Federal Judge Sends a Message With 8-Year Prison Sentence for LA Sheriff’s Sergeant in Jail Visitor Abuse Case


On Monday morning, federal Judge George H. King sentenced former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s sergeant, Eric Gonzalez, to eight years in a federal prison. The sentencing followed Gonzalez’ conviction on June 24, 2015, of charges pertaining to the brutal beating of a handcuffed visitor to Men’s Central Jail, along with a conspiracy to cover up the beating by falsifying official reports, thus causing the victim to be criminally charged as the aggressor.

After King pronounced the sentence, he remanded Gonzalez, 46, straight into federal custody, rather than giving him a few weeks or more to wrap up his affairs and surrender, as had been the case with some of the other department members convicted of wrongdoing by the feds in the past two years.

Judge King —who is, by the way, the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California-— made it clear that he wanted to send a message with the sentencing, stating grimly that Gonzalez “abused his authority and corrupted the very system he was sworn to uphold.”

When law enforcement officers “think they are above the law,” King said, “the entire rule of law is threatened.”

The judge expressed hope that the stiff sentence would provide “general deterrence,” because, he said, law enforcement must know that there are “very serious consequences for the type of gross misconduct” Gonzalez’ actions represented.

“This conduct went beyond the pale” said Judge King.


For those unfamiliar with the case, the whole matter began on February 26, 2011, when Gabriel Carrillo and his girlfriend (now his wife) went to the Visiting Center for Men’s Central Jail intending to visit Carrillo’s recently arrested brother. Both Carrillo and his girlfriend carried their cell phones into the visitors’ center, although phones are prohibited under jail rules. When the phones were discovered, Carrillo was handcuffed and brought into an employee break room, where prosecutors said he was subjected to a “savage beating” and sprayed with a burning agent similar to pepper spray. Paramedics later transferred Carrillo to the hospital, suffering from injuries to his face, ribs and wrists.

In December 2013, five LA County Sheriff’s department members were indicted for the Carrillo beating and cover-up. This past June, Gonzalez was convicted on all counts along with former LASD Sussie Ayala and Fernando Luviano. Two other former LASD deputies—Pantamitr Zunggeemoge and Noel Womack—had taken plea deals earlier in the year and thus became witnesses for the prosecution.

During their testimony, both Womack and Deputy “Z”—as Zunggeemoge was called— unspooled harrowing descriptions of a cluster of large deputies kicking and slugging the far smaller Carrillo, who writhed, handcuffed, on the floor, trying to escape the blows, as Gonzalez looked on. “He was no threat to anyone,” said Womack of Carrillo.

During his turn on the stand, “Z” described how, after the beating, he was given specific language by Gonzalez to insert into the necessary report. Z said that, with Gonzalez coaching him, he wrote of a violent, assaultive, escape-minded Carrillo, using a narrative that was entirely fiction, he said, but that succeeded in triggering felony charges against the handcuffed victim.


During Monday’s sentencing hearing, Carrillo asked to speak to Judge King. “This wasn’t a one-time thing,” he told King, “this was a one-time get caught.”

Carrillo argued for the 10-year-plus sentence recommended by prosecutors, noting that the false charges that Gonzelez and company caused to be filed against him, could have resulted in a 14-year prison stretch.

In fact, Carrillo was a week before trial for the false allegations when his attorney, Ron Kaye, found the photos of Carrillo’s injured wrists (shown above) that his girlfriend had taken and forgotten about, not realizing their importance. Kaye also found a neutral witness, a middle-aged woman who had been in the visitors center sitting near the so-called break room during Carrillo’s beating, and was able to describe what she heard coming out of the room. “She was very important,” Kaye told me.

Thus, instead of going to prison, Carrillo works in construction as a fork lift operator and is married to his former girlfriend, Grace Torres, with whom he has two children.

Judge King also discounted the argument of Gonzalez’ defense attorney, Joseph Avrahamy, who argued that the battering of Carrillo, and the ensuing fabricated reports, represented an isolated incident. King said that the speed and ease with which the cover-up fell into place, suggested “a known course of conduct that has played out before.”

Indeed, in the original indictment that preceded the two deputy plea deals, prosecutors laid out three additional incidents of alleged abuse against people who came to the jail to see friends or loved ones, including the beating of a jail visitor who was slammed around by deputies to the point that his arm was fractured, all reportedly because he asked to see a supervisor when his combat veteran brother repeatedly couldn’t be located in the jail.

Each of the incidents allegedly involved some mix of the same cast of characters. And in at least two other cases, according to the indictment, deputies prepared “false and misleading reports in an attempt to show that…their uses of force were justified.” Sergeant Gonzalez, the indictment alleged, “would assist deputies in preparing these reports and would approve these reports knowing they were false.”

The original indictment also included an allegation by the feds that former Sergeant Gonzalez would “maintain, perpetuate and foster an atmosphere and environment” in the visiting area “that encouraged and tolerated abuses of the law, including the use of unjustified force….” among other abuses.

According to the indictment, Gonzalez “would reprimand deputy sheriffs he supervised for not using force on visitors to the MCJ if the visitors had supposedly ‘disrespected’ these deputy sheriffs through the visitors’ words or conduct.” He allegedly would “praise overly-aggressive behavior by deputy sheriffs and criticize” deputy behavior “that was not aggressive” and would “encourage deputy sheriffs under his command to make unlawful arrests, conduct unreasonable searches and seizures, and engage in excessive force,” according to information the FBI and the prosecutors gathered.


At the sentencing, Gonzalez was not in the least contrite. Instead, he energetically defended his actions to the judge. As ABC7’s Lisa Bartley and Miriam Hernandez wrote in their account of the sentencing:

“Gonzalez told the court that the jail’s Visiting Center was controlled by gang members before he cleaned it up, changing it from ‘a violent place… to Disneyland.'”

The now ex-Sergeant also said that he and his fellow jail deputies routinely dealt with some of the most violent criminals in Los Angeles County, and while they could have had “uses of force every day,” they were “limited to a handful.”

The government was not impressed.

“Today’s lengthy prison sentence demonstrates that individuals who abuse their positions of trust as law enforcement officers will be held accountable,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker after Gonzalez sentence was handed down. “The former deputy sheriffs who participated in the scheme to violate the civil rights of a handcuffed man who was beaten without cause cast a stain on the entire Sheriff’s Department, where virtually all of the deputies serve admirably.”

Last month, a federal grand jury indicted a sixth deputy in relation to the incident at MCJ’s Visiting Center. Former Deputy Byron Dredd pleaded not guilty on Friday to conspiracy to violate civil rights and two counts of making false reports, and he was ordered to stand trial on December 22.

The case against Gonzalez and the five others is one in a series of indictments, that have resulted in the convictions of 15 current or former members of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department on federal charges. At least seven of those convictions will be reviewed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals next year.

Still more indicted department members have yet to come to trial. The highest profile of those trials looming in the future is that of former undersheriff Paul Tanaka scheduled for March 2016.

Whether the feds’ still ongoing investigations will produce any more indictments of LASD personnel in the months to come is anybody’s guess. But rumors abound.

So, stay tuned.

VIDEO NOTE: The video above shows Carrillo being interviewed by then LASD Sergeant Eric Gonzalez, who had, a few hours before, supervised the Carrillo’s beating and the cover-up. It was shown at trial and the jury watched it with rapt attention. ABC-7 News producer Lisa Bartley obtained the video, so we have her to thank for being able to show it to you. Here’s ABC-7’s excellent story on Gonzalez’ sentencing, written by Bartley and reporter Miriam Hernandez


  • Where is Tanaka during all of this mess. Who was the person in charge at MCJ during this incident. Chief/Cmdr/Capt/Ops Lt? Blind Loyalty

  • Ms. Fremon mentioned Mr. Tanaka’s name. It may well be that Sheriff McDonnell considers any past problem resolved by the fact of his election. Or he is a patient man working a different strategy. Perhaps he is awaiting the conviction of Tanaka before moving. Or he may believe that human nature is so malleable that all the Tanakists’ need for improved performance are better, clearer rules (an old philosopher once said: integrity is in no need of rules because it does the right thing characteristically). Yet there are few cases in history where a mere change or emphasis in rules stemmed the tide of corruption (Kantian ethics may be necessary but is an insufficient condition). When replacing a cult of personality there has to be a shift in personnel and worldview. Whatever approach Mr. McDonnell selects, if he selects any, the organizational and public costs in legitimacy, trust, leadership, and performance associated with Tanaka and his loyalists are considerable, they will likely remain acute for at least 5-10 more years, and they will not altogether diminish until a lawful purge of Tanakists occurs, or until the LASD passively waits out the twenty-plus years for some of them to finally reach retirement (assuming they don’t spawn new Tanakists or similar cultists). A more detailed analysis of this problem to follow later.

  • Paul Tanaka took ownership of MCJ when he was the A/S of Custody, and then retained ownership when he moved to the patrol side and then his short time as U/S. MCJ was his flagship, it represented his values, his ethics and his goals/vision of LASD. Disgraced and retired Dan Cruz and his host of Operations Lieutenants and Watch Commanders took orders directly from Tanaka and were enablers for the reign of terror inside that facility. That reign of terror was unchallenged (except for the efforts of Commander Olmsted), unchecked and thrived by the likes of people like Gonzalez, the 2000/3000 Boyz, etc. Paul’s flagship was by his design, a snapshot of how he envisioned LASD was to be operated when his dream of becoming Sheriff became a reality. It provided a base of operations for his planned political aspirations in Gardena and LASD. Cash campaign donations, inroads to ALADS, precinct walkers to place yard signs and door knocks, it was all there at MCJ. Paul, through his minions, ruled the floors of MCJ with an iron fist, “tell the boys to take care of business, I got their backs.” MCJ was to be the Region II of Custody Division. Heavy hitters were coddled and promised great futures, “Paul takes care of his people.”

    Well, Gonalez was one of his boys. He was a representative microcosm of Paul Tanaka’s “Brown Shirts,” those who were shot callers inside LASD. He had the strut, the swagger, the mentality of Tanaka’s army encapsulating the rank of Deputy to Chief. Gonzalez was “in the car,” and he, as most, wanted everyone to know that he was connected. His hand selected Visiting crew followed his lead, they were his people and they were convinced that they too, were untouchable and their attitudes proved it. All of these force incidents “investigated and approved” by the MCJ chain of command, rubber stamp, yuk it up, tell Paul everyone is happy and motivated, keep him happy. All of this was so predictable and none of it had to happen, none of it should of happened. But it did because lots of heads turned away from the obvious truth; MCJ (and other units) was completely out of control. No one could or would control Cruz, Tanaka or LASD, unbelievable. And then the FBI arrived and did what no one else could or would do. Gonzalez, Thompson, Carey, Tanaka (tip of the list), yep you guys are in the car alright. But it belongs to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Hopefully by the time this is all over, the Federal Marshals will need a Federal TST bus because there are a lot of folks who have yet to be held accountable, they are just being retained and promoted. Gonzalez really hung tough at sentencing, didn’t he? Told the judge he turned Visiting into Disneyland, LMAO! See you in 8, a long time to soul search.

  • The sad thing is there are many supervisors, managers, and executives still 10-8 and still being promoted by Sheriff McDonnell when this all happened on their watch. Tanaka is long gone, but his legacy remains alive as long as these corrupt individuals remain employed.

    Are you listening McDonnell?

  • 11-boy…………

    great narrative……….

    His hand selected Visiting crew followed his lead, they were his people and they were convinced that they too, were untouchable and their attitudes proved it.;;;;;this part your clueless…

    You have no clue idiot….

    You read newspapers and make up your story,,,,,

    Moron All the deputies where there before that POS got there….

    Those where good Deputies that got guided in the wrong direction you POS<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

  • Cancer takes many forms and is rarely visible until its terminal. Unfortunately the sheriffs department is a long way from being cured. Even after retirement of all the principle players you will still have small cells waiting for the opportunity to grow again into a power structure. That is the nature of the beast once you let it in to your midst. History has proved this time and time again.

  • Anyone that knows Eric Gonzalez knows that his statement to the judge is classic Eric. When he was first relieved of duty, he bragged to more than one that Tanaka will take care of all of this. He is his own worst enemy.

    To those of you still “working the grey”, you are a fool……

  • I had the extreme displeasure of dealing with Eric on many occasions, each equally unsettling. I formed a firm opinion that he was mentally unstable, at best. What was more alarming, however, is his perpetual and unrelenting “working in the grey” mantra. He should have stamped it on his forehead. Years ago I said to a friend, “can you imagine the hooks that guy is going to make on patrol?” The fact that he promoted is shocking on its face but is actually disgusting in its practice as his deficiencies, both mental and professional were well known to all. (He washed out of the D.A.’s office as a D.A. Investigator for obvious reasons then was re-hired by LASO.)

    The comment about his defiance pre and post sentencing is, indeed, accurate. It is somewhat sad, however, that he cannot see his culpability. Sad because the time in prison will only serve to foster his anger and disillusionment culminating with the release of an even more unstable version of himself, which is frightening.

  • I don’t give two shits about Gonzalez. My hope is that other supervisors and deputies have learned from his sentence. I hope they learned that there’s no such thing as “untouchable”. I hope they learned that the Golden Boy who’s in charge right now might not always be in charge. I hope they learned that if they think they can break the law and throw policy out the window and do what they want because their boss is connected, they could be setting themselves for a very long, very hard fall.
    In short, I hope this sentence reverberates with all the front line supervisors and deputies who, (in case they weren’t aware by now) haven’t realized that the game has changed. The refs are watching now and WILL flag your ass for criminal shit. I hope they understand now that it could have been them.
    If they don’t get it now, they’re too stupid to be a deputy sheriff.

  • Good to hear from you Adam @#9, you might get busier soon depending on the election.

    @#10 Oh Well, sadly, I don’t think they learned. They might not be in a rush to break the law, but they won’t hesitate to break policy and lie to stick it to a Deputy. A Deputy who is not in the “clique”, not inked, not connected, or a Deputy who is targeted by that clique. The inked few are still calling the shots for all. They are still in positions of power and influence. This culture of corruption will not be broken soon.

  • Getting inked because you work a certain floor in the jail. What a joke. I guess you could be sleeved before you go to patrol with all your jail assignments. How about each court deputy and their assignments. This is exactly why all the problems started peer pressure
    And lack of leadership. I hope your happy Mr T. Can’t wait for your trial. Maybe you should plead out before your weak ass rolls on the people you gave the power. How is DC

  • It is highly regrettable what happened in this case and the many others that have came to light. They are unflattering to say the least, to the many HONORABLE, HARDWORKING, HONEST, MORAL and PROFESSIONAL members of LASD. I hope people don’t “get it twisted” to use the vernacular, that the members of LASD think they are above the law and untouchable. If people think this is representative of the majority of the members of the department they need to get off their pedestals, stop lurking on this site, admit they are unequivocally anti-law enforcement and be totally honest with themselves. It is naive and self-serving to ones own agenda to think all members of LASD and law enforcement as a whole are power hungry, jack-boot wearing, law-breaking bullies that will abuse the power entrusted to them. Shame on anyone who uses isolated incidents and broad generalities to characterize and form an opinion about all the members of an entire department or entire profession (sounds like prejudice).

  • That Sgt should have gotten more time. A lot of you making comments are just as corrupt. The visiting area at MCJ is not run by gangs as Gonzalez stated. He’s trying to justify his criminal behavior. Those deputies were not good deputies guided by a loser. If they were good deputies, they would refuse to do wrong. There are still plenty more like Gonzalez in the Dept

  • There’s many in this Department who promote who shouldn’t. All you have to do in some cases is take a written test. And kiss some ass. Doesn’t matter if your qualified or not.

  • @11 idiot, I’ve waited a few days before I responded, since you called me out on a personal level. Instead of tit for tat with you, let me mentor you a little bit. I have read your posting a couple of times and have walked away with the perception that you are new to the department, perhaps working MCJ or recently left there, but you are still new. You seem quite frustrated because you sense that there was and is a dog pile on your friends in Visiting Front. Well, there is, but not from a personal perspective as I think you are taking it. But rather from a professional perspective. That crew brought dishonor, shame and embarrassment to MCJ deputies and LASD as a whole. Like it or not, accept it or not, that crew was out of control. The first and foremost person I blame is the disgraced and now Federal inmate, Gonzalez. He was the supervisor, he set the tone, he is the one who decided what manner of policing was going to occur at Visiting Front. I’ve worked that assignment as a deputy, I understand the level of most of the individuals who walk inside those doors to visit. “We ain’t taking shit from anyone; we call the shots and anyone who gets out of line, we will deal with them.” Now those are my words, but I guarantee you, that particular message was delivered, or something very close to it. The supervisor is the one who set these deputies up for the fall. I’m sure he invoked Tanaka’s name with every other breath to the point, that crew were convinced they could “take care of business,” and no one would ever question anything. And none of the MCJ chain of command bothered. But the FBI did.

    As far as the crew being there before the sergeant arrived, perhaps, but that is irrelevant. They bought into his mantra, they bought into his style and now, they are all paying a very heavy price. Two of their own testified against them, their words and testimony are there for you to read if you wish. Their testimony clearly validates my words. Those remaining to be sentenced have a date with destiny. It serves as a reminder, if you go along with that bullshit, you get caught, you will pay the price. Look at the mug of Carrillo, the 1.5 million dollar man. No saint by far, but to beat his ass while handcuffed, 7 or so on 1? Wow, something for that crew to be proud of? For what? A friggen cell phone? Wow, what a hook that was. And the evidence presented in trial showed this was just one is a series of capers. That is a representation of how “some” deputies at MCJ operated. Steroids, cliques (2000/3000 Boyz), insubordination, all of these “facts” have been talked about at great length. And the specific individuals who are directly responsible are in fact, responsible for destroying the great reputation of wonderful organization I belong to and have, for more that thirty years. As I went through the ranks, I watched a sick mentality take over portions of LASD and that mentality has destroyed everything in it’s path. I have watch my peers and many below me buy into the Tanaka bullshit, but not I. There is no broad brush of criticism about “everyone inside LASD.” I’ve heard that from no one worth listening to. 75% of LASD is pure, great folks, hard working and most of them have given up. I honestly don’t blame them. A majority of the trash remains, despite the Sheriff promising he was going to clean house and reform. But the criticism certainly is directed at all the Tanaka water boys and girls, a minority in numbers, absolutely. And their corruption has made all of us pay a price for their bullshit. But, better days are ahead, that you can be sure of. So 11 Idiot, take a chill pill and react with intellect, not with emotion. Do slay the messenger because you don’t like the message.

  • #16 you’re very pationate on your post. You speak from experience. I agree, there are a lot of good people in the Department. And as you said there are still those who are still corrupt and think they are above the law. I don’t trust none of them. Pieces of crap is what they are, no better than the losers they arrest. Their day is coming

  • Gonzalez’ sentence is appropriate. He did bite into the Tanaka mantra. When he left custody, he was not wanted by many stations. The one that he went to was given to him as a favor. That Captain took him as a favor. He was relieved soon after his arrival. So we have a sergeant who did this receive an eight year sentence. But what about his supervisors? Where are they? Where is the Lt. who supervised him at MCJ when he was out and about getting into force at stations while working custody? The Captain at the Jail? And how did he manage to get to patrol station with all of his documented incidents? Where is that Captain? Look around Tanaka’s people are still being promoted and placed in some key spots. E. Gonzalez was low hanging fruit and yet people are saying its a victory. My word of caution is to those people who become loyal and then get thrown under the bus by the people who asked them to do the task. It seems the people who give the orders continue to rise, while the line folks suffer. As for the Sheriff, he is creating a green and tan LAPD. Which is sad.

  • LASD Reform Part I:

    (Note: I’ve been impressed by many of the present and former members of the Department (e.g., 11 Boy, LATBG) who’ve cared enough to constructively comment on this fine website, re many different issues re the Department, a website run by a fine journalist. After 18 comments posted on this particular thread, the last being a couple of days ago, there is probably room to now offer this comment.)

    By definition no analogy is perfect to an argument, but the analysis that follows may be historically instructive for Sheriff Jim McDonnell and the LASD.

    After Stalin in the 1920s outmaneuvered Lenin, who was in weakened health, Trotsky, Kamenev, and other old-line Bolsheviks, and then breaking Bukharin in the 1930s (a story loosely told in Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon), to seize and maintain power, purge his adversaries, and dominate the organs of the USSR, he intentionally added several layers of bureaucrats loyal only to him. Stalin was able to conflate personal loyalty with loyalty to the Party, just as many more recently seemed to conflate personal loyalty to former LASD Undersheriff Paul Tanaka (‘friends of Paul’) and his ideology of “working the grey” as loyalty to the LASD. The indispensible man for Stalin was the man who would do anything he was told to do, even if the order was immoral or unlawful. This is where the phrase ‘cult of personality’ comes from. After Stalin’s death in 1953, Khrushchev and others (e.g., Beria) knew that for the organs of the USSR to reform, stabilize, and move forward, a period of de-Stalinization was required. Khrushchev asked Party leaders, “What kind of leader destroys everyone? We have to be courageous and tell the truth [about Stalin]” (Figes, 2007, p. 594). In 1956, Khrushchev gave a “secret speech” to Russia’s congress, telling some, but by no means all, of the hard truths about the horrors of Stalinism and state terror. People were stunned by the relative candor. Reforms followed. The Gulag as a unique institution of slave labor was eliminated, political prisoners were slowly released, the secret police were ordered not to torture arrestees (Applebaum, 2003, p. 479), the city of Stalingrad was renamed Volgograd, textbooks rewritten to more accurately reflect history, Soviet science brought closer to reality (see Pollock’s Stalin and the Soviet Science Wars), and many other corrections occurred, including allowing marginal dissenting opinion. Followers who admired Stalin and Stalinism kept quiet, blended in, or they risked expulsion from the Party. They bided their time. Khrushchev, who had opponents in the Politburo and Party apparatus, managed to rid some Stalinists from the upper tier of the Party. But it was particularly difficult even for a reforming authoritarian like Khrushchev (not exactly a nice guy) to root out the Stalinists embedded within and across Soviet institutions. In 1964, a cabal of young Stalinists deposed Khrushchev from power. There was under Brezhnev a brief resurgence of elements of Stalinism during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Hence, during his eight years of rule, Khrushchev was not able to turn the USSR around (constrained in part by communist ideology itself). What he was able to achieve was to disrupt for several years the relentless, capricious corruption of its institutions. It would take Gorbachev (and Reagan), beginning in 1985, to force Russian institutions to stop distorting reality and perpetrating many abuses and crimes against the people. In 1991, Gorbachev denounced Stalin as one of history’s terrible criminals, unthinkable just years earlier. But for Khrushchev’s brief reform, Gorbachev may have not been able to pull off what he did 20-25 years later.

    Even accounting for the limitations of this historical analogy, it remains interesting to ask, Is Sheriff Jim McDonnell a leader who will briefly interrupt, slow corruption during his tenure (like Khrushchev) or a leader who will effectively put an end to systemic corruption (like Gorbachev)? In light of his clear election mandate to correct the Baca-Tanaka imperious debasement of a fine law enforcement organization could he be both? How long will his reforms have currency? What would that personnel strategy look like?

    If Tanaka was the proverbial ‘Stalin’ in the organization with all of the obvious caveats (e.g., without the homicides, but reportedly pursuing vendettas—e.g., against Deputies Lindsey and Rodriguez, producing terror purges against personnel practiced with reprehensible histrionics, ostensibly directly or indirectly responsible for widespread human and civil rights abuses of citizens and deputies, including various schemes, crimes and public corruption, the suspected falsification of records and RICO-like sedition against lawful investigative authorities such as the FBI, the US Marshal’s Service, and LASD’s internal affairs bureau, purportedly hiring academy classes chock full of unqualified or marginally qualified recruits, allegedly tampering with Civil Service promotional exams and processes, political campaign shakedowns, engaging in high risk decision-making that cost Los Angeles taxpayers many millions of dollars, etc.), a multi-year reign during which he was permitted by Sheriff Baca to embed toadies and loyalists across multiple layers of the bureaucracy as Stalin had done, Sheriff McDonnell faces a similar technical problem that Khrushchev faced: How to de-Tanakaize the LASD. This is what nearly everyone has been talking about since the election of Jim McDonnell. The problem is not unique to the LASD. It happens in many types of organizations, private and public, small and large. Tanakism is a distorting management practice and is merely one form of Stalinism. More to the point, Tanaka’s humiliating exit and subsequent prosecution does not itself exorcize Tanakism or Tanakists from the organization any more than Stalin’s demise eliminated Stalinism or Stalinists from the bureaucracies of the USSR. The ‘ism’ and the ‘ists’ are parasitical, surviving when the host organization fails to expel them. Consider, for example, the immense attraction of Tanakism to some personality types. Just as Stalin had incarnated pride among Russians in military and industrial victories, Tanaka on a micro scale fostered a gang-like pride in followers by having them rationalize their own “working the grey” practices in moralistic terms, as heroic ‘us versus them’ commitments in a passion play, asserting the conclusion of an argument without ever having to demonstrate or defend its reasoning, assuming without proper examination or wisdom the alleged moral superiority of their position, of cutting through the juridical ‘red tape,’ of bypassing the ‘sniveling, weak-wristed, Birkenstock-wearing ACLU-types’, and dispensing well-deserved street justice. For what else could “working the grey” mean but a clarion call to dilute otherwise clear, centuries-old ethical categories of right and wrong? A cult of personality of this nature, constructed around pseudo-morality, is a powerful line of thought and can run deep through the psychology and worldview of parts of an organization. The cost for organizations or nation-states in ignoring the ‘ism’ and ‘ists’ parts of the problem is exponentially greater than taking active measures to remediate it.

    An LA Times Editorial (May 14, 2015) put the matter in these tough terms: “Sheriff’s Department arrogance and dysfunction date back decades, and the department is not merely in need of a thorough de-Tanakafication. Federal prosecutors must continue to do their work; but so must the new inspector general, the designers of an oversight commission, county supervisors, voters and those many honorable deputies who insist on constitutional policing.” See also the federal Grand Jury indictment of Paul Tanaka (May 13, 2015), Celeste Fremon’s four-chapter expose of Baca-Tanaka management practices in Los Angeles Magazine (March 2014), and the Report of the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence (September 2012), where Mr. McDonnell was a member and which wrote in relevant part:

    “The troubling role of Undersheriff Tanaka cannot be ignored. Not only did he fail to identify and correct problems in the jails, he exacerbated them. The Commission learned about his ill-advised statements and decisions from a wide array of witnesses and sources. Over the course of several years, the Undersheriff encouraged deputies to push the legal boundaries of law enforcement activities and created an environment that discouraged accountability for misconduct. His repeated statements that deputies should work in an undefined ‘grey’ area contributed to a perception by some deputies that they could use excessive force in the jails and that their aggressive behavior would not result in discipline. The Undersheriff also made numerous statements disparaging the Internal Affairs Bureau (‘IAB’) and the disciplinary process – remarks that undermined the authority of IAB and the ability of Department supervisors to control or remediate inappropriate deputy behavior” [p. 9]. The Citizen’s Commission executive report offered numerous recommendations which address several categories of cultural and leadership failure. This good work likely informs the blueprint for the new Sheriff to restore public integrity. Yet the recommendations may not be enough to address the deeper, more systemic problems within the organization.

  • LASD Reform Part II:

    (Note: This particular comment addresses a concern expressed by many about Tanakists continuing to affect the day-to-day performance of the LASD and in some instances being promoted, e.g., Left at the Ball post #18.)

    Sheriff McDonnell appears to read former Stanford University business professor and writer Jim Collins (e.g., Good to Great, Good to Great and the Social Sectors, Built to Last). At his swearing-in ceremony on December 1, 2014, Mr. McDonnell said he wanted “to ensure all of our leaders and senior managers are in the right seats” (LA Daily News). This is a positive sign. Getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats is a Collins concept (Good to Great, pp. 41-64). Great organizations in the public-social sector identify, recruit, and develop highly talented, ethical, smart, tough-minded people. Great organizations also remove the ‘wrong people’ from the bus. Promoting Tanakists, especially the self-serving sociopathic chameleons among them, would seem inconsistent with Collins’ concept of selecting the ‘right people’ to restore, reform, and advance the organization from a period of corruption to ‘good,’ let alone moving it to ‘great.’

    Therefore, it would seem an indisputable truism, without any moral ambiguity, that the ‘right seat’ for a Tanakist is not on the bus at all, let alone in charge of steering whole units of the organizational machinery. A problem for the Sheriff, however, may be that the sheer scale, complexity, and breadth of the LASD as an organization is delaying any full effort – assuming such a strategic effort exists – to identify and rapidly promote meritorious personnel who were not associated with Tanaka or the Tanakists. Khrushchev faced a similar problem within the massive institutions of the old USSR (see Part I posted on November 9). So how does a new Sheriff elected on a reform mandate objectively identify leadership talent and merit when a number of those recommendations for promotion are solicited from or must otherwise run a gauntlet of entrenched Tanakists who continue to rehearse the contaminated loyalty politics of Tanakism? There are, of course, ways to solve that management problem. The good news for the LASD is that there is likely a bottleneck of quality leadership talent waiting to be harnessed and promoted that will thicken the scar tissue left behind by Tanakism; men and women of moral and intellectual virtue who will lead the LASD into the next generation. Sheriff McDonnell’s responsibility as an effective leader is to ensure that that talent is in fact harnessed and promoted with minimal delay.

    There is, nevertheless, some anecdotal evidence that the delay in sidelining Tanakists is increasing the angst within and outside of the LASD, moving people from hope to cynicism. The chief cost of cynicism is the steady erosion of a leader’s legitimacy. Diminishing legitimacy and the political capital to affect organizational change no doubt weighs on any reformer’s mind. Consider the narrow organizational point that, while running postwar West Germany, Americans were forced by necessity to use Nazis for a short time. But this was a temporary arrangement until those Nazis thoroughly renounced National Socialism or until competent non-Nazis could be found. Perhaps Mr. McDonnell is using this temporary transitional strategy with Tanakists, delaying what the LA Times called “a thorough de-Tanakafication.” Yet there is no obvious necessity or exigency to do so. First, again, surely a quorum of non-Tanakist leadership talent already exists within the organization waiting to be identified and tapped. Here, artificial proxies such as formal educational attainment in the mode of degrees/diplomas/certificates are by and large unreliable in finding people with the right stuff of leadership (For now, I will omit the argument for why this is so). Second, while a number of Germans were forced at the barrel of a gun or end of a noose to become members of the Nazi Party, no sworn deputy sheriff of any rank was forced to become a Tanakist. This is a key point. Becoming a Tanakist was not a mistake made in the topsy-turvy fog of one’s complex work in law enforcement; it was an intentional act of will; it was a choice, a conscious tradeoff a public servant made (such as former LASD sergeant Eric Gonzalez who, as of November 2, 2015, is now serving an eight-year stretch in federal prison for serious crimes) in order to conflate illegitimate authority (Tanaka) with legitimate authority (US and California constitutions). Indeed, every Tanakist is morally culpable for at least one thing, one fatal flaw of character that ought to handicap their administrative standing and promotability: betraying the spirit and ethic of public service the instant they coveted the inner ring and cult of personality and took action of one sort or another in violation of their constitutional oath or the LASD’s CORE values to support the corruption (the civil, criminal, and administrative cases are too legion to cite here). Was Tanaka’s personnel embedding so far-reaching as to preclude the near-term possibility of promoting qualified non-Tanakists for executive, divisional, and unit positions? Perhaps the Tanakists are now, with bastardized irony, threatening to cloak themselves for protection in the very civil law and administrative rights they so agreeably abused and tried to deny to others during their quest for power. If so, if the Tanakists are actively exploiting Alinsky’s fourth rule – “make the enemy live up to its own book of rules” – then there are quite legitimate, alternative, no-nonsense administrative and legal ways of dealing with that management challenge.

    The bottom line from Michael Lewis’ book/movie Moneyball is dead on: you can’t fix the problem if you don’t know what the problem is. The Jim Collins principle is on target with what the problem is: getting the ‘wrong people’ (e.g., Tanakists) off the bus and getting the ‘right people’ (e.g., smart, ethical, mentally tough, highly talented men and women) on the bus and in leadership seats is the most critical policy issue facing the present and future of the LASD. Great human talent is the chief scarcity any organization faces. Bad organizations, or organizations run badly, fail to recognize this elementary truth. The bus has a finite number of leadership seats. There is no room for both the wrong and right people on the same bus. Indeed, all other policy issues, including those involving the jail, flow from and may be resolved by getting the personnel issue corrected immediately. The citizens of Los Angeles gave Mr. McDonnell such a mandate. He has had nearly a year on the job, in addition to a couple of years studying LASD problems serving on the Citizen’s Commission. He will receive intense political scrutiny in about two years regarding what he did with that mandate and political capital. In that time, if he decides to stand for re-election, he could show that he was at least disrupting corruption and trying to restore public integrity, and argue he now needs another four years to eradicate corruption, root and branch.

    With judicious personnel changes, including a new brain trust and leadership group, the right organizational structure, a more open information environment, an effective interdisciplinary research unit to advance the Sheriff’s law enforcement-leading policy work, citizen-contract city-union-retiree consultations and buy in, and other organizational reforms omitted here, the LASD has the potential after eight years under Sheriff McDonnell to make progress toward becoming a ‘good to great’ organization. The Department has potential to take its rightful place at the apex of premier law enforcement organizations in the country, an honor that must be earned not assumed. Word around the country will continue to spread organically about the reform, and the good and brilliant things going on at the LASD. These personnel and system-wide changes may also just be enough to head-off a federal consent decree.

    I’m grateful to Ms. Fremon and the WitnessLA project and its virtual salon to permit this windy analysis.

  • Koestler’s Ghost, I want to thank you for elevating discourse in this forum, a stark contrast from the bottom end of the spectrum that believes in chewing their favorite tobacco product and sporting ink for the world to see. Your analysis is spot on, and the reservoir of talent within the organization, not tainted by corruption, is losing patience with McDonnell. Part of the problem is the clock, which is no friend to reform when it involves personnel development and human resource management. The cadre of supervisors who did not play the game is of sufficient size to energize McDonnell’s reform efforts and revitalize the leadership ranks of the organization with a healthy purge of the corrupt status quo. The problem is this group is aging and retiring as we speak, taking decades of experience and valuable leadership skills with them.

    Managers and executives not tainted by corruption is a very small group of individuals, however if you were to survey this august crowd they will have a starkly different opinion of their self-worth and value to the organization. To this day they use the same play book their mentor Tanaka used, and the results remain the same, personal loyalty trumping merit every time. It never dawns on department executives, particularly chiefs and assistant sheriffs, that personal loyalty has no value to the bottom line of the organization. It does not promote efficiencies or enhance effectiveness, it does not increase productivity or improve employee morale, quite the opposite. Personal loyalty was the actual tool used by Baca and Tanaka to destroy the organization from within. It’s continued presence is a discredit to McDonnell’s leadership, and undermines whatever legitimacy he is attempting to build.

    Perhaps these individuals feel insecure in their own positions, knowing how they were attained, and believe that surrounding themselves with blindly loyal subordinates, equally underserving, will shelter them from the grim reality of their worthlessness. As the saying goes, in the land of the blind a one-eyed man is king – and I will add that it is not in his best interest to invite a two-eyed man to his kingdom. It’s human nature to manipulate the environment, when you have the power to do so, to always be the top dog. Self-deception designed to avoid embarrassment or threat.

    McDonnell is running out of time, and I see no reason to give him eight years to reform when he is heading in the wrong direction. There are obvious steps he can take to begin the process, but he refuses to do so. The introduction of standards would be a good start for promotions and transfers to leadership positions. Education by itself is no guarantee of anything, I agree. Too many LASDU diplomas mills undermined whatever benefit could be extracted from the introduction of new perspectives in our management paradigm, juxtaposed against the backdrop of executives with a high school education still being employed by McDonnell.

    If McDonnell wants to bid for another term, he needs to reach out to the opposition within the organization that endured years of adversity under Baca and Tanaka. Hiring another consulting firm for another predetermined outcome, one where the obvious is ignored and papered over, is further proof that McDonnell has no intentions of reforming the department. There are many buried skeletons that the board of supervisors prefers to keep buried, and the tradeoff in supporting McDonnell from the onset was his willingness to look the other way.

    I would love to be wrong, but every day that passes without action, every decision made that looks exactly like the previous administration, points to a painful truth. McDonnell could take a bold step by forming a truth and reconciliation committee. A difficult but necessary step in moving forward is to acknowledge the damage that was done throughout the organization and find ways to prevent it from continuing or occurring in the first place.

    This is leadership 101, Sheriff McDonnell. Are you listening?

  • I said it from the start and I’ll say it again. McDonnell is nothing but a political birdie who just got lucky and happened to find a sweet limb to land on. He’s the sheriff by default. Who else ever really had a chance to win? That’s right, nobody.
    He isn’t going to make any meaningful changes. He isn’t going to blow thru the ranks like a cyclone demoting people and transferring people. That’s not what a political bird does. That’s not good politics.

  • In the spirit of the last few posts, it seems like McDonnell has had enough time to Id all the Tanakaites currently in appointed positions and to id those non Tanakaites worthy and capable of replacing them. So it’s time to tell those Tanakaites “your career with this organization is over…retire, resign or be returned to your last civil service rank and placed in a dead end job!”

    Then promote and/or appoint the right people and get on with your plan for change. Waiting to do this makes you, the organization and all of the people in the organization look incompetent.

  • Ahhhhh, all,of these great visionaries are missing the point. Anyone with 25+ on knows this is not the Department we signed on to work for. The proper ideology no longer exists. Crooks need to go to jail, there is a time and place to be a social worker. When I got hired, a Sergeant was a father figure. If you got into a jam, he gave you the proper guidance to get out of the jam and not repeat your mistake. A Lieutenant was the Grandfather, if the Sergeant didn’t have the answer, he always did. Captains and above, we seldom saw them. They were political, being a Cop and being a politician were two different things and did not mix. If a crook or inmate laid a hand on you or your partner, they hit the ground, enough said. The Sheriff made sure his line troops had the equipment they needed, the personnel necessary to do the job, and the support to back all that up. Now, Sergeants are encouraged to demoralize our young Deps. If a Deputy is assaulted and defends himself, he is guilty of retaliating against the AH and is written up or relieved. Deps are encouraged to avoid confrontation and doing the right thing on the street and on the custody environment. Yes, I’m just an old Dep, but even a senile ole Dep like me sees that this Department is falling apart. Mc Donnell was not the answer, just ask LBPD.

  • @LABTG, as usual, you hit the mark. I am beyond disappointed at McDonnell, I’m disgusted. I attended a couple of the debates and listened to his, “fresh eyes” and new leadership speech. McDonnell was anointed by the Los Angeles based Democract Party. They threw their money, their endorsements and their machine behind him. Do you think his appointment to the Jail Commission was simply because Knabe felt McDonnell was “the” most qualified individual to appoint? Not at all, Knabe knew Baca’s days were numbered before Baca even knew. So Knabe took the opportunity to showcase McDonnell to the world. And what did McDonnell really contribute to the Commission? Window dressing. Look at the transcripts, when given the opportunity to question Baca and Tanaka, what did he really do? The same thing he is doing inside LASD now, not much, it’s all window dressing. According to public statements made during the debates by Olmsted, McDonnell had absolutely no intention of running for Sheriff, said “no one can beat Baca.” That was the tune he whistled until Baca received the tap on the shoulder by the Feds and suddenly resigned. McDonnell received “the phone call,” advising him he was the chosen one and he enters the race. And actually, I can’t fault him for that position, I would have done the same thing if I were in his position.

    However, McDonnell knew as well as any insider how dysfunctional and corrupt LASD was from the top, down. And with McDonnell’s landslide win against Tanaka, his voter mandate was to reform LASD. The expectations by the rank and file was McDonnell was going to take office and clean house. And what has he done? Retained and promoted virtually every Tanaka water boy/girl. I’ve listen to his “expectations” speech. Okay, he sure as hell wasn’t speaking to me, but I certainly saw a number of my peers squirm in their seat. So internally, nothing has changed? Virtually nothing. And the last Chief, Commander and Captain lists were absolutely appalling. I gave McDonnell the benefit of the doubt until those lists were published. Now it is obvious what he is and is not doing. It’s all a scam, all a sham. Its politics as usual, no change. And apparently the Times is going to give him a pass, just like they did with Baca until they could no longer do so. No reform, no massive IAB investigation of executive misconduct, nothing. McDonnell is taking the path of least resistance, just like Baca. Shore up your political base, develop political capital and talk tough when you have to. Otherwise, let Gumby Tyler promote his “close friend,” Mannis, and others; keep everyone happy, smile a lot and talk the talk. It’s all political, there will be no reform, it is business as usual. Do NOT count on the media to do their job, the didn’t do it with Baca and they won’t do it with McDonnell. LACERA is the only salvation. The fix is in, its business as usual.

  • LATBG, the professional regard is mutual. Your posts are weighty and insightful. I did not realize the issue of reform was quite this grim, but it does explain some things. While the Board of Supervisors history and moves do not surprise me, it reminds me that downtown Los Angeles is still very much a town run on special interests, favors, handshakes, and backslaps. I know too that any effort to realize the LASD’s potential for improvement would require from Mr. McDonnell and a new (new as in completely new) leadership group high energy, strategic vision, optimistic (though realistic) outlook, accelerated pace, good faith and fair dealing, and piercing intelligence that cuts through the excrement, Tanakist or otherwise.

    Maybe the capacity for becoming a ‘great organization’ Jim Collins writes about just isn’t there. Maybe that considerable leadership talent will remain unharnessed. Your idea of constituting a Truth and Reconciliation Commission is brilliant and would be especially interesting to read. The move Khrushchev made in 1956 had a powerful effect, literally shockwaves across the free and non-free world. Are you thinking along the lines of those Commissions used in Columbia, Rwanda, and South Africa? The Peace Officer Bill of Rights may not permit discipline a year after management became aware of the incident (crime, admin violation, etc.) but it does not preclude Mr. McDonnell from using County resources to have IAB or a special investigative unit finally set matters straight. And it could head off a number of future promotions of Tanakists. Mr. McDonnell would be hard pressed to oppose your proposal. If he does oppose it, it would seem to add to the signals others are revealing that the new Sheriff is effectively covering up historical instances of corruption when he could have done otherwise. I’ve omitted a number of solutions until I review his annual report.

    Stuff, yes, you are right: good prose is a like a clean windowpane. I may have obscured a few things with the windy analysis. Frankly, I thought the comments for the thread were at an end before posting what turned out to be a small monograph. I had very little expectation that it would be read. But may I quickly mention that leaving Stalin out of a management discussion on a cult of personality problem in the LASD would be like leaving the Devil out of a theological discussion on the role of temptation in sin. To know how an organization cleans up after a Stalin has rampaged through it, one must understand what Khrushchev and Gorbachev actually tried to do. For a particular reason I had not given focus in my posts that Mr. McDonnell as an elected Los Angeles official could simply sidestep the Khrushchev and Gorbachev choice. Will he act with short-term self-interest and refuse to do the elementary things outlined by LATBG, 11-Boy, Know the Truth, others, and in my posts (19 and 20)? Or will he act in the long-term interests of the organization viz. Tanakism and Tanakists? Without question, the more costly road for citizens, deputies, and the organization is to do nothing and ignore the personnel issues as outlined. If ignored, those costs will build up over time and the loss of legitimacy will continue to be profound. As you may know, organizational failure is not a pretty thing to see. I suspect you are already aware that the intended audience needing the reminder about the cult of personality was not people like you who’ve been inoculated.

    I’ve got a sympathetic post for Just an Old Dep, but I’ve got to think more about it.

  • @Koestler and LATBG, great stuff. I guess when Phase II gets here, we will really know what type of leadership the Sheriff truly possesses.

  • Invitation to a Tanakist I:

    Before offering one practical solution to the LASD personnel issue, it occurs to me to offer a personal invitation to any existing or former Tanakist (particularly executives, but managers will be fine), or Mr. Tanaka himself, to engage with me in a collegial, fair-minded extended discussion on issues raised during the course of comments posted to this particular article: the 8-year sentence imposed on former LASD sergeant Eric Gonzalez. There have been a number of fine points raised in this forum.

    For example, I invite one or more Executive Tanakists to discuss with me, assuming the permission of Ms. Fremon, one of the most important observations (among many) in this thread of posts, which is the claim that Tanakism as a management practice and Tanakists as leaders not only do not increase efficiencies within the organization, they increase inefficiencies (Post 21). This coupled two-dimensioned claim is either true or it is false. I will argue that both sides of the claim are true. I would like an Executive Tanakist (under a pen name, with identity protected, but someone who is and pledges to be a Tanakist (yes, I know…how would I really know, well, the Tanakist will argue first)) to take the opposite position, defending Tanakism either as an efficient management practice, and/or as not an inefficient management practice. You may argue either way, one or both sides. The discussion may hit upon valid and relevant theoretical, practical, and empirical arguments. If an authority is being cited and a citation is requested, we will do our best to provide that reference. Collegiality in the presentation of the arguments will be maintained at all times. As Christopher Hitchens once said, “In politics and rugby, one should tackle the football and not the man.” I’ll check back periodically, and please give me 2-3 days to reply as necessary (and vice versa). I believe such a discussion could enlighten the categories around the position on a matter of public concern. Such a discussion would seem consistent with the purposes of this fine on-line journal. I will offer the first move to the Tanakist. Thank you.

  • Spoke with a friend today who works another division. She said things inside Custody Division have become so bizarre, so filled with indecision at the Division level, so filled with minutia management, it is difficult to function because decisions are made, changed five minutes after an order was given, she does not know from one day to another what the game plan is, what is important and what is not.

    As an example, she advises Chief Fender receives a phone call from an aide to a BOS who states the mother of an inmate calls called to complain that her son is cold and needs a blanket. Fender calls the facility and tells some to check on it. Fender receives a call back and is advised the inmate already has four blankets, twice the amount required by Title 15 and in violation of jail rules. What is Fender’s take? “Give him another blanket.” Really? Are things that bad that a Division Chief has to get involved in inmate blanket management? Then she says that the video camera security monitoring system inside a particular facility is such that the system can be accessed through an on-line secured server to a home computer system as long as one has the security passcode. So at 0230 hours, a captain from MCJ (they have two now, you know) calls to advise the Watch Commander that he is a home, monitoring the facility video security system and notices a particular module had excessive trash on the row and he wants it swept, immediately. Really? This captain has nothing better to do that he has to call a Watch Commander from home in the middle of the night to complain about a module row? Then she lowers the boom. When inmates are advised to prepare for transfer on the Wayside TST line, if they don’t want to transfer, they refuse and remain inside their cell without fear of discipline. When enough refusals accumulate, another captain holds a “talking circle” where inmates actually sit in a circle and “discuss their feelings.” Unreal.

    What in the World has Custody Divison turned into? Sounds like Missouri syndrome to me. And by the way, “11-Boy” has nothing to do with Firestone Station at all. Those who have been around a while know and already figured it out.

  • Unfortunately, most of the people who have stars and bars on their collars are far removed from what the line deputy, whether patrol, custody, court services etc, has to deal with everyday, They have no grasp with what our deputies are up against.

    A requirement of these decision makers, some who have not worked a line spot in over 20 years, should be that twice a month, take the stars and bars off the collars, and go work a line spot in their division. Patrol Chiefs, Commanders, and Captains, go work a one person radio car. See what kind of crap your deputies are dealing with on a daily basis. By yourself, no having your hand held by SEB or a security detail. Court Services command staff, go work a busy lock up, get a glimpse of what your deputies are dealing with. Custody, same deal.

    It is one thing to read about what your deputies are up against while sitting in your office, second guessing your deputies split second decisions while surrounded by your yes-men staff. Maybe your perspective will change when it is up close and personal.

  • Charles Antuna et al v. County of Los Angeles et al
    Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald
    Case Number:

    Celeste, will you be reporting on this trial when it concludes?

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