LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A highly-anticipated report has found that hundreds of deputies have been recruited to join cliques within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The existence of cliques within the department has been rumored for years, and Sheriff Alex Villanueva has denied their existence. But a Rand study commissioned by the Board of Supervisors in 2019 has been completed, and the findings are damning.

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The study questioned more than 1,600 deputies and supervisors, 16% of whom said they had been asked to join a “secretive subgroup.” More than a third of those questioned said such cliques should be prohibited. However, it remains a mystery how many deputies actually belong to such cliques.

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Researchers have concluded that the groups have existed for decades, and are divisive and have been found to glorify an aggressive style of policing. The report said that department leadership could discourage involvement in such cliques by clarifying policy language and delivering strong and consistent messages to staff that oppose membership in such groups.

In a statement, Villanueva said he had not yet had a chance to review the report.

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“I look forward to learning about their study, methodologies used, limitations and seeing how their recommendations can inform the massive reform efforts already underway,” his statement said.