From now on, everyone should obey the law

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com, or follow me on Twitter.

It is odd that “respect people’s civil rights” is a new policy:

In the 1990s, for example, a deputy group called the Lynwood Vikings, described by a California judge as a “neo-Nazi, white supremacist gang,” was responsible for incidents that led to millions being handed out in lawsuit settlements, and was also the subject of a 1991 lawsuit from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The case later led to the 1992 Kolts report, which called for station commanders to “root out and punish severely any lingering gang-like behavior by its deputies.”

More than two decades later, one of the Vikings members, a former LASD assistant sheriff named Paul Tanaka, was convicted and sentenced to serve five years in prison in 2016 for conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges following a federal probe into reports of civil rights violations and abuse in the Los Angeles County Jail system.

Other deputy groups, with names like the “Jump Out Boys,” “Regulators,” and “Grim Reapers” have also been involved in controversial incidents with civilians and other officers. And some cliques, like groups called the “2000 Boys” and “3000 Boys,” have been known to operate out of the county jail. According to a September 2012 report from LA County’s Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence, the 2000 Boys made assaulting incarcerated men part of recruitment, with the report noting that “a deputy reportedly fractured the orbital bone of a non-combative inmate to ‘earn his ink.’”

And in 2018, the sheriff’s department faced a lawsuit from the family of Donta Taylor, a 31-year-old black man killed by deputies in a 2016 Compton shooting. Taylor’s family argued that the deputies involved in the shooting were part of a violent clique. During a 2018 deposition, one of the deputies, Samuel Aldama, admitted that he shared a tattoo with other officers in the department; the same deputy also said that he had “ill feelings” toward African Americans. The lawsuit was settled in June of this year, with Taylor’s family receiving $7 million.

The actions of the different groups have led critics to argue that the LASD is not doing enough to stop the activity of deputy cliques. But Villanueva, the current sheriff who campaigned in 2018 on a promise to reform the department, says the groups are not actually the problem, instead arguing that the issue is the behavior of individual officers. He’s also said the department can’t do anything about the officer’s shared tattoos, saying that they are protected by the First Amendment.

But some experts, like Kennedy, the Loyola professor, say this is a weak argument. Meanwhile, the eight deputies serving as plaintiffs in the current lawsuit argue that Villanueva is actually enabling the activity that he promised to reform. In recent months, the sheriff has announced a new policy that prohibits LASD deputies from participating in groups that violate the rights of civilians or other deputies. He has also pointed to the fact that several officers have been transferred from the East LA station.

Critics counter that many of these changes were simply the result of organic officer transfers and did not actually aim to dismantle the Banditos.

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