Wednesday, August 1, 2018

LOS ANGELES—Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell invited the Sheriff’s Civilian Oversight Commission (COC) to join the LASD’s Office of Inspector General’s investigation into whether secret gangs that might be condoning criminal acts are operating within the ranks of LASD’s deputies.

"Renegade cliques erode public confidence as well as internal morale, and they will not be tolerated within the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department," McDonnell told a meeting of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission last week.

In the statement he made before the Commission, McDonnell said, “At the end of the day, everyone, most importantly our public, should be confident that there are no “gangs” of deputies operating subversively anywhere within the Department.”

The department, along with the Sheriff's Inspector General and county counsel, will look into why the groups form, whether they are exclusive, if members are required to act a certain way and if they endorse bad behavior.

In his statement, McDonnell acknowledged to the COC, “These kinds of disturbing allegations about deputy cliques have been raised periodically about the Sheriff’s Department for many years. As you know, I served on the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence. That body uncovered similar allegations in 2012 about deputies in Patrol Stations, and also in Custody. But the problem and the perception go back much further.

The Kolts Report in 1992 raised allegations about the existence of subgroups of deputies engaged in unprofessional or improper conduct. Other allegations date back to the 1970s.

However, despite all this, no one has undertaken a serious, comprehensive study of the issue. I intend, on my watch, to get to the bottom of it.”

McDonnell previously had said that he was investigating the matter after revelations came to light following a taped deposition of Compton Deputy Samuel Aldama.

Aldama, who described under oath a tattoo on his calf featuring a skull in a military-style helmet bearing the letters CPT for Compton, along with a rifle, encircled by flames. He said he got the tattoo in June 2016, about two months before he was involved in the fatal shooting of Donta Taylor

John Sweeney, who represents Taylor's family, played for reporters a portion of Aldama's videotaped deposition. At one point, Aldama is asked if he has any "ill feelings toward African Americans in general." After a long pause, Aldama responds, "I do, sir," explaining, "I grew up in the city of Compton, sir."

"I've never heard testimony like that before in my life, and it was bone-chilling that I was sitting across the table from a person who has a badge and a gun," Sweeney said.

Before the COC, McDonnell said he couldn’t yet discuss specifics of the Taylor/Aldama case, but added, “I would like to provide some big-picture perspective of what I know, and what I intend to find out about this troubling issue.

To the extent these groups currently exist, and there is evidence some do, What is their purpose? What behavior is associated with being a member? Are they “secret” or exclusive? Do they require certain conduct to become a member? Do they condone improper behavior?