LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva Thursday said disciplinary action is being taken against over two dozen deputies accused of being part of secret cliques that engaged in violent or criminal behavior.

In a morning news conference, Villanueva disclosed that 26 notices of disciplinary action were given out, including terminations, to deputies believed to be involved in these so-called gangs. It’s unclear how many deputies were fired.

L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. Aug. 13, 2020. (CBSLA)

“I’m adopting a zero-tolerance policy,” Villanueva said. “If you form a group, you mistreat people, yes, we will seek to make sure you are no longer a member of the department.”

The disciplinary letters stemmed from an internal investigation into an East L.A. Sheriff’s Station clique called “The Banditos,” accused of operating like a gang. The Banditos reportedly brand themselves with matching tattoos of a skeleton outfitted in a sombrero, bandolier and pistol.

In July of 2019, the Los Angeles Times reported that the FBI was investigating LASD over its internal gangs. However, in an interview with CBSLA at the time Villanueva denied the report.

In September of 2019, eight deputies filed a lawsuit against L.A. County, claiming they were beaten, harassed and forced to pay off members of the Banditos. Those who didn’t were denied backup on dangerous calls.

Earlier this month, Compton Mayor Aja Brown demanded an investigation into similar allegations about deputy gang that operates out of the Compton station known as “The Executioners” who also have matching tattoos. The gang purportedly excludes black people and women, and also engages in racial profiling.

“If there is any actual information that points to any racial profiling of any kind, then we can narrow it down to the group responsible and we can effectively address it,” Villanueva said. “That’s the point that was missing in the past. Because now we’re actively monitoring all of the data that is being generated to make sure there is no racial profiling going on.”

Villanueva has said in the past that the deputy gangs has been a problem faced by LASD for decades.

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