Far right, violent white supremacists have thoroughly penetrated police and leadership


Sean Kennedy, a Loyola Law School professor and member of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission. Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor who teaches criminal law at Loyola Law School.  FBI agents have been trying to decipher whether leaders of the groups require or encourage prospects to commit illegal acts — planting evidence, engaging in unlawful shootings — to gain membership in the group.  Now, the FBI has opened an investigation of these secret societies that seeks to accomplish what high-powered sheriffs, blue-ribbon commissions and millions of dollars in lawsuits over the last 50 years have not: identify deputies who brand themselves with the matching tattoos and determine whether the groups they belong to encourage or commit criminal behavior.  The FBI probe into deputy gangs spotlights the shortcomings of local efforts, which have mostly been piecemeal, often resulting in investigations that focus on isolated acts of wrongdoing.  “I think it reveals that the various county agencies can’t or won’t conduct a thorough, credible, independent investigation,” said Sean Kennedy, a Loyola Law School professor and member of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission. “The Sheriff’s Department can’t investigate itself. The district attorney doesn’t seem interested in investigating the internal gangs. I would think being a member of an internal clique or gang raises serious questions about testifying deputies’ bias and credibility,” he said. https://www.newsweek.com/lawmakers-call-investigation-violent-contingent-la-deputies-1529598 (Sept 2020) Jamie Raskin, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and Vice-Chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform California Congressman Jimmy Gomez signed the letter. Eric S. Dreiband, Asst AG of DOJ Civil Rights Division was recipient. According to the statement, the FBI and Attorney General had already been asked to “monitor certain investigations with the Department,” meaning the request made by the Congressmen had already placed into motion.

https://witnessla.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Marked-Draft-CJLP-Report-to-Stakeholders-re-Deputy-Gangs.pdf – 50 years of Deputy Gangs in LA County Sheriff’s Department: Identifying root causes and effects to advocate for meaningful reforms.  The sheer number is quite amazing… 17 found in LASD.  CALCRIM no. 1401 defines a “criminal street gang” as “any ongoing organization, association, or group of three or more persons, whether formal or informal: 1) that has a common name or common identifying sign or symbol; 2) that has, as one or more of its primary activities, the commission of [any crime listed in Penal Code § 1866.22(e)(1)-(25) and (31)-(33)]; and 3) whose members, whether acting alone or together, engage in or have engaged in a pattern of criminal activity.” It further states: “In order to qualify as a primary activity, the crime must be one of the group’s chief or principal activities rather than an occasional act committed by one or more persons who happen to be members of the group.”  Section VI explores using the recommendations of President Obama’s task force on twenty-first century policing as a blueprint for how to eradicate deputy gangs in the nation’s largest sheriff’s department.

Banditos… members harass female deputies at the station and in the field and demand “sexual favors” from female trainees. They retaliate against women who resist for “not going with the program.” A female deputy in the East Los Angeles station, reported their misconduct in 2014, she was allegedly run off the road by another deputy, slammed into a wall, and a dead rat was placed near her car to intimidate her.

Executioners members have a common tattoo on the leg that is sequentially numbered and added to with actions performed by the member.  The tattoo depicts a skull wearing a Nazi helmet with “CPT” on the front and a rifle encircled by flames. On August 25, 2016, Samuel Aldama, a sheriff’s deputy from the Compton station with an Executioner’s tattoo, and his partner fatally shot Donta Taylor, an African American man walking on the sidewalk dressed in red.7 Both deputies claimed they saw a gun in Taylor’s waistband, but no gun was found. Taylor’s survivors filed a federal civil rights suit, alleging unconstitutional excessive use of force. Aldama admitted in a 2019 deposition that he harbored “ill will” against African Americans, but he later retracted his statement, claiming that he hadn’t understood the question. Aldama testified that he received his tattoo two months before the shooting and that up to 20 other deputies had the same tattoo. After a judge ordered that the names of the other deputies with a matching Executioners tattoo be given to the plaintiff in discovery, the County settled the suit for $7 million. The plaintiffs’ counsel stated publicly that he believed the County settled for such a large amount in order to  avoid  releasing the names of more Executioners members.8

Reapers or Grim Reapers was a deputy gang originally based in the Lennox station, which closed in 2010 when the South Los Angeles station opened. Grim Reapers members have a common tattoo on the leg that is sequentially numbered. The tattoo depicts a black-hooded skeleton holding a scythe, reminiscent of the medieval symbol of death.  The Grim Reapers came under heightened public scrutiny after Sheriff Villanueva reinstated Caren Carl Mandoyan, a former sheriff’s deputy with a no. 98 Grim Reaper tattoo. The previous administration fired Mandoyan in 2016 because he had committed acts of  domestic violence against a female deputy, stalked her, and tried to break into her apartment, and then lied about all of this conduct.9 The victim testified that Mandoyan used his status as a deputy gang member to try to dissuade her from reporting the offense, stating that, as a Reaper, he had “influential friends who could ruin careers in the department.”10

Jump Out Boys was a deputy gang formed in 2005 within the Operation Safe Streets Bureau’s specialized gang suppression unit, Gang Enforcement Team (GET). Jump Out Boys members have a tattoo on the right ankle that is sequentially numbered. That tattoo depicts a red-eyed skull wearing a bandana with the letters “O.S.S.” and holding a revolver next to an ace of spades and an 8 of spades cards, the so-called “dead man’s hand” in poker.  In 2012, LASD management obtained a pamphlet that described the creed, mission, initiation rites, and the meaning of the common tattoo for the Jump Out Boys. One section  of the pamphlet states, “We are not afraid to get our hands dirty without any disgrace, dishonor, or hesitation.”11 It went on to state that members understand when the line needs to be crossed, and crossed back” and that “sometimes [members] need to do things they don’t want to in order to get where they  want to be.”12 The pamphlet directs that a “black book” containing all member information and dates of shootings be kept “off site.”13 Some members have been fired and reinstated through civil service protection proceedings.

Little Devils – 47 members, found during deputy misconduct inquiry.  Rise coincided with the East L.A. station adopting the controversial “Fort Apache” seal16 as its de facto station logo. The logo is widely viewed as a celebration of police violence against war protestors during the 1970 Chicano Moratorium.

Pirates – The “Pirates” was a deputy clique based in the Firestone station, which closed in 1993. Pirates members have a common tattoo on the leg, but it is unknown if that tattoo is sequentially numbered. The tattoo depicts a pirate skull- and-bones. Det. Ron Hernandez, the current president of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) has this tattoo.   Insignia refers to the East L.A. station as “Fort Apache.” He announced a “comprehensive study” of deputy cliques but took pains to say that it was not a formal investigation and that he was mindful of deputies’ 1st Amendment rights in having the tattoos. Shortly after taking office, Villanueva brought back the banned East L.A. station logo, which also features an image of a boot with a riot helmet, the words “Low Profile,” and a Spanish phrase that means “Always a kick in the pants.” Critics say the symbol casts the station as a Wild West outpost of deputies who crack down on locals. The logo arose out of confrontations between law enforcement and anti-Vietnam War protesters during the 1970 Chicano Moratorium rally, according to KPCC/LAist.

Rattlesnakes. The “Rattlesnakes” is a deputy clique based in both Antelope Valley LASD stations. Rattlesnakes members share a common tattoo of a skull and a snake, but it is unknown if the tattoo is sequentially numbered. The existence of the clique is corroborated by a 2013 U.S. Department of Justice report19 finding that the Palmdale and Lancaster stations engaged in unconstitutional discrimination against African Americans in a variety of law enforcement contexts, including targeting those living in federally subsidized housing. The DOJ report notes: “Some Antelope Valley deputies wear tattoos or share paraphernalia with an intimidating skull and snake symbol as a mark of their affiliation with the Antelope Valley stations.

Regulators. The “Regulators” was a deputy gang based in the Century Station in Lynwood. “Regulators” is a slang term for a prisoner who controls other prisoners.21 Regulators members have a common tattoo on the leg that is sequentially numbered. The tattoo depicts a skull-faced man holding a shotgun, with fire coming out of the barrels. The Regulators dominated the Century station from 1999 until at least 2007, holding their meetings there and maintaining what has been described as a “shrine” or “monument” to the gang on the premises. Both LASD leaders and line deputies repeatedly complained that the Regulators had undue influence over station managerial decisions, such as overtime assignments and promotions. Regulators members refused to talk to IAB investigators and they collected “donations” or “taxes” to support deputies placed on unpaid leave for misconduct. There is substantial evidence that LASD management knew about the Regulators but did nothing. In 2003, anonymous deputies reported various acts of misconduct by Regulators members and compared them to the Mexican Mafia, an infamous prison gang. In 2004, Sheriff Baca was advised by Undersheriff Stonich about the “unhealthy climate” at the Century station, which included Regulators members refusing to be interviewed during investigations of alleged misconduct and allegations of “in-house extortion.”22 In 2007, Commander Willie Miller raised similar concerns, nothing that the Regulators’ philosophy is to “run the station as a subculture faction … and not respect rank.”23 …McDaniel denied knowing about any deputy gang or clique in the custody division that celebrated breaking inmates’ bones. However, in 2009 McDaniel supervised deputies who were accused of repeatedly beating up and shocking inmate Tyler Willis with a stun gun, leaving him with a fractured leg and extensive injuries. A jury found McDaniel negligent for failing to supervise the custody deputies who assaulted Willis and awarded Willis $290,000.

Spartans. The “Spartans” is a deputy clique based in the Century Station.  In 2019, the Los Angeles Times reported that the FBI was conducting an investigation of several LASD deputy gangs, including the Spartans.

Tasmanian Devils was a deputy clique based in the Temple City Station. LASD members occasionally mention the Tasmanian Devils in social media postings about LASD subgroups.

Three-Thousand Boys was a deputy gang based on the 3,000 bloc of Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles. Three-Thousand Boys members have a common tattoo on the calf depicting the Roman numeral “III.” They earned their tattoo by beating inmates and then filing false reports to cover up the abuse. The walls of the booth in which only 3,000 bloc deputies were allowed was full of graffiti and derogatory writings, including a bumper sticker that read, “Please don’t feed the animals.”  On December 10, 2010, six Three-Thousand Boys members assaulted two deputies from the reception center after a party for jail employees at the Quiet Cannon restaurant.25 The victims, Chris Vasquez and Elizario Perez, were assaulted because they had criticized the Three-Thousand Boys for deliberately delaying bringing inmates from their floor to visit elderly family members. Vasquez and Perez filed a civil-rights suit alleging that the LASD was “inadequate” in disciplining and controlling deputies, “particularly with respect to illegal acts and acts of excessive force.” The deputies who committed the assault were photographed at the party making gang-like hand signals indicating the number 3.

Two-Thousand Boys was a deputy gang based on the 2,000 bloc of Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles. Two-Thousand Boys members have . a common tattoo on the calf depicting the Roman numeral “II.” They earned their tattoo by beating inmates in their custody and then filing false reports to cover up the abuse. For example, one custody deputy on the 2,000 block fractured the orbital bone of a non-combative inmate to “earn” his II tattoo, signifying his acceptance into the Two-Thousand Boys.

Vikings – Lynwood station.  News emerged in 1990 that a group of Lynwood station deputies known as the Vikings were engaging in street gang behavior, flashing hand signs and addressing one another as “homeboy” or “OG” for “original gangster,” 81 residents in the mostly black and Latino area filed a federal class-action lawsuit accusing members of the station of racism, brutality and trashing their homes. A federal judge in the case concluded in 1991 that the Vikings were a “neo-Nazi, white supremacist gang” that operated under leaders who “tacitly authorize deputies’ unconstitutional behavior.” Undersheriff, Paul Tanaka, was publicly known to have a Vikings tattoo for years during his service as one of the department’s top commanders. Tanaka is now in prison for conspiracy and obstructing an FBI investigation into deputy jail abuse, a scheme for which Baca was also convicted.

The “Vikings” is perhaps LASD’s most infamous deputy gang. It was based in the now-shuttered Lynwood Station during the 1980s and 1990s. Vikings members had a common tattoo on the ankle. The tattoo depicted a blond Viking head, sometimes with the number “998,” which is the code for “officer-involved  shooting.” Vikings members engaged in numerous gang-like behaviors, such as throwing gang signals, speaking gang jargon, and spray-painting “LVS25” over other street gang placas in Lynwood.27 In 2011, Baca appointed Paul Tanka as his second in command. Tanaka, an admitted member of the Vikings, received his tattoo after shooting a man under circumstances that prompted a fellow police officer present at the fatal shooting to refer to it as “an execution.”

There is evidence that the Vikings embraced a white supremacist world-view. Numerous declarants in two suits, Thomas v. Los Angeles County and ALADS v. Los Angeles County referred to alleged racist activities and comments by Vikings members. There was also a map of Lynwood in the shape of the African continent on display in the station, and members distributed literature containing a “virulently racist joke against African Americans.”28

In 1990, over seventy-five minority residents of Lynwood, represented by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, filed a class action civil-rights suit, alleging that the LASD tolerated the Vikings’ racially motivated violence against community members. The suit alleged that Vikings members shot, killed, beat, racially profiled, and illegally searched African Americans and Latinos in order to intimidate and terrorize the entire minority community near Lynwood station. In granting a preliminary injunction, U.S. District Judge Terry Hatter characterized the Vikings as “a neo-Nazi, white supremacist gang” that operated under leaders who “tacitly authorize deputies’ unconstitutional behavior.”29 A divided panel of the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded because Judge Hatter had granted the preliminary injunction without holding an evidentiary hearing on disputed facts.  After the reversal and remand, the County settled with the minority plaintiffs for $9 million.

Wayside Whities was a deputy gang based in Peter J. Pitchess Honor Rancho (previously called “Wayside Honor Rancho”), a detention facility north of Los Angeles. It is unknown whether Wayside Whities members had a common tattoo, but some did employ “W” hand signals to signify their membership.  In 1990, Clydell Crawford, an African American former inmate, sued Los Angeles County30 for civil-rights violations, alleging that he was beaten in custody by Wayside Whities members, who deliberately broke his leg.31 Clydell and three other African American former inmates alleged that they were assaulted because of their race. The complaint alleged that the Wayside Whities were “a Ku Klux Klan- type organization espousing white supremacy and having as one of its objectives the subjugation, intimidation and terrorization” of African American inmates.32 Clydell’s lawyer publicly stated that the Wayside Whities’ activities were likely “related to other white supremacist deputy groups at other county jail facilities,” but he did not elaborate.33  The suit named Sheriff Sherman Block and LASD deputies Frank La Flame, Ernesto De Armas, and John Bones as individual defendants. In 2013, Bones, fatally shot Eugene Mallory, an 80-year-man in his bed during the execution of a no-knock warrant in Littlerock, CA; the post-shooting investigation revealed that an informant had falsely claimed that Mallory, a retired engineer, was involved in manufacturing methamphetamine. The Los Angeles District Attorney found that Bones acted in self-defense and declined to prosecute him.

IV. Successive Sheriffs Resist Acknowledging and Addressing Deputy Gangs …………. 13

After the Jump Out Boys scandal broke in 2012, Baca questioned whether deputy gangs were even real. He stated, “We’re going to be looking at this right now, but it really could be a fantasy, something that’s not true…Alex Villanueva is the current Los Angeles county sheriff. During the election campaign, Villanueva stated, “I worked with many people with these tattoos at different stations, and they were the most honorable, ethical people I have ever worked with.”… Despite the policy, the LASD management continues to refuse to address the systemic problem of deputy gangs, stressing that it only investigates individual acts of misconduct. Villanueva fought tooth and nail to rehire Mandoyan, the Grim Reapers member who was previously fired for lying about abusing a female deputy and using his status as a gang member to threaten her not to report him. Banditos members who severely beat other deputies outside an off-duty event have since been rewarded with transfers to highly coveted assignments in the robbery-homicide unit. None of this bodes well for meaningful enforcement of the new anti-clique policy.

The Negative Effects of Fifty Years of Unchecked Deputy Gangs …………. 17

A. Escalation of Uses of Force: The High Cost of Lives Lost and Multi-Million Dollar Settlements ………………………………………………………17

In 2016, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) issued thirty guiding principles on the use of force. PERF’s no. 1 principle states: “The sanctity of human life should be at the heart of everything an agency does.”51 The commentary that immediately follows explains that “agency mission statements, policies, and training curricula should emphasize the sanctity of all human life— the general public, police officers, and criminal suspects—and the importance of treating all people with dignity and respect.”52

By glorifying shootings and other uses of force against community members, LASD deputy gangs and cliques negate the sanctity of human life and deny the dignity and respect owed to all people. For example, several deputy gangs reward members who shoot somebody by allowing them to “enhance” their common tattoo with additional symbols or “embellishments,” such as adding smoke coming out of the firearm. At least one deputy gang memorialized shootings by entering the deputy’s name, tattoo number, and the date of the shooting in a ceremonial black book. These rituals create a culture of celebrating the use of lethal force in the line of duty.

GET member Jason Zabala exemplifies the connection between membership in a deputy gang and a pattern or escalating uses of force. Zabala has one of the cowboy-related numbered tattoos—a skeleton wearing a star-shaped badge and cowboy hat and holding a pistol next to a tombstone that displays Century station logo.     Zabala also has a history of escalating use of force. On May 18, 2013, Zabala and his partner became involved in a confrontation with Terry Laffitte after attempting to stop him for riding a bike without lights. Zabala fatally shot Laffitte in the back of the head. The county settled the Laffitte family’s civil rights suit for $1.5 million. In 2014, Zabala was one of several deputies who fired 34 rounds at Johnny Martinez, a man suffering from schizophrenia who was wielding knife. The county settled that civil rights suit for $2.5 million. Zabala also ran into Sonya Benton, causing her serious injury, while running a red light as he drove his patrol car to the scene of an investigation. The county settled that case for $80,000.53 Thus the county has spent over $4 million settling cases related to a single deputy with a clique tattoo…not the only one…

The Office of Inspector General estimates that since 1990 the County has spent $50 million on settlements and judgments related use of force and misconduct by deputies known to have a clique tattoo. The actual settlement costs are likely even much higher than this because LASD management has refused to investigate whether any deputy involved in a shooting is affiliated with a deputy gang.55 A comprehensive independent study will likely reveal that the costs of deputy gang misconduct—in terms of lives lost and settlements paid—are staggering.

50 Los Angeles Sheriff’s County Department Manual, section 3-01/050.83.

51 Police Executive Research Forum, Guiding Principles in the Use of Force (Mar. 2016).

52 Id.

53 Verdictsearch.com/verdict/deputy-caused-crash-by-failing-to-clear-intersection-plaintiff/.

54 Maya Lau, Cop group with matching skull tattoos costs taxpayers $7 million in fatal shooting, L.A. Times (June 18, 2019).

55 After the Los Angeles Times published its study, in April of 2019 the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors directed County Counsel to prepare a list of all cases against the county involving allegations of secret deputy cliques since 1990, as well as the amount the county paid out in each case. Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl specifically mentioned the need to let the public know what we are spending on alleged deputy gang members’ misconduct. Brian

B. Deputy Gangs Undermine Constitutional Policing

Obama’s task force stressed that any successful law enforcement-community partnership required a genuine commitment to constitutional policing, community policing, and procedural justice.  This section focuses on constitutional policing, which emphasizes law enforcement following the Bill of Rights and upholding people’s civil rights.56 Adhering to the Constitution ensures that law enforcement officers treat everybody fairly and impartially. Constitutional policing requires more than complying with court opinions to ensure the admissibility of evidence or the viability of prosecutions. Law enforcement organizations should continuously examine their policies and practices to make sure they “advance the broad constitutional goals of protecting everyone’s rights and providing equal protection under the law.”57

The history and demography of the spread of deputy gangs throughout the LASD reveals how they utterly violate equal protection under the law. The first wave of deputy gangs originated at stations in East Los Angeles58 and in and around Lynwood.59 Each of these stations originally had a mostly white force policing communities with a high percentage of minorities. Later, deputy gangs arose in Compton60 and, most recently, in the Antelope Valley stations.61 The current rise of deputy gangs at the Palmdale and Lancaster stations is not happenstance. The Antelope Valley was a majority-white community that has become increasingly diverse over the past two decades. Conversely, stations in majority white, higher income areas, such as Malibu, have never had any known deputy gangs or cliques.

The common characteristic regarding all the LASD deputy gangs, past and present, is that that they originate and thrive in low-income, high-minority communities.62 The inevitable result is that people of color living in the deputy gang “turf” experience an inordinate amount of heavy-handed, aggressive policing, including racial profiling and excessive use of force.

Deputy gang members rationalize excessive force, unconstitutional searches, perjury, and other illegal tactics as necessary components of effective policing.

They rely on extreme loyalty and a strict code of silence to hide each other’s acts of violence and misconduct.  As such, they promote internal loyalty over adherence to state law or LASD policy. These practices inevitably lead to an “us- against-them” view of policing. Nowhere is this truer than at the East Los Angeles station, which to this day displays a “Fort Apache” logo despite years of complaints from community members who find the logo demeaning and offensive. The East Los Angeles station has also generated more problematic subgroups than any other station.

The various internal cliques and gangs present themselves as an elite, invitation-only group that recruits only the most talented, skilled, and committed deputies. This creates a culture in which affiliation with one of the subgroups stands as evidence of one’s value as a law enforcement officer. Unfortunately, in the eyes of deputy gang members that value arises from being ready and willing to use violence against community members and to violate their civil rights. A culture that has evolved in this manner for five decades will inherently resist all efforts to implement constitutional policing

C. LASD Members Make False and Misleading Statements to Hide the Existence and True Nature of Deputy Gangs ……………………………..21

When the LASD leaders are questioned about the deputy gangs, they do whatever they can to distance themselves from them and claim their hands are tied. Sheriffs—after they can no longer plausibly deny that deputy gangs exist— consistently claim that the First Amendment prohibits them from investigating if deputies are involved in a deputy gang or clique. This is a serious mischaracterization of First Amendment law. Public employers can and do restrict their employees’ First Amendment rights when such restriction is necessary to effectuate a government agency’s mission.63                                                                                   This is particularly true of law enforcement agencies.64 Moreover, historical documents during Sheriff Pitchess’s tenure reflect that his administration did investigate tattooed deputy gangs and cliques, including asking individual members if they had a clique tattoo.65

Stakeholders who seek to learn more about the deputy gangs–including CJLP—have filed public records requests for all documents reflecting LASD management’s “knowledge of and efforts to address the problems caused by deputy gangs.” LASD officials responsible for disclosing records subject to the California Public Records Act have stated that the department has no responsive documents. Yet, internal records reflecting that management has known about the gangs for decades continue to surface, impeaching their claim that no records exist.

During depositions or IAB investigations, sheriff’s deputies known to have a common tattoo deny that they are in a clique or gang, and offer tortured explanations for the tattoos, which usually depict skeletons, firearms, and symbols of death. Deputies engage in the same false narratives about deputy gangs during IAB investigations. For example, a deputy who was shown the Jump Out Boys’ creed during an IAB investigation denied that references to them “doing what we have to” and “crossing the line” were evidence of misconduct. Instead, he claimed the quoted language was evidence of commitment, stating: “It shows they’re looking for some highly motivated deputies who are willing to step up and go where most deputies are not willing to do. They’re looking for deputies to step up, be leaders, and take bad guys to jail on their own turf.”68

D. Deputy Gangs Infect the Fairness of the Justice System .……………..22

The harm caused by unchecked deputy gangs and cliques is not limited to unconstitutional policing on the streets; it spills over into our justice system, where willful non-disclosure and false statements infect the fairness of criminal and civil proceedings.

  1. Criminal Justice: Brady Violations Lead to Wrongful Convictions ……………………………………………………………………….22

Under Brady v. Maryland, prosecutors have a constitutional obligation to disclose material, exculpatory evidence to defense prior to trial. Exculpatory evidence includes evidence that impeaches the testimony of prosecution witnesses,69 including law enforcement witnesses. Because both the prosecutor and the investigating officers are members of the same prosecution team, the prosecutor has a duty to learn about all impeaching information known by the police.70The U.S. Supreme Court held in United States v. Abel71 that the prosecution may impeach a defense witness based upon the witness’s reputed membership in a secret prison gang. Likewise, a defendant in a criminal trial should be able to impeach a prosecution witness based on the witness’s reputed membership in a secret police gang. Membership in a deputy gang is particularly impeaching because there is substantial evidence that deputies are bound to cover up misconduct and lie on behalf of fellow deputies.72 Reading Brady and Abel in tandem compels the conclusion that the prosecution has a constitutional obligation to disclose if a deputy who will testify as a prosecution witness belongs to a deputy gang. Joining a deputy gang is a fundamentally dishonest act. Deputy gang members present as ordinary law enforcement officers, but in actuality, they are committing acts of violence and violating the civil rights of others under color of law. It is the height of hypocrisy for an “inked” sheriff’s deputy acting as a prosecution gang expert73 to opine that a juvenile is a gang member who committed a crime for the benefit of his criminal street gang while withholding that he himself is a member of an illicit deputy gang.

Because LASD management refuses to investigate whether its employees belong to such deputy gangs, it does not disclose Brady information about deputy gang-affiliation to the prosecutor. Consequently, deputies who belong to a deputy gang testify in hearings and trials without disclosure of their affiliation even though that affiliation would impeach their credibility as a witness at hearings and trial.

The case of People v. Francisco Carrillo reveals the human cost of the prosecution’s failure to disclose that a testifying deputy belongs to an LASD deputy gang. Carrillo, a 16-year-old high school student from Maywood, was arrested and prosecuted as an adult for a gang drive-by shooting in Lynwood. Six juvenile witnesses identified Carrillo as the shooter. The first trial ended in a hung jury, but after a retrial Carrillo was convicted of homicide and sentenced to life. A pro bono legal team took Carrillo’s habeas and interviewed the eyewitnesses, who were now adults. The witnesses admitted that they had been coached by LASD deputy Craig Ditsch to identify Carrillo even though their view of the shooter had been insufficient to make an identification. The habeas team also uncovered evidence that Ditsch was an inked member of the Lynwood Vikings—a fact not disclosed to the defense before trial. The habeas court vacated Carrillo’s conviction, the District Attorney elected not to retry him, and he was released from prison after serving 20 years due to wrongful conviction.74

Brady violations arising from non-disclosure of deputy gang affiliation have occurred even in capital cases. Jose Luis Orozco was convicted and sentenced to death for the fatal shooting of Jerry Ortiz, a sheriff’s deputy in the anti-gang unit.                              The trial prosecutor elicited evidence about Orozco’s gang affiliation and argued that his status as a gang member who shot a law enforcement officer justified imposing the death penalty. It was later revealed that Ortiz himself was an inked member of the Regulators. The prosecution’s failure to disclose prior to trial Ortiz’s affiliation with a deputy gang risks reversal of the conviction and death sentence based on a Brady violation.

74 Celeste Fremon, L.A. County pays $10.1 million because L.A. deputy allegedly influenced witnesses causing a 16-year-old go to prison for 20 years, Witness LA (July 25, 2016).  

It is particularly important to enforce the prosecution’s Brady obligation to disclose if law enforcement witnesses belong to a deputy gang because the defense is unlikely to independently learn that information on its own. California has the most restrictive access to police personnel files in the nation.75 While a defendant may file a “Pitchess motion” to discover findings of misconduct in deputy’s personnel file, the defense must first demonstrate “good cause”—a difficult showing given that usually nobody knows what is inside a deputy’s confidential personnel file. Moreover, the prospect of discovering information about deputy gang membership in a personnel file is particularly low because LASD management refuses to investigate “inked” members.

2. Civil Justice: Structuring Settlements to Hide Deputy Gangs and Cliques from the Public ………………………………………………………25

The deputy gangs have also infected the Los Angeles civil justice system. The County’s civil lawyers negotiate settlements in civil rights cases in order to prevent the dissemination of information about the deputy gangs. For example, after a judge ordered the LASD to disclose the names of all known Executioners members in a wrongful death case, County Counsel negotiated a $7 million settlement that mooted the discovery order.

County counsel also requires non-disclosure agreements as a condition of settling with plaintiffs who sue LASD in connection with deputy gang members’ misconduct. For example, in 2015 Rosa Gonzalez,  a female deputy in the East Los Angeles station, filed a gender discrimination and retaliation suit against Los Angeles County alleging that LASD supervisors ignored her complaints that she was “subjected to sexual harassment and retaliation by male deputies.”76 Gonzalez linked the gender discrimination and retaliation to the “highly misogynistic” culture at the East Los Angeles station, which was “essentially run by a gang of deputies known as the ‘Banditos’” who “us[ed] female deputies as their ‘women’ and den[ied] them promotional opportunities.”77 The parties negotiated a pretrial settlement for $1 million78 that subjected Gonzalez to a non-disclosure agreement.

Consequently, Gonzalez cannot discuss the gender discrimination and retaliation she was subjected to by the Banditos.

The use of non-disclosure agreements to silence female deputies harassed by deputy gang members is particularly troubling where, as in the Gonzales suit, all of the harassment occurred within a public agency, all parties were public employees, and the offered settlement was paid with public funds. The non-disclosure agreements facilitate further gender discrimination and harassment by deputy gang members and violates public policy. Indeed, the Legislature in 2018 enacted SB- 820, which was codified as California Code of Civil Procedure section 1001(a).

Section 1001(a) makes any “provision in a settlement agreement that prevents the disclosure of factual information related to [a claim of sexual harassment] … void as a matter of law and against public policy.”

VI. Moving Forward: Implementing the Recommendations of the President’s Task Force on Twenty-First Century Policing …………………………………… 26

The proliferation of deputy gangs and cliques within LASD for nearly fifty years is not happenstance. The LASD has consistently embraced a warrior model of policing in which deputies act like an occupying force over the communities they police. Consistent with this model, LASD management resists transparency, oversight, and collaboration with community partners. The predictable result of this approach to policing is a secretive, violent, us-against-them police culture where internal gangs and cliques continue to sprout and attract new members.

The report of the President’s task force on twenty-first century policing contains 59 recommendations that stand as blueprint for culture change in law enforcement organizations.79 The heart of these collective recommendations is that law enforcement move away from viewing themselves as at war with the communities they police, and towards a model of policing that values and implements constitutional policing, community policing, and procedural justice.

79 President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, Final Report (2015).

The task force wrote:

Law enforcement culture should embrace a guardian—rather than a warrior—mindset to build trust and legitimacy both within agencies and with the public. Toward that end, law enforcement agencies should adopt procedural justice as the guiding principle for internal and external policies and practices to guide their interactions with rank and file officers and with the citizens they serve.80

The Twenty-First Century Policing model emphasizes public transparency, meaningful engagement with oversight bodies, collaboration with community- based organizations, and true accountability for deputy misconduct. Implementing this model of constitutional and community policing provides the best path forward for culture change and the eradication of deputy gangs and cliques within the LASD.


  • The LASD should enforce its new policy (3-01/050.83) prohibiting deputies from participating in subgroups that violate the rights of others;
    • The LASD should acknowledge the existence of all known deputy gangs and cliques and disclose all internal documents about the gangs and cliques pursuant to the Public Records Act.
    • Los Angeles deputy district attorneys should affirmatively ask sheriff’s deputies expected to testify as prosecution witnesses whether they belong to a deputy gang or clique and, if they do, disclose this affiliation to the defense prior to trial pursuant to Brady v. Maryland;
    • Defense counsel should move pursuant to Pitchess v. Superior Court to discover if any sheriff’s deputies involved in the investigation of the charged offenses is affiliated with a deputy gang or clique;
    • The Los Angeles Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission (COC) should host town halls in East Los Angeles, South Los Angeles, Compton, and the Antelope Valley to solicit community input about deputy gangs or cliques operating in these areas;
    • The COC should direct the Office of Inspector General to investigate all current deputy gangs and, if necessary, use its subpoena power to obtain testimony and documents regarding the deputy gangs;
    • The Sheriff should regularly attend COC public hearings in order to engage with the commission and community members about how to address the longstanding problem of deputy gangs and cliques within the department;

An institutional defender or non-profit organization should create and maintain a database of all deputies known to be affiliated with a deputy gang or clique and catalogue specific acts of misconduct associated with the gang or clique;

  • The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors should direct its counsel to stop seeking non-disclosure agreements as a condition of settlement in civil suits where the NDA facilitates hiding deputy gang misconduct from the public.

https://lasd.org/sheriff-announces-zero-tolerance-dep-clique/ – seems to be a step forward, but I have not been able to find a copy of the policy yet.  I requested one.

LASD Chief Matthew Burson, who oversees Professional Standards Division, announced the Department’s newly enacted deputy clique policy that holds deputies to a higher standard as it relates to misconduct by deputy cliques and/or subgroups.  Chief Burson explained that if a deputy violated department policy the corrective actions will range from suspensions to termination of employment.

Finally, Commander April Tardy, who oversees LASD’s Central Patrol Division, outlined the administrative investigation process and how these numerous investigations are also reviewed by outside agencies including the District Attorney’s Office and the Office of Inspector General.

Sheriff Villanueva said, “After 20 months in office, we have taken the legal and procedural steps necessary to ensure that we are holding our employees accountable to the rule of law, as I will not tolerate any group of employees who mistreats any member of the community or another member of the Department.”

From: Marilynn Ackermann <marilynn.ackermann@gmail.com>
Sent: Thursday, October 15, 2020 11:10 AM
To: Marie Venner <marie@vennerconsulting.com>
Cc: Kamau Allen <kamau@togetherco.org>; Sharon Battle <battleswin@gmail.com>; Sharon Bridgeforth <sharonnaacwc@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: Do you know if the existence of racist gangs of deputies has been examined in CO?


Not that we’ve heard of here. Wouldn’t be surprised what officers do in their “time off”. The kidnapping group that was aborted in Michigan of the MI Governor, had a sheriff caught on video at the organizing rally to plan their kidnapping. It’s real.

Chief Pazen has said he won’t tolerate this type of activity. He fired an officer for his FaceBook posting during the beginning of the protests in the spring. Fortunately, for us, these type of people are proud and use social media to brag and recruit.

Marilynn Ackermann

Together Colorado, Community Organizer Volunteer

Transforming Justice Committee


“Ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part.”

― The late Rev., U.S. Rep. John Lewis on movement building in Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America

On Thu, Oct 15, 2020 at 10:52 AM Marie Venner <marie@vennerconsulting.com> wrote:

Do you know if the existence of racist gangs of deputies has been examined in CO?

With gratitude for your work,