Deputy cliques continue to fester at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, witnesses told an oversight commission this week—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 East Los Angeles station 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.