Culture

‘They’ve been hidden too long’: Report details Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputy gangs and violence toward communities of color


For the past several years, Sean Kennedy, a Loyola law professor and his students noticed a troubling pattern forming within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and its well-documented deputy gang problem.

A sheriff downplays or denies the problem of the deputy cliques.

A scandal erupts, usually from a lawsuit or reporting by the Los Angeles Times, exposing one of the deputy gangs and alleged misconduct like lying in court or during investigations.

The sheriff pledges to investigate the issue.

The findings of those investigations — such as those promised by former sheriffs like John Scott and Jim McDonnell — are never released to the public.

And the gangs, some of whom have a history of violence and harassment toward fellow department employees and members of the public, live on in relative secrecy.

Despite a growing list of allegations of misconduct by deputy gangs revealed in various commission reports and external investigations, Kennedy, who is also a member of the Sheriff’s Civilian Oversight Commission, said the Sheriff’s Department has struggled to address the issue within its ranks.

To move the needle toward more answers, Kennedy and his students wanted to create a single document that lays out all that is known — including from findings from federal commissions, county inspector general reports, civilian commission hearings, court documents, news articles, interviews with former deputies —  about the department’s deputy gangs.

After 24 months, the report was published Wednesday, and documents at least 18 deputy gangs or cliques that are suspected to have been operating within the Sheriff’s Department for the past 50 years.

“There have been so many pledges to get to the bottom of this issue that go nowhere,” Kennedy said. “They’ve been actively hidden too long.”

Sheriff Alex Villanueva introduced a new policy in August, banning deputies from forming and participating in cliques and sub-groups. He also committed to investigating allegations of a deputy gang controlling the Sheriff’s Compton Station. The department said Wednesday a study looking at deputy gangs, conducted by the Rand Corporation, is set to wrap up in the next few months. The FBI also has ongoing probes into the department’s gangs.

The Sheriff’s Department called the Loyola Law School report “non-peer-reviewed,” leaning on “non-academically acceptable citations and unproven allegations as a primary basis for content.

“The Department will examine the report and extrapolate everything which may be helpful towards positive organizational change,” the Sheriff’s Department said Wednesday  through a spokesman.

Logos of the Banditos deputy clique, which operates at the Sheriff’s East L.A. Station, according to a Loyola Law School report. (Courtesy of Loyola Law School) 

“The totality of the evidence, when viewed as a whole is very strong, that there is a longstanding, internal gang problem that goes unaddressed in the department,” Kennedy said, responding to the department’s comments. For accuracy, Kennedy said he ran the finalized report by five former high-ranking Sheriff’s Department officials who recently retired.

Some of the gangs profiled in the report have been inactive for decades. Others are characterized more as subgroups with no evidence …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

      

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