Sheriff Lee Baca (Photo: LASD)

Sheriff Lee Baca (Photo: LASD)

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca maintained a special hiring program that granted preferential treatment to the friends and relatives of department officials, including some candidates who were given jobs despite having troubled histories, according to interviews and internal employment records reviewed by The Los Angeles Times.

The program, known as "Friends of the Sheriff," has been in existence for at least eight years. Some high-ranking sheriff's officials injected themselves into the vetting process to lobby for favored job candidates, records show.

Among those hired was a man convicted of sexual battery, according to court records. His friend — and contact with the department — was Baca's driver. Another hired under the program was arrested last week on a federal weapons charge in connection with the FBI's corruption investigation in the sheriff's jails. His tie to the agency was his brother, a deputy.

Sheriff's officials told the Los Angeles Times the special hiring program was being eliminated and a policy was being drafted to prohibit top brass from lobbying lower-level background investigators on behalf of job applicants.

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