Deputy cliques continue to fester at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, witnesses told an oversight commission on Tuesday, May 24 — describing how members of the internal gangs initiate “work slowdowns” to assert their power and shun or even deny backup to deputies who fail to fall in line.
The testimony, which included a current sheriff’s employee who spoke anonymously by telephone with a disguised voice, came in the first of what is expected to be a series of hearings by the Civilian Oversight Commission, which announced earlier this year a “full-scale investigation” into allegations of deputy gangs.
The anonymous employee told the panel a gang known as the “Banditos” still essentially runs the East Los Angeles station, despite Sheriff Alex Villanueva‘s previous insistence that he cleaned house at the station. The witness said members of the group initiated a work slowdown as recently as last summer — essentially slowing response times to calls.
The witness also described actions members of the Banditos took against outsider deputies, saying they would be shunned publicly, with members and their supporters turning their backs to those who defied the organization. In some cases, member deputies would refuse to provide backup to outsider deputies in the field. According to witnesses, roughly 12-15 deputies are tattooed members of the Banditos at the East L.A. Station, with another 10-15 considered associates.
Sheriff’s Lt. Larry Waldie, who conceded being a member of a group of deputies known as the Gladiators when he was a deputy at the Compton station, told the panel he had run-ins with a tattooed gang known as the Executioners when he became the station captain.
Waldie described how the Executioners launched a work slowdown in 2019 because he wouldn’t assign a member of the gang or one of its supporters to the powerful position of scheduling deputy — a post that controlled where station deputies were assigned and to which shifts. Waldie confirmed statistics that showed an uptick in criminal activity in the station’s coverage area during the shutdown. Waldie also said members of the Executioners would hold celebrations in response to deputy shootings.
Villanueva was invited to attend the commission’s meeting, but did not appear at the meeting. He has repeatedly downplayed the influence of so- called deputy cliques, saying discipline cannot be meted out solely because deputies have a particular tattoo — only if it leads to some type of criminal behavior. Villanueva has also blasted the work of the Civilian Oversight Commission and Inspector General Max Huntsman, saying they are political pawns of the county Board of Supervisors, with which the sheriff has repeatedly clashed over budget and policy matters.
When the commission announced plans for an investigation of deputy gangs, Villanueva called it a political move aimed at harming his re-election bid. He said in a statement that Huntsman’s office has already been carrying out such a probe for three years and “not one deputy ‘gang member’ has been identified.”
“Almost 6,000 pages were provided to the OIG on this subject almost a year ago, and LASD.org has an entire webpage dedicated to this topic,” Villanueva said. “There is nothing new.” Villanueva told ABC7 on Tuesday, May 24, that the hearing was a “political stunt” that allowed witnesses to testify without cross-examination.
The sheriff said previously that he cracked down on the Banditos presence in East Los Angeles as one of his first acts upon being sworn in. He told reporters he removed the station’s leadership and about 30 deputies. Retired sheriff’s Cmdr. Eli Vera, now a candidate challenging Villanueva, challenged that assertion in his testimony Tuesday, saying none of the transfers from the station were forced. Vera also said Villanueva has shown favoritism toward the East L.A. station, beginning with his inauguration ceremony, when the front of the auditorium was reserved for personnel from that station.
“As a professional law enforcement officer, that is a very bad signal for the organization,” Vera said. Vera was demoted from a division chief to commander when he announced his candidacy for sheriff.
KnockLA, a nonprofit community journalism project, published a 15-part series on the history of deputy gangs in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. View the series here. According to KnockLA, Lancaster Sheriff’s Station Deputy Wyatt Waldron allegedly tried to shoot a deputy gang tattoo off of a man during a camping trip in Kern County in 2015. Despite the shooting, Waldron was promoted to sergeant in 2021 under Sheriff Villanueva, KnockLA claims. View that article here.
7 comments for "Witnesses: Deputy gangs still active in LA County Sheriff’s Department"
A deputy says
I can tell you personally as someone who’s been on LASD for well over 20 years in many different field assignments that this is a sensationalized story. I along with thousands and thousands of deputies don’t have any tattoos and are not part of some so called clique. That being said, I have not and haven’t personally heard of any other deputies having issues with other deputies who are part of these so called cliques.
Concerned Citizen says
Then you would be lying sir. Whether or not you “do your job well” I find it impossible to believe that in 20 years in multiple assignments you have not heard about gangs or rumors about their activities. And that’s the problem with the blue line of corruption. Everyone wants to protect their own career at the expense of justice. Why did you become a cop in the first place if you don’t believe in upholding the law?
Tim Scott says
Deputy Cliques says
The ELA station sounds like a great place to work.
Everyone has to understand this: your partner when you are in a black and white is your life. He or she is your back-up. You tell things to them that you don’t tell your wife, your husband, bf, or gf. They can be the closest person in your life. While you are on your watch, your number one goal is survival. If you can make it through the watch without a jerk calling you out, getting into an altercation or getting murdered, it was good watch. Meantime, you do not need people you depend upon to have attitudes or problems. Alex, stop the gangs now!
Tim Scott says
“Deputy Gangs Still Active”
Why would they not be, since the Sheriff isn’t going to do anything except shut his eyes and pretend they don’t exist?
Except for the gang he’s in, of course. That one he knows exists, so he just denies it.
SOME DEPUTIES LOOK LIKE GANG BANGERS