Law enforcement agencies with their own criminal gangs

I believe most cops are good. This article once again proves that many of them are very, very bad.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, hailed by progressives as a change agent in the troubled department he took over, has dug in his heels as the public wonders why he is covering up for criminal deputies in his ranks:

I had always heard stories—‘Don’t go to East Los Angeles Station,’ ” Rosa Gonzalez, a deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, told me. “ ‘You’re a hard worker. Go somewhere else. East L.A., it’s different from all the other stations.’ ”

But Gonzalez, who is Mexican American and was raised in what she calls “the inner city,” was drawn to East Los Angeles, a historically Latino neighborhood that has long contended with gang violence. “It’s a way to give back to my own community,” she said. In 2011, after finishing the academy and a mandatory turn through the custody division, Gonzalez reported for training at East L.A. She was one of three female trainees, working alongside approximately a hundred men.

She was naïve at first, she said. But a detective told her, “Just pay attention. You’ll find out who’s really in charge.” Officially, stations are run by captains, with the help of an operations staff. At East L.A., Gonzalez discovered, there was a shadow government: a secretive group of sheriff’s deputies known as the Banditos.

Deputy gangs, or “subgroups,” with names like the Grim Reapers, the Regulators, and the Vikings, have plagued the sheriff’s department for fifty years. Members have been accused of serious breaches of department policy and violations of constitutional rights, of terrorizing the public and harassing their fellow-deputies, and of retaliating against whistle-blowers.

But wait. There’s so much more:

According to a lawsuit filed by eight East L.A. deputies and the A.C.L.U., the Banditos gang “controls the East Los Angeles station like inmates running a prison yard.” Leaders, known as “shot-callers,” determined deputies’ hours, promotions, even days off. On patrol, they operated in the gray areas of law enforcement. Gonzalez said that they perpetuated “the code of silence, the culture of the ghetto gunslinger.” She added, “What makes East L.A. so unique is it’s embedded within the Hispanic machismo culture and the Hispanic street gangs.”

The mark of a Bandito is a secret numbered tattoo: a skeleton wearing a thick mustache, a bandolier, and a sombrero, and brandishing a smoking gun. (Deputy-gang tattoos are typically on the leg or the ankle.) Families of those killed by deputies allege that the deputies were “chasing ink”—trying to earn a tattoo. In a recent exposé on CBS News, anonymous whistle-blowers at East L.A. Station said, “If you get in a shooting, that’s a definite brownie point” with the Banditos.

It’s worth your time to read the rest of this very good, very disturbing, article in The New Yorker by Dana Goodyear.

Los Angeles County Sheriff patrol cars. (Wikimedia Commons: Old and new police cars | James | Flickr)

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