Another Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Gang Member Admits The Department Has Plenty Of Gang Members
from the gang-members-first,-law-enforcement-officers-second dept
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department doesn’t have a great track record. In addition to the usual stuff expected from law enforcement agencies (biased policing, zero accountability, civil rights abuses, excessive force deployment), the LASD has been home to deputy gangs pretty much since its inception.
Its recent string of elected sheriffs hasn’t done anything to eliminate this problem. Sheriff Lee Baca ended his career facing federal criminal charges. Sheriff Alex Villanueva ran as a reformer but was run out of office after spending his tenure intimidating critics, threatening to sue local politicians, and continuing to deny the department was home to deputy gangs.
Now, it’s up to new sheriff Robert Luna to clean up the department. To his credit, Luna has not denied the department houses gang members. On the other hand, he hasn’t done much with the information he’s been given, including a report from the civilian oversight board that provides plenty of evidence of gang activity within the force.
More evidence is being compiled, thanks to ongoing litigation involving the department. The lawsuit giving rise to the newest revelations was filed by Deputy Larry Waldie, who claims he was targeted and demoted after he pushed back against one deputy gang’s control of the Compton station. Testimony being delivered in this case continues to peel the layers of secrecy off the LASD’s gang problem.
When he stepped up to the witness stand last week, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Jaime Juarez told the court about his first inking party — the day he got his Compton station tattoo. The intimate gathering was at a home somewhere in Pomona, and most of the people there were strangers.
But he knew the man who invited him, and knew that man sported the same ink Juarez was about to get — a design commonly linked to a suspected deputy gang known as the Executioners.
On Thursday afternoon, while testifying in a civil trial, Juarez pushed up a pant leg to reveal that tattoo: a helmet-wearing skeleton gripping a rifle.
Deputy Juarez isn’t the only witness offering up damning testimony. Others are breaking the code of silence to expose the most problematic elements of an extremely problematic agency.
Some witnesses offered the names of everyone they’d seen with the so-called Executioners tattoo. One provided pictures of a detective bureau desk decorated with the group’s symbol in several places.
Of course, the LASD is arguing Waldie’s demotion had nothing to do with the intimidation and influence of deputy gangs. The department claims Waldie simply was not qualified enough to be promoted. And it also alleges — in a move that tacitly admits the department has a gang problem — that Waldie was a member of another deputy gang known as the Gladiators.
Former sheriff Alex Villanueva also offered his own testimony. As is par for his particular course, it was steeped in denial and buttressed by admissions he spent his time in office doing absolutely nothing about a problem he could never hope to credibly deny.
[Villanueva] denied there were ever gangs inside the Sheriff’s Department and said he enacted an anti-gang policy only to address the “negative campaign” by the Board of Supervisors. He went on to tell the court that he’d never seen the skeleton tattoo until a photograph of it was published with a news article, and that he’d never conducted a study to determine which tattoos existed within the department.
It’s pretty easy to pretend a problem doesn’t exist when you actively take steps to avoid learning anything about it. The self-proclaimed “reformer” left office after reforming nothing and shielding the worst of his employees from internal and external criticism. Under his so-called leadership, the LASD deliberately obstructed investigations performed by its lawful oversight, the county Inspector General.
The department’s gang problem has been undeniable for years. But even with years of evidence on hand, no one has been able to force the sheriff’s department to police itself. Until someone’s willing to do that, the problem will continue. And LA county residents will continue to pay a premium for subpar, abusive, corrupt law enforcement.