Secret deputy cliques within the Los Angeles Sheriff’s department have been a problem for the LASD since at least the late 1980′s, some say before.
Such “affinity groups” most recently hit the public consciousness with the revelation last year that there were gang-like cliques reportedly wreaking havoc in the department’s troubled and notorious Men’s Central Jail. The highest profile of these CJ cliques is the 3000 Boys, with their matching tattoos and even hand signals. But there are also the 2000 Boys, among others, both inside the jails and out on the street.
Now, according to a story posted Thursday late afternoon in the LA Times, the department is newly worried by a clique inside the LASD’s gang unit—reportedly because of what is printed in a memo or pamphlet that may indicate that deputies’ participation in Officer Involved Shootings conveys status within the clique.
Rumors of shootings conveying status within other LASD cliques have long swirled around the department. However, if such a delineation really does appear in writing, it would be an entirely different matter.
The LA Times Robert Faturechi has the story:
Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives have launched a probe into what appears to be a secret deputy clique within the department’s elite gang unit, an investigation triggered by the discovery of a document suggesting the group embraces shootings as a badge of honor.
The document 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, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation. 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.
Still, 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. A former top jail commander told The Times that jailers would “earn their ink” by breaking inmates’ bones.
On learning of the new investigation, LASD sources we spoke with expressed concern about whether the department’s investigation of the clique would be honest and aggressive.
Some sources took it as a possible good sign that the investigation is being conducted by the Internal Affairs Bureau, or IAB, the investigative unit over which Sheriff Baca has recently retaken control. The department’s other investigative unit, UCIB, which looks into potentially criminal matters in the LASD, is still ultimately overseen by the Undersheriff, Paul Tanaka, who took over directly both investigative units last march, much to the dismay of many LASD observers.
As Faturechi notes, Tanka himself is a member of the now infamous Vikings clique that was most active in the 1980′s and early 1990′s, it’s members the subject of a massive class action suit that cost LA County $9 million in cash settlements and training. According to a deposition taken in an unrelated court case earlier this year, Mr. Tanaka still sports a tattoo on his ankle signifying Vikings membership.
WitnessLA has acquired a partial list of Vikings working inside the department culled from sworn depositions for various court cases. The list indicates there are Vikings members scattered at supervisory levels throughout the LASD including, at present, inside the departments’ internal investigatory units like IAB and ICIB.
It is, however, considered to be good news that IAB is now headed by Captain John Clark, recently put into place by Sheriff Baca. Clark, if you remember, was the supervisor that WitnessLA reported had tried to institute reforms in Men’s Central Jail when he became aware of the growing problem of deputy cliques inside the jail.
Modeled after the law-suit producing deputy cliques of the previous decades, like the Vikings, these cliques featured special tattoos, threw gang-like hand signs and, in some cases, refused to socialize with “rival” cliques within the department. In the case of the 3000 Boys and the matching group from the 2nd floor, the 2000 Boys, the cliques had also recently started waiting for their entire crew to get off work—sometimes lingering for hours at a time—before leaving the station together en masse. This was not only a violation of departmental policy, but it was eerie gang-like behavior intended to intimidate—to show both inmates and supervisors alike who really ran the jail.
But instead of getting support from higher-ups, Clark had his reforms swiftly revoked by Undersheriff Tanaka, who railed at Clark and his supervisors for their attempts at discipline, had his own private meetings with deputies, then transferred Clark away from custody work, altogether. (You’ll find more details in Part 3 and Part 4 of Matt Fleischer’s Dangerous Jails series.)
Officially Sheriff Baca disapproves of groups like the Jump Out Boys, the 3000 Boys, the 2000 Boys, the Regulators and the Vikings, et al. But sources inside the LASD tell us that unofficially a double message is conveyed to the troops with the undersheriff’s well-documented work in the gray speeches, and his tendency to protect, rescue and reward those who do color outside the lines. And of course his retention of the Viking ink on his ankle.
Sheriff’s department spokesman, Steve Whitmore, confirmed that IAB was doing the investigating, but reminded me that the notion of status conveyed for shootings could be “a fantasy.”
“We just don’t know.”
In any case, WLA will track the investigation as it develops as, no doubt, will the Times.
So stay tuned.