This morning, a federal jury convicted former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka on conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges. The jury needed less than two hours to determine that Tanaka was guilty on both counts. Sentencing is scheduled for June 20 and he now faces up to 15 years in federal prison.
For many years, PPOA has battled against Tanaka and the corrupt culture in the Sheriff’s Department. “Paul Tanaka destroyed many careers and demanded loyalty and obedience to him.” states PPOA President Brian Moriguchi. “If you defied him, you paid a hefty price. If you obeyed him, you were rewarded. That is no way to run the largest Sheriff’s Department in the world.”
PPOA was not alone in our assessment of Tanaka. Both current and retired Sheriff’s officials have publicly accused him of fostering a corrosive culture in which deputies were permitted to beat and humiliate inmates, cover up misconduct and form aggressive deputy cliques. The federal charges against Tanaka were just a microcosm of a decade of abusive leadership and abuse of power. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Fox described Tanaka as a “man who overruled and undermined the people who sought to reform the Sheriff’s Department.”
Seven other Sheriff’s Department employees have also been found guilty of obstruction in the same federal probe. PPOA contended that the responsible parties had not been held accountable and only those who carried out orders were punished. That changed today with the conviction of Paul Tanaka.
This conviction is a monumental step toward restoring the department’s dignity, morale and pride that withered under the leadership of Lee Baca and Paul Tanaka. It also illustrates the stark difference between leaders who inspire respect and those who inspire fear. Sheriff Jim McDonnell released a statement following today’s conviction in which he stated that the department is committed to providing the “highest quality of service with integrity, respect and accountability.” It is important to note that the vast majority of members of the Sheriff’s Department have always performed their duties with integrity, respect and accountability. We must ensure that dysfunctional leadership is never able to go unchecked and we must all stand up against corruption, regardless of rank.