Can McDonnell turn around the L.A. Sheriff’s Dept.?

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Jim McDonnell will be sworn in today as the new Sheriff of L.A. County.

The former Long Beach Police Chief won a lopsided victory over former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka in last month’s run-off election. He’s the first outsider in nearly a century to lead the Sheriff’s Department.

McDonnell is inheriting an agency that’s been beset by scandals in recent years. Former Sheriff Lee Baca resigned last January – a month after federal prosecutors accused 18 current and former sheriff’s officials of beating prisoners and trying to obstruct an FBI investigation into violence and corruption at the jails.

McDonnell has vowed to bring what he calls a “constitutional and compassionate” approach to the job. Reforming the sprawling jail system will be a top priority.

The L.A. Sheriff’s Department is the largest sheriff’s department in the country. Its 9,000 deputies police 42 cities and unincorporated areas of the county, a territory covering hundreds of square miles.