Reports of deputies belonging to “secret societies” within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have prompted county supervisors to call on the inspector general to investigate the matter further, citing an erosion of the public trust.
“I am unaware of any secret society in the department,” Capt. Robert Lewis of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station said Friday. “In the Santa Clarita station, we don’t have that.”
The possibility of secret groups — some with names such as “Bandidos” and “Reapers” — sparked concern recently, and a motion from two of the county’s five supervisors.
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on a move by Supervisors Janice Hahn and Mark Ridley-Thomas that would expand the authority of the inspector general to investigate secret societies within the ranks of LASD deputies.
The motion would also grant the inspector general the ability to issue subpoenas in the ongoing review of matters involving the Sheriff’s Department, and to report back to the board in 30 days.
Hahn and Ridley-Thomas called for the probe when they heard the FBI was, allegedly, already investigating the matter. FBI officials, citing policy, have remained tight-lipped when asked about a probe this week.
“There have been recent reports that the FBI is once again investigating the Sheriff’s Department, this time concerning the pervasive influence of deputy secret societies within the department,” Hahn and Ridley-Thomas spell out in their motion tagged as item No. 17 on Tuesday’s agenda.
“These secret societies are a dangerous problem,” the pair said jointly in the motion. “They not only erode public trust in law enforcement and undermine the chain of command, we are concerned that they promote racism, sexism and violence.”
Hahn and Ridley-Thomas also said the secret societies are a significant liability to Los Angeles County and the cities that contract with the Sheriff’s Department for the actions of deputies who choose to belong to one of these secret societies.
The menacing names of these secret societies reportedly include Banditos, Reapers, Spartans, Regulators and Vikings.
The motion reads: “The inspector general has requested expanded authority in order to help us understand the full extent of these secret societies, as well as the ability to issue subpoenas should the Sheriff’s Department continue to deny access to information and refuse efforts by the public to hold them accountable.”
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller, when asked Thursday about an FBI report or probe into deputy secret societies, said: “We have neither confirmed or denied an investigation, as per policy.”
Lewis, speaking at the June 23 Canyon Country Advisory Committee, was asked about the alleged secret societies.
Lewis told those at the meeting the same thing he said Friday when asked about the topic.
A man at the advisory meeting asked: “Is there any justification for certain units forming cliques with menacing-sounding names and aggressive-looking tattoos, which have, repeatedly, been associated with civil rights violations — not just of citizens, but of new officers assigned to those units?”
“I’m not aware of any of those,” Lewis told the man. “I know that I don’t have that here at Santa Clarita Valley (Sheriff’s) Station.
“I’m the captain for the Santa Clarita Valley Station, not for other locations and other units, so I don’t oversee the department. So I think that’s a question that can be directed toward downtown for our Sheriff’s Information Bureau.”
The Board of Supervisors meets at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 West Temple St., Tuesday beginning at 9:30 a.m.
On Twitter @jamesarthurholt