Baca's guilty plea "demonstrates that the illegal behavior in the Sheriff's Department went to the very top of this organization," Decker said. "More importantly, it illustrates that those who foster and then try to hide a corrupt culture will be held accountable."
Baca, a department veteran since the 1960s who served as sheriff for 16 years before stepping down in 2014, is now revealed to have overseen a jail system where prisoners were "routinely tortured," as the New York Times unsubtly put it—including having their bones broken and being subjected to sexual humiliation. More than a dozen staff members in his department have been indicted amid allegations that guards abused prisoners—particularly those deemed to be "mentally ill"— and that officials repeatedly obstructed federal attempts to investigate.
In August, the Justice Department announced a settlement in which the county agreed to numerous changes at its jail system. The agreement put the system under federal court oversight for at least a year and specified a list of prescribed reforms.
But few media accounts are making the point that this is a systemic pattern in the United States. Last year, the city of Chicago agreed to a $5.5 million reparations deal following a similar police torture scandal.