Los Angeles County investigates Sheriff’s Department ‘deputy gangs’

By Mallika Kallingal and Taylor Romine, CNN

The Los Angeles County Civil Supervisory Commission (COC) is launching an investigation into “deputy gangs” or groups participating in gang-like activity at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Commission announced Thursday.

The investigation, which will be conducted by pro bono lawyers and is expected to last up to six months, will examine “the continued existence and impact of deputy gangs and assess what is needed to eradicate them”, the court said. Committee.

The Commission was established by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to “enhance public transparency and accountability” in the sheriff’s department, according to its website.

“Many reports” show MP gangs still exist, but “their scope and impact are unknown,” the Commission said in a statement. Investigators will examine the number of gangs currently in operation, their effects on the community and assess whether current Sheriff’s Department policies are effective, the group said.

According to California law, law enforcement gangs are a group of officers who identify themselves with a name and symbol of some type, and “engage in a pattern of on-duty behavior that intentionally violates the law or the fundamental principles of professional policing”.

The investigation is a “fishing expedition and political theater,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a statement.

“The problem with their announcement is that the COC and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) already launched this investigation, nearly three years ago. In all that time, no deputy ‘gang member’ has been identified,” the statement added.

Gangs have existed in one form or another for 50 years, according to the Commission. The gangs “create a shadow system of oversight and leadership” and create an “us versus them culture” leading to excessive force, racial profiling and the enforcement of a code of silence, they said.

The Commission said the gangs are known to have similar or matching tattoos, use hand signals and engage in other rituals similar to street gangs.

“Deputy gangs encouraged and promoted excessive force against citizens, discriminated against other deputies because of their race and gender, and undermined the chain of command and discipline. Despite years of documented history of this problem, the Department has failed to root out the gangs,” said Sean Kennedy, commission chair and executive director of the Center for Juvenile Law and Policy at Loyola Law. School.

A final report will be released upon completion of the investigation and will include recommended policies, leadership and actions needed to eliminate the problem.

“As I’ve said before, I openly challenge every elected leader, or their appointees, to provide me with facts and name people they can prove are ‘gang members.’ any new FACTUAL information they can provide,” Villanueva’s statement added.

An investigation into the department had been launched by the Los Angeles County OIG in early 2022. A letter sent earlier this week by the OIG to Villanueva requesting documents stated that “these investigations have uncovered substantial evidence of a variety of conduct relevant to the definition of ‘law enforcement gang’.”

CNN has contacted the LA County BIG to comment on Villanueva’s claim and is awaiting a response.

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