sheriff has issued and gifts the permit recipients have given him.
“In fact, more than two dozen people who have given gifts or campaign contributions to the sheriff also have gun permits,” the report documents. “More than one out of every 10 permits issued to civilians went to people on Baca’s gift list.”
“Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore denies that favoritism played a role in the distribution of permits,” the report continues. This, of course, is the same Steve Whitmore who denied any wrongdoing when LASD personnel went to great lengths to mask their activities and illegally export ballistic vests to Cambodia.
And it’s not the first time Baca has raise eyebrows by accepting things of material value where the appearance of impropriety has been so blatant as to, candidly, stink. A January 31 report in The Los Angeles Times announced both Baca and his second-in-command (“coincidentally” a guy at the heart of the criminal export scandal) recently announced they would stop taking campaign contributions from deputies, and once more, paid flak Steve Whitmore, dependent on the sheriff’s favorable opinion for his own job and prospects, is there to assure us it’s not what it looks like. We’re evidently supposed to believe no undue expectations or inducements were placed on anyone (despite a 2006 Times report finding that of “sheriff’s managers who gave to Baca, 73% received promotions, while of those who did not contribute, 26% received promotions.”
This is the fiefdom the ostensibly Republican sheriff has created, and one the party establishment is evidently fine with as long as guys like Republican LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich makethe preferred treatment list.
And for Angelenos who aren’t so well connected?
California is what’s called a “may issue state,” meaning permits are at the discretion of the sheriff or police chief, meaning in turn they may not, and in the case of urban areas, probably won’t (Dianne Feinstein got one of San Francisco’s rare ones back in 1994, as did former State Senate President pro tempore and “assault weapon” ban author Don Perata from Alameda County a few years later).
Average citizens are actually less trusted and esteemed than “Only Ones” forced to resign under a cloud of credible child molestation allegations, as my 2004 letter to former LAPD Chief William Bratton demonstrated.
“How about it, Chief?” I asked. “What disgusting, unspeakable acts must I be accused of (but not charged with!) in order to merit LA’s extra-special reserved-for-the-elite privileges and immunities?”
When you think about it, anyone presuming to deny you a supposedly unalienable right under color of authority is committing a disgusting and unspeakable act through the perversion of power. And restricting rewards to those who please them marks them as special kinds of predators.