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Special counsel urges sheriff to ban the ‘cancer’ of deputy gangs

After dozens of interviews and seven public hearings, Special Counsel for the Civilian Oversight Commission has released a 70-page report condemning the “cancer” of violent gang deputies and urging Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna to draft a policy that officially bans the secret groups.

“They create rituals that value violence, such as recording all shootings involving deputies in an official book, celebrating with ‘shooting parties’ and allowing deputies who have shot a member of the community to add embellishments to their communal gang tattoos,” de special council team wrote this week.

The Sheriff’s Department has long faced allegations about violent groups of infected deputies trampled on certain stations, and the new report both supports some of the most disturbing claims about them and calls on those who could have done more to remedy the problem. unloading – including the deputy union, district attorney, and the district attorney’s office.

While the union – formally known as the Assn. for Los Angeles deputy sheriffs — has rendered the special prosecutor’s investigation “impeded,” the report alleges that the district attorney “did not provide meaningful assistance” in eliminating the problematic groups, and the district attorney’s office has failed to require the department to release the names of known “gang” members who testify as witnesses in criminal trials.

The district attorney did not immediately comment on the report, but a spokeswoman for the district attorney said the office is “taking the allegations about gang deputies “seriously.”

“We appreciate the report because it is well received,” spokeswoman Tiffiny Blacknell said in an emailed statement. “We agree with the recommendation that LASD implement a procedure to notify the district attorney if they have information that a deputy sheriff testifying as a witness is a member of a deputy gang.”

And Richard Pippin, the union’s vice president, said in a statement that “We disagree with the committee’s mischaracterization of ALADS’s position on these issues,” adding that the organization “does not condone conduct that unlawfully or intentionally violates the standards of modern professional policing.”

He also said the union has a legal obligation to defend and represent its members, but the organization still believes there is a way to work together “to achieve common goals without infringing on anyone’s rights.”

In addition to pushing for a new policy against gangs and creating an improved reporting process to notify prosecutors, the report outlined more than two dozen other recommendations to address the long-standing problem, including firing captains who not support anti-gangs. policies and requiring delegates to hide gang-related tattoos at work.

Luna didn’t immediately promise to follow up on any of the recommendations, but in a statement Thursday, he highlighted changes he’s already made, such as creating a new office to “wipe out vicarious gangs.”

“I have been chosen to bring new leadership and responsibility to this department,” he wrote. “We look forward to working with the Civilian Oversight Commission and the Inspector General in the future.”

Many of the findings described in the report are not new, but the detailed account adds to the growing understanding of how vicarious subgroups work and how they affect the department.

The report found that at least half a dozen “gangs” or “cliques” are still active, including the Executioners, the Banditos, the Regulators, the Spartans, the Gladiators, the Cowboys and the Reapers – and new groups may be forming when some members retire. And, the report noted, “there is some evidence that sub-cliques are re-emerging in Los Angeles County jails as the 4000 Boys.”

The report comes nearly a year after the Civilian Oversight Commission officially launched its independent investigation into gang gangs. The objectives were to find out what groups still existed within the department, assess whether existing department policies had been effective in combating them, and make recommendations to eradicate them.

“The sheriff has repeatedly challenged anyone to come up with evidence of gang deputies, and it is our intention to conduct a fully independent investigation,” Sean Kennedy, the commission’s chairman, told The Times last year, referring to to then-sheriff Alex Villanueva. “This problem has been languishing for over 50 years.”

The former sheriff repeatedly downplayed or denied the existence of “gangs” within the department, and when the independent investigation was announced — ahead of the 2022 primary — he called it a “fishing expedition” and “political theater.”

Villanueva did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Yet the groups have been the subject of repeated probes, reports and lawsuits. More than a decade ago, the Board of Trustees established the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence to investigate longstanding allegations of deputies assaulting and beating inmates in the county jails.

After the panel identified deputy groups as one of the contributors to the ongoing abuse behind bars, the county established the current oversight committee in 2016 — following multiple federal charges against deputies and former sheriff, Lee Baca.

In 2021, the county commissioned an independent study by Rand Corp., which found that more than 15% of delegates and supervisors who responded to an anonymous survey had been invited to join a “gang” in the past five years to close.

And last year — the same week the Oversight Commission announced the Special Prosecutor’s investigation — Inspector General Max Huntsman written a letter telling the former sheriff that his investigators had identified more than 40 suspected gang members in the sheriff’s department, including 30 alleged executioners and 11 alleged banditos.