#GangstersWithBadges Alex Villanueva

LA Sheriff trashes RAND report on deputy gangs, refuses subpoena to talk to LASD Oversight Commission, & claims that County Counsel’s legal opinion on deputy gangs is laughable.

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

On Wednesday morning, Sheriff Alex Villanueva held a press conference in order to respond to the RAND Corporation’s long-awaited report released earlier this month in which the RAND researchers studied and analyzed the deputy subgroups — known by many as deputy gangs — that have plagued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for a half century.

At the beginning of his press conference, the sheriff sounded upbeat, as he announced that he and his administration had already accomplished all the key recommendations that the RAND people listed.

After that, the sheriff proceeded to slam the report, which was commissioned by the LA County Board of Supervisors, who are pretty much fed up with the deputy gang issue, 

“They were not interested in the truth,” said the sheriff of the authors of the 230-page report (which WLA wrote about here, and which you can read for yourself here).

Deputy gangs or subgroups, according to Villanueva’s Wednesday analysis, are a “problem of perception but not reality.”

Furthermore, the sheriff told reporters that, “sub groups exist in every large organization, especially paramilitary organizations.”

As for the members of the so-called deputy gangs, or sub groups, or deputy cliques, such as those affiliated with the Banditos of the department’s East LA station, the Grim Reapers originally out of the Lennox station, and the Executioners who are associated with the LASD’s Compton station, Sheriff Villanueva had this to say:

“They’re a glorified bunch of people who go to the river on the weekend and party. That’s all they are.”

Nevermind that the actions of some of these harmless river partiers have triggered major lawsuits, and a seemingly limitless string of high ticket legal settlements that LA County taxpayers wind up paying.

(On the former topic, the latest draft of the legal complaint written by Attorney Vincent Miller, who represents a list of LASD deputies in a civil lawsuit. lays out allegations of “assaults, threats, intimidation,” and more allegedly inflicted on the plaintiffs by members of the Banditos deputy clique.)

The sheriff’s broad dismissal of the RAND report, however, was just one of many verbal mud pies Villanueva tossed at county officials and others on Wednesday.

He also took potshots at the legal opinion rendered recently by LA County Counsel regarding the parameters that should and should not govern efforts to curb deputy cliques or gangs. On Wednesday, citing no details, the sheriff deemed the opinion, “laughable.”

(WitnessLA will have more on County Council’s opinion and a second relevant legal opinion regarding deputy gangs.)

Also there’s the matter of the subpoena.

Subpoenas, weaponized investigations, & a motion

Wednesday’s slam-the-RAND-report press conference came at a time when tensions between Sheriff Villanueva, and those tasked with oversight of the LA County Sheriff’s Department, was already ratcheting up into the red zone.

One of the biggest recent causes of ratcheting tension occurred last month when the LASD’s Civilian Oversight Commission (COC), subpoenaed Sheriff Villanueva in order to ensure his presence at the Commission’s monthly meeting on Thursday, September 23, in order to discuss some topics the commission members consider pressing.

But after being served with a subpoena on August 26, 2021, on September 9, the sheriff wrote to the Commission’s executive director, Brian K. Williams, to say that he will not, in fact, be attending the Commission’s September 23 meeting, virtually or otherwise He’s very busy, Villanueva said, or words to that effect.

One of the primary issues the COC commissioners want to discuss with the head of the nation’s largest sheriff’s department at Thursday’s meeting, was his habit of launching criminal investigations against oversight officials he appears to be believe may have done him wrong.

Last July, WitnessLA wrote about the sheriff’s pattern of using the threat of criminal investigations as cudgel against those he deems have treated him unfairly, especially if those on his bad list are engaged in some kind of oversight of the LASD.

This same issue was documented in a ten-page report by COC Commissioner Sean Kennedy, who described in detail how, for more than two years, Sheriff Villanueva, with the help from certain members of his administration, had been targeting oversight officials and other “perceived political adversaries,”  with what seem to be specious criminal investigations that never result in actual charges.

(You can read Kennedy’s report here: LASD Investigations of Oversight Officials

Now, in view of the sheriff’s refusal to show up to respond to questions about these ongoing weaponized criminal probes — some directed at members of the COC themselves, and against the Max Huntsman, the LA County Inspector General — at Thursday’s meeting the commissioners will vote on a motion that, if passed, will direct County Council to “forward potential illegal activity by the Los Angeles County Sheriff to the California Attorney General for Investigation.”

In addition, if it is approved by the COC, the motion will direct County Council to file a petition with the Los Angeles County Superior Court for an Order to Show Cause “as to why Sheriff Villanueva should not be held in contempt for his failure to appear pursuant to a properly served subpoena.”

We’ll let you know how it goes. So….watch this space.

Post script

As many readers know, WLA has been taking a break from comments.

However after a number of persuasive requests, we have turned the comment section back on for a few particular posts, this one among them. We welcome your thoughts.

Y’all know the rules for commenting. #CivilityRules. Don’t break ’em.


  • Well, well, well. Is anyone surprised that Allie is still playing by the same old tired and worn out play book of his? The one that says, blame any an all critics for his obvious shortcomings and outright failures, as well as threaten to expose criminal behavior of political foes, and then duck and dodge like crazy if called on to provide even the slightest piece of evidence to back any of his claims.

    Once a jackal, always a jackal. And this jackal dosen’t change his spots.

  • If I remember correctly the legal opinion limiting Villanueva authority with deputy subgroups was issued when Jim McDonnell was Sheriff. Now we have a new legal opinion. The constitution has not changed.

    Villanueva is up to bat now and needs to aggressively deal with these subgroups. It was crazy how they flourished under Tanaka.

    I never really understood senior managements protection of some of these wayward groups like the 2000 and 3000 boys. We have one candidate in the Sheriff’s race that was deeply involved with Tanaka. Cecil Rhambo needs to be compelled to explain himself and his failure to address subgroups when he had the chance.

    To be blunt, Baca, Tanaka and Rhambo’s failures lead to civil rights violations, consent decrees and cost the tax payers 10os of millions of dollars.

    I do not agree that the problem is as wide spread as indicated in the RAND report but not all deputy social groups are just about going to the river. Some deputy go down the wrong path. Villanueva is minimizing the behavior.

  • Agree with Truth Seeker, I’ve never understood why the Dept execs didn’t come down hard on these childish morons who get involved in these groups who go over the line – like his mention of the CJ children. The Banditos fit the bill as well, Alex – wake the fuck up!

    Sure there are other groups who think it is cool to adopt a name and a tat – as stupid as it seems to me – and they may be the ones AV is talking about when he is saying they are going to the river to party. Fine, but to lump all these “groups” together isn’t doing anyone any good. DO SOMETHING about the problem people in the problem groups – don’t give it lip service like you have at ELA – and everyone knows that is all you have done. The Dept execs finally got some balls and (too late) transferred the problem children back in the Viking days – not the bullshit you claim you have done, I mean transfer the ACTUAL problem people. Back then they just stopped short by not putting a watchdog on these people to make sure they did not metastasize their bullshit at their new units or any time in the future. If it causes problems with the union – consider it good problems. This would be one battle you should actually take on and would win much support both inside and outside the Department.

    To ignore the pile of elephant crap in your office makes you look totally corrupt and a part of the problem rather than a leader who is a problem solver (like you looked in Venice).

  • Nothing new within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
    Villanueva imitating a tough guy towards the Board of Supervisors is no bueno.
    Unfortunately for the sake of change, everyone in LASD is connected.
    A fearless unconnected outsider is needed to turn the nation’s largest Sheriff’s Department around.

  • The department has been lacking true leadership since the day Sheriff Sherman Block died. Baca was NOT a leader, he was only a feeble weak corrupt little man who allowed “Little Hitler” or Tanaka to run his department into the ground while he focused on his political future. Can anyone imagine Leroy in a political position outside of LASD.

    If you are a leader on this department and not a follower, you will agree with this statement, these Deputy gangs, cliques or subgroups existed and still do. Whatever you want to call them, they exist and they are not something made up by the BOS or someone outside the department. Now, not everyone who has station ink will take part in a stupid situation like the brawl involving the Banditos, but let’s be honest that is a group of some really SPECIAL MORONS. The Banditos have gang names or monikers and they walk around talking and acting like a gang by beating up fellow Deputies. We used to protect our own and teach them how to be hard workers and good cops! How utterly embarrassing this department has become!

    Years ago, station ink was a thing to be respected, a proud moment in deputies career as he was receiving the nod or acceptance from his fellow deputies for all of his hard work, dedication to his partners and putting bad guys in cages. Station ink was not something given out to deputies who belonged to the sick lame and lazy group.

    Years later, Station ink started to morf into something it was never intended to be, which included allowing ARROGANT custody deputies to create and foster a tattoo while inside the jails. Back in my day, station ink was a patrol station thing and waited your turn to go out to patrol and work hard and earn the right be asked to be inked.

    But today, the station tattoo has changed into a popularity contest for those who are willing to kiss the ass of those idiots who came before them for that feeling of acceptance. Its no longer based on hard work, dedication to your partners and putting criminals in cages.

    Throughout my career, I have seen some sorry ass, non working, lazy deputies receive station ink and I just shake my head and laugh. Working hard and being proud of what you do is much more important then being a part of a group or morons whose ethical compass needs a tune up.

    Wake up AV and the entire executive branch of LASD, especially those of you who are inked or associated with those who are inked, it’s time to make changes before our department gets buried behind this debacle and some of you get called out by name to explain your station tattoo.

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