What’s LA County Sheriff Lee Baca Hiding In Rubén Salazar Case?

After more than 15 years of asking to see the records pertaining to the killing of Rubén Salazar, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has agreed to let reporters see the documents with no cameras and with no chance to make copies. And yet, he insists he has nothing to hide. The Los Angeles Times has been asking to see these documents since 1994.

Baca was quoted by The Los Angeles Times as saying, “I’m willing to share the information, but I don’t think I can share ownership,” Baca said. “In today’s world, with whatever technology is out there, I think original documents must remain original. I don’t think anybody else should be taking these documents, blacking out parts of these documents…. I’m extraordinarily aware that documents can be altered.”

It’s too funny I can’t even laugh. Obviously he’s never heard of Wikileaks or Politifact or Dan Rathers. It’s obvious he doesn’t know that forged documents eventually come to light, that there are entire organizations dedicated to verifying information, doesn’t understand technology, or the more likely answer, he is just making up a BS excuse.

There are two lessons I learned during my years of reporting, which if you count college is going on 10 years. First off, never ever trust a spokesperson. Never. Not because they’re bad people, but because they have a very definite agenda, and everything they say to you (as a reporter) is going to be geared towards maintaining that agenda. So, when this 20-page report prepared by a “civilian watchdog” of the sheriff’s office, as the Times calls is, says this was nothing more than an accident, I have to take pause to remember that, even a “watchdog” needs someone to watch over. Which is to say, the office’s very existence requires the sheriff’s department to continue to function well, so that’s hardly an objective perspective from which a watchdog could, well, watch.

Secondly, nothing ever speaks the truth like documentation. Document, document, document. This may be a lesson learned from growing up with a father who is a historian (check his work out here) or one that, time and again, made the difference between a good story and an okay story. If you have documentation, especially if it’s good documentation, no one can substitute opinion for fact. Even if you have bad documentation — which is to say the pieces don’t fit quite together, which is what it sounds like is going on with the Salazar case — there’s lots to be learned from that, too.

The point is, Baca can stonewall the release of these documents all he wants, but he doesn’t seem to realize he’s already opened Pandora’s box. Once a trickle starts to come out of what’s in those documents, he won’t be able to stop the deluge. After more than 40 years, the time is now Sheriff Baca.

[Photo by Wikipedia]

Follow Sara Inés Calderón on Twitter @SaraChicaD

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