LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A new report has found that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has multiple deputy gangs in which members are encouraged to engage in violent behavior and misconduct.
The report, conducted by researchers at Loyola Marymount University’s School of Law, profiled 18 secret subgroups which “foster a culture of violence and escalate uses of force against community members.”
Several of groups were described as gangs in which members have a common tattoo and perform rituals which “create a culture of celebrating the use of lethal force in the line of duty.”
The report, published Tuesday by the school’s Center For Juvenile Law & Policy, was based on internal affairs interviews of deputies, internal memos and other sources.
The report cited one deputy who claimed in a recent deposition a group called the Executioners celebrated at bars after a deputy would shoot someone, and that the deputy would then receive the group’s common tattoo: a skull wearing a Nazi-style helmet and holding a rifle while surrounded by flames.
Another “gang” called the Posse, which was based inside the mental health ward of the Los Angeles Twin Towers Correctional Facility, “resisted reforms aimed at treating inmates with severe mental illness more like patients,” the report claims.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the county has paid out roughly $55 million in settlements in cases in which deputies were alleged to belong to a secret society.
Tallying shootings by Los Angeles County deputies over the past five years, the report found more than half had taken place at sheriff’s stations where “an active deputy gang” is present.
In response to the report, LASD Lt. John Satterfield released a statement saying the agency was “aware of the non-peer reviewed report containing non-academically acceptable citations and unproven allegations as a primary basis for content” and that it would “examine the report and extrapolate everything which may be helpful towards positive organizational change.”
In October, the L.A. County Inspector General accused L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva of promoting a “code of silence” around the secret deputy gangs within his department.
The IG’s report on a deputy group identified as the “Banditos” alleged that roughly 30 members of the clique disrupt day-to-day operations at the East L.A. Sheriff’s Station by creating tension between deputies who are members and those who are not.
The FBI has reportedly opened its own probe into the Banditos, according to the IG report. Villanueva in the past denied to CBSLA there is an FBI investigation.
In mid-August, Villanueva announced that he had suspended or terminated 26 deputies accused of being part of secret cliques at the East L.A. station.
Tensions between the Banditos and non-members led to an assault on younger deputies by veterans of the department following an East L.A. station party at Kennedy Hall in September 2018. One deputy was allegedly choked and began to lose consciousness, while another required stitches to his lip. A third told investigators that an older deputy threatened his family.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)