Oversight suggestion upsets LASD union, contract cities 

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department seal. File Photo
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department seal. File Photo

In an effort to address the allegations of racism, violence and other concerns associated with deputy gangs, Sheriff Robert Luna said Friday the nation’s largest sheriff’s department is reviewing a lengthy list of recommendations that county counsel says are necessary for reform. 

One policy recommendation from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department’s Civilian Oversight Commission intended to fight deputy gangs could pose a real challenge for community policing efforts, according to the union for LASD deputies: mandatory redeployments. 

“Merely transferring members of deputy gangs or deputy cliques has not proved particularly effective,” the report states, noting when that was previously attempted to break up gangs in Men’s Central Jail, the deputies merely requested and were reassigned to two stations in Los Angeles where the deputy gangs continued to cause problems for those stations. 

“As discussed below, transfers or rotation of deputies must be much more intentional to avoid aggregating in a new location deputies involved in, or susceptible to influence by, deputy gangs or deputy cliques.” 

The special counsel’s recommendations acknowledge “the complexity of the department,” the difficulty in managing the largest local jail system in the country and “its duty to police over 4 million residents.” 

In the efforts to fight the growth and sustenance of deputy cliques or gangs, one of the 27 recommendations in the 70-page report said: 

“The sheriff should also consider rotating all patrol deputies (after completion of field training) no later than the end of their first year in patrol to another patrol station within the division. The sheriff should also consider rotating all patrol deputies in periodic rotations, no longer than every five years, or sooner, to another station. The CCJV (Citizens Commission on Jail Violence) recommended and the department implemented frequent rotations of deputies within the facilities of the county jails.” 

In a stark departure from his predecessor, Luna’s statement indicates a much more congenial attitude toward the special counsel’s report, although the initial reaction from his office gave little indication to how much deference he plans to give the commission’s findings. 

“The department is in the process of reviewing the recommendation for rotations of deputies within patrol and custody,” according to a statement released Friday through the Sheriff’s Information Bureau. “However, the process needs to be thoroughly reviewed and discussed prior to implementation. The department is working with all the stakeholders including the contract cities and labor representatives on this recommendation.” 

Former Sheriff Alex Villanueva sought a cease-and-desist order against the county Board of Supervisors trying to get the board to stop using the term “deputy gangs” during the Office of Inspector General’s investigation into the matter. He refused to testify on the matter unless he was provided with all of the questions and documentation in advance, according to the OIG. 

The oversight commission says the policy of rotating deputies played a role in the breakup of the 2000 and 3000 Boys, which were deputy gangs cited in the report as causing problems of excessive force and other criminal allegations against LASD officers working in Men’s Central Jail. 

”Captains must be focused upon the rotation options and actively participate in informing commanders and chiefs of the utility and results of such transfers,” the report states. 

For the deputies’ union, the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, the recommendations pose a real problem for law enforcement officers, which requires trust in the communities they serve, relationships that are built over time, ALADS contends. 

“Building public trust and fostering relationships are fundamental pillars of the community policing model. This takes dedicated time and effort, and many of our deputies have been successful in this task. The idea of rotations is also contradictory to what the elected officials and the public have been promoting,” according to a statement sent Friday via email by Richard Pippin, president of ALADS. “What’s more, many of our deputies reside within the very communities they serve, giving them insight into the unique safety concerns in these neighborhoods.” 

A representative for ALADS speaking on background Friday called the recommendation a knee-jerk reaction, noting at least two dozen other cities have cited concerns with the move, including Santa Clarita Mayor Jason Gibbs. 

At Tuesday’s Santa Clarita City Council meeting, Gibbs suggested drafting a letter of opposition to the policy as a city with a more-than-$26-million service contract with the department and quite a few residents who are deputies.  
“I think while the intent is maybe to try and put a stop to or limit the arrival or the proliferation of potential gangs in the deputies, I think it has a real unintended consequence,” Gibbs said. “And if you’re asking deputies to become engaged in the community, involved in the community and really focus on community policing, I think that’s extremely hard to do when you’re being told you can only work in a community a certain number of years and then you’re asked to rotate.” 

The consequences could be damaging, not only to the family unit but also to the community, he said, referring to a number of local law enforcement officers who live and work locally. 

Council members Marsha McLean and Laurene Weste immediately vocalized their support for Gibbs’ suggestion, a letter detailing the council’s concern, at which point City Manager Ken Striplin intervened and said such a discussion would have to be agendized, to which the council agreed.  

L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the 5th District, which includes the Santa Clarita Valley, did not respond to a request for comment regarding the recommendations as of this story’s publication. 

The report says that simply transferring is not enough, citing interviews with the members of department leadership who cooperated with the report. 

Multiple members of the 2000 Boys collectively sought reassignment at the Century Station, and became Spartans, a different deputy gang; a number of the 3000 Boys went to Compton and became Executioners, the report says. 

“In interviewing non-department law enforcement managers, as well as former department leaders, Special Counsel recognizes that other law enforcement agencies use redeployment and assignment rotation to minimize the risk of problematic officer or deputy groups forming in those agencies. It is an available and appealing strategy here. While not a panacea, it would provide an additional remedy and the mere announcement of the policy could serve a prophylactic effect.” 

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