Survey Confirms Los Angeles Sheriff's Department Is Still Home To Dangerous Gangs, Has No Solid Plan To Eliminate Them

from the enjoy-being-brutalized-on-your-own-dime,-taxpayers dept

The Los Angeles Police Department has spent years compiling a "gang database." The term "compile" is used loosely, because the LAPD decides people are gang members just because they know gang members, or are related to them, or live in the same buildings, or work near them, or pass through gang-controlled neighborhoods, or go to school with gang members, or just (as non-gang people are wont to do) wear clothes, shoes, and hats. It's ridiculous.

And when that's not "inclusive" enough, LAPD officers fake it. LAPD officers have falsified records to justify unjustifiable stops and searches, something that ultimately resulted in criminal charges against three officers. But even with this wealth of bogus and barely supported information, the gang database (CALGANG) still has one glaring omission: the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.

A 63-page civil lawsuit, filed on Sept. 18 in California Superior Court, alleges that the gang’s power stems from its close ties to Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who was elected in 2018 on the promise to “reform, rebuild and restore” the scandal-plagued department. Since then, however, disillusionment with Villaneuva has grown over several of his decisions, including deactivating misconduct investigations. In July, Los Angeles Magazine dubbed him “the Donald Trump of L.A. Law Enforcement.” And the eight deputies allege in their complaint that Villanueva protects the Banditos and other deputy gangs, even rehiring deputies fired for misconduct.  

According to the lawsuit, the approximately 90-member Banditos maintain a “stranglehold” on the unincorporated communities east of downtown through a reign of unlawful policing, violence, and intimidation from their base at the East Los Angeles station. Members sport tattoos featuring a pistol-wielding, sombrero and bandolier-wearing skeleton with a thick mustache and a unique number for each member.

Villanueva hasn't reformed the LASD. It's still as terrible as ever. And it still is home to gangs composed of LASD employees, which I guess is to be expected when your hiring pool consists of thieves, statutory rapists, and cops considered too tainted to be hired anywhere else.

The Los Angeles Times reports on an unsurprising new study that shows the LASD is still a great place to join a gang.

Hundreds of Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies said they have been recruited to join secretive, sometimes gang-like cliques that operate within department stations, according to the findings of a survey by independent researchers.

The anticipated study into the problematic fraternities — which L.A. County officials commissioned the Rand Corp. to conduct in 2019 — found 16% of the 1,608 deputies and supervisors who anonymously answered survey questions had been invited to join a clique, with some invitations having come in the last five years.

According to the survey, the LASD's "gangs" were still "actively adding members" as of 2020. Presumably, the ringing in of a new year hasn't changed that. There is some internal resistance, however. 37% of deputies said cliques should be prohibited, which aligns them with about 100% of the non-LASD population. But who's going to police the police?

Not Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva has denied that “gangs” exist within the department but has also taken credit for addressing the problem with a policy that prohibits deputies from joining any group that commits misconduct.

You can't deny a problem exists and create a (weak, toothless) policy that addresses said nonexistent problem. And it would seem a straight reading of this policy would forbid LASD deputies from joining the LASD itself, which has a long. ugly history of misconduct.

And if Villanueva is so intent on addressing this problem (the one he says isn't a problem), why would he make it almost impossible for the Department's oversight to do its job?

Inspector General Max Huntsman said Friday that Villanueva appeared this week for an interview after initially resisting a subpoena to answer questions about deputy cliques. The sheriff, however, refused to testify under oath, at his attorney’s instruction, so Huntsman said he declined to question him and now plans to ask a judge to order Villanueva to give sworn testimony.

The study further found that what little was being done by the LASD to address its internal clique problem was too weak and too disorganized to have any effect. Add that to the normal insularity found in law enforcement agencies -- one that treats anyone attempting to apply any discipline as the enemy of the rank-and-file -- and the problem shifts from "troublesome" to "festering, infected wound."

Not ironically at all, the report also noted deputies wishing to join LASD gangs often committed misconduct to do so, most often engaging in deployments of excessive force. And yet, many inside the LASD see no problem with this misconduct, the misconduct committed by clique members, or the collateral damage to the public's trust.

About a quarter of those surveyed said they believe deputy cliques can be a positive influence by motivating a station’s staff or members of a particular unit…

Less disappointingly, a similar number said cliques hurt morale and alienate LASD employees. (Nothing was said about how these gangs affect the general public.) But, more disappointingly, the remaining 50% said having close knit groups of like-minded thugs on the force had no effect on the LASD's daily operations. And that may be true. But it's definitely having an effect on the victims of excessive force deployment and others who've had their rights violated by deputies who believe they're not only above internal policy, but above the law.

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Filed Under: alex villanueva, calgang, la, lapd, lasd, police, police gangs


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