UPDATE: On Tuesday, July 23, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in favor of the motion to direct County Counsel to develop recommendations to expand the authority of the Office of the Inspector General in order to look into the issue of deputy cliques, and also to enable the OIG’s “ongoing review of matters involving the LA Sheriff’s Department,” in general.
Los Angeles Supervisors Janice Hahn and Mark Ridley-Thomas have co-authored a motion that, should it pass at next week’s July 23rd board meeting, appears nearly ready to grant subpoena power to the Office of the Inspector General so that the OIG can effectively investigate the deputy gangs that appear to still be running rife through the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, if recent filings of deputy gang-related civil rights lawsuits, and recent settlements of other deputy gang-related civil rights lawsuits are any indication of the matter.
“These secret societies are a dangerous problem,” the motion states. “They not only erode public trust in law enforcement and undermine the chain of command, we are concerned that they promote racism, sexism, and violence. In addition, they are a significant liability to Los Angeles County and the cities that contract with the Sheriff’s Department for the actions of deputies who choose to belong to one of these secret societies. The menacing names of these secret societies: Banditos, Reapers, Spartans, Regulators, and Vikings, may exist to intimidate not only other deputies but the general public as well.”
According to the motion, the Inspector General himself has requested expanded authority in order to have the ability to help the board “better understand of these secret societies,” as well as the ability to issue subpoenas should the Sheriff’s Department continue to deny access to information and refuse efforts by the public to hold them accountable.”
The motion indicates that the board took notice of “recent reports” that the “FBI is once again investigating the Sheriff’s Department,” this time concerning the “pervasive influence of deputy secret societies within the Department,” wrote Hahn and Ridley-Thomas.
If passed, the motion will direct County Counsel, in consultation with the IG, to develop recommendations to expand the authority of the Inspector General in order to look into, not just the issue of deputy cliques, but also to explore the idea of giving the OIG the ability to issue subpoenas “in their ongoing review of matters involving the Sheriff’s Department” in general.
All involved are to report back to the board on the matter in 30 days.
Yet, it is hard not to see the motion, if passed, also pointing beyond itself to suggest that the recent request by juvenile advocates, and the temporary probation oversight body known as the PRIT, for the soon to be created Probation Oversight Commission to have “the power to compel,” also known as subpoena power.
So is it possible that the motion suggests that some form of subpoena power for all three bodies are being at least placed on the table? Or would giving subpoena power to the Inspector General be the most legally efficient way of providing the “power to compel” to both the soon-to-come-into-being POC, as well as the existing LASD’s Civilian Oversight Commission, since the OIG can conceivably investigate for both oversight commissions.
“This is another step forward,” said Ridley-Thomas of the motion, “in the effort to reform the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
An effort that, unfortunately, appears still to be needed.
In any case, the board is expected to vote on the motion on Tuesday, July 23. So watch this space.
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This story was updated at 9:46 p.m., July 16, 2019, and on July 23 at 1:13 p.m..
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the LA County Supervisors voted to give the Office of Inspector General subpoena power.
Photo at top by WitnessLA