What happens when the very badges chosen to dismantle and disempower the gangs of Los Angeles County form a gang of their own?
It's no secret that the L.A. County Sheriff's Department -- whose reputation with the public has completely disintegrated under Sheriff Lee Baca, in a swirl of scandals including rogue/racist deputies beating inmates to a pulp, prisoners in wheelchairs dragging themselves across the jailhouse floor, and worse -- is a breeding ground for deputy cliques.
Some of the ones who have been outed, over the years:
The 3000 Boys. The 2000 Boys. The Grim Reapers. The Little Devils. The Regulators. The Vikings. (Yes, it appears the Sheriff's Department is living out a 1980s biker bromance flick.)
But what about when the department's own Gang Enforcement Team morphs into a fiercely loyal group of gangsters in uniform who function outside department policy and fight street-gang violence with their own special brand of trigger-happy, Wild West policing?
The Los Angeles Times alleges in an anonymously sourced article posted yesterday evening that a group called the Jump Out Boys has formed within the elite gang unit. And sheriff's officials seem to be acknowledging the discovery of "a document suggesting the group embraces shootings as a badge of honor."
From the Times:
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 moniker is telling of the gang cops' alleged obsession with taking criminals by surprise and, uh, blasting their brains out. To quote Urban Dictionary, because that seems pretty appropriate right now:
"The 'Jump Out Boys' are usually either the swat team, or the cops on stake outs inside the sound van, listening in on wire taps or wired informants. When tipped off, or alerted, these officers are known to jump out of the vehicle and subdue suspects by force... . Some gangs and/or squads are known to call themselves 'Jump Out Boys' due to their similar, jump out style."
"The last thing anybody wants to do in law enforcement is shoot a weapon," sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore tells the Times.
But cop-to-criminal gunfire has been on the uptick. If officer-involved shootings are indeed being worn as a badge of honor, that might explain the recent surge in hazy incidents where L.A. Sheriff's deputies claim they had to shoot because a suspect reached for his waistband. (A go-to when the target turns out not to have been armed, or was shot in the back, etc.)
Then again, how can we really expect these little boys to behave any better, when a former (?) member of The Lynwood Vikings -- a "neo-Nazi, white supremacist gang" within the Sheriff's Department -- has been promoted to Baca's executive staff?
We're talking about Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, the notorious puppeteer behind Baca's "Teflon" regime who still wears a Vikings tattoo on his ankle. And he may not be the only supervisor in deep, as dogged sheriff watchdog Witness LA reveals in its post on the Jump Out Boys:
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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 inside the departments' internal investigatory units like IAB and ICIB.
Based on this information, it would appear the Vikings are investigating the Jump Out Boys.
How very reassuring.