Police misconduct comes in all shapes and forms, and a roadblock that comes along approaching these issues within law enforcement agencies is how they team up to block away from accountability. It is more intensified when the media has touched based on Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and their existence with deputy gangs.
For the past 50 years, there have been dozens of reports and complaints against LASD for secretive groups, mostly from other officers in the department that are non-affiliated and local residents. Currently, there are 24 LASD gangs that we are aware of, but there are still many in the shadows. Characteristics of the groups include a hierarchy in which you have to earn your spot by hazing, abusing constituents, or getting shared tattoos with other affiliated officers; female officers are also not permitted in police gangs and members gain more respect if they commit illegal acts that go against their code of conduct of the department.
Communities in Los Angeles (East Los Angeles, Compton, and Lynwood) have been most targeted by LASD gangs. Several names of these affiliations come to mind: Little Devils, Banditos, Vikings, and Grim Reapers. Their mentality of the general public versus the department brings danger for many low-income neighborhoods that are predominantly BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). Their main agenda is to disrupt and destroy the communities they are supposed to serve, and the lack of addressing from their leaders including former Sheriff Alex Villanueva where he claimed cliques in precincts does not equate to gangs. Despite the County of Los Angeles currently investigating the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department on these matters, Villanueva back in 2022 also signified accusing them of deputy gangs has intentions of a political agenda that is directed at bringing down their position and purpose for the county, all for show. Even with the countless amount of interviews and documents that says otherwise, the LASD is violating the California statute that they are prohibited from creating and obtaining law enforcement gangs. This law is defined as a group of officers who identify themselves with a name and a symbol of some type, and “engage in a pattern of on-duty behavior that intentionally violates the law or fundamental principles of professional policing.”
Knock LA, an independent journalism group based in Los Angeles and focuses on community-based issues, covered lengths of information on police gangs in the county (editorial work by Cerise Castle who has won journalism awards on her work for this topic). A Tradition of Violence: The History of Deputy Gangs in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is a 15-part investigative series (both in English and Spanish and formatted also in a podcast) that is the first full publication on gang-affiliated LASD employees. It includes a database on current and former employees in gangs dating back to the 1970's, and all lawsuits against the Sheriff's Department for disputes involving their gangs.
The hope for more discourse and backlash against LASD and their gang empire is hopefully not be shortened as the newly appointed Sheriff Robert Luna came in last year and cop propaganda has been on repetitive rise in media and entertainment as well as expansion of recruitment programs. Accountability is more than a win in a lawsuit or voting away a corrupt police officer, but shifting the political climate on how we seek safety and agency in our communities – away from law enforcement.