Authorities have been tight-lipped about their investigation into a reported secret deputy clique within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s anti-gang unit.

“All I can say is it’s under investigation,” sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said. “It could be a fantasy; it could be true.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, citing sources with knowledge of the investigation, the probe was triggered by the discovery of a pamphlet suggesting the group embraces shootings as a badge of honor.

The pamphlet described a code of conduct for the Jump Out Boys, a clique of hard-charging, aggressive deputies who gain more respect after being involved in a shooting, The Times reported.

The pamphlet is relatively short, sources said, and explains that deputies earn admission into the group through the endorsement of members. The sources stressed that the internal affairs investigation is still in its early stages and that little is known about the Jump Out Boys’ behavior or its membership.

Sheriff’s officials are concerned that the group represents another unsanctioned clique within the department’s ranks, a problem the department has been grappling with for decades.

Last year, the department fired a group of deputies who all worked on the third, or “3000,” floor of Men’s Central Jail, after the group fought two fellow deputies at an employee Christmas party and allegedly punched a female deputy in the face. Sheriff’s officials later said the men had formed an aggressive “3000” clique that used gang-like three-finger hand signs.

The investigation into the Jump Out Boys is focused on the sheriff’s Gang Enforcement Team. The unit is divided into two platoons of relatively autonomous deputies whose job it is to target neighborhoods where gang violence and intimidation are a concern.

Sheriff’s officials have warned against forming rogue subgroups because they threaten to stress allegiance to the clique and subvert loyalty to the department and its policies.

Historically, within the sheriff’s department, such groups have been tied to patrol stations. In one instance, a federal judge called one of the groups, the Lynwood Vikings, a “neo-Nazi, White supremacist gang” that had engaged in racially motivated hostility.

As part of a 1996 settlement, the county agreed to retrain deputies to prevent such conduct, and pay $7.5 million to compensate victims of alleged abuses.