The Los Angeles County Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission (COC) said it is launching an investigation over alleged gang activity within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD).

On Thursday, Commission Chair Sean Kennedy said the alleged LASD deputy gangs have “plagued” L.A. County for decades and the panel will consult with a team of pro bono lawyers to “eradicate” the alleged gangs.

“Deputy gangs have fostered and promoted excessive force against citizens, discriminated against other deputies based on race and gender, and undermined the chain of command and discipline,” Kennedy  said. “Despite years of documented history of this issue, the Department has failed to eliminate the gangs.”

Leading the investigation will be attorney Bert. H Deixler, with assistance from L.A. County Inspector General Max Huntsman.

On Tuesday, Inspector General Huntsman penned a letter addressed to Sheriff Alex Villanueva, alleging that at least 40 current members of LASD have been linked to internal gangs through specific tattoos and initiations.

Villanueva responded by saying Huntsman has an “unhealthy obsession to attack the department,” with no evidence provided.

The COC investigation is expected to span five to six months, reviewing existing policies, while proposing new policies for the Sheriff’s Dept.

The COC was implemented by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors in 2016, created to “improve public transparency and accountability with respect to the Sheriff’s Department.”

The committee said it has tracked past reported gang activity within the Sheriff’s Dept., pointing to the 2012 Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence Report, the Inspector General’s Analysis into the Banditos, and Knock LA’s reporting on deputy gangs, all which came before Sheriff Villanueva’s time in office.

Sheriff Villanueva responded to the Civilian Oversight Committee’s announcement, calling it “nothing new” and “political theater.”

Villanueva added that nearly 6,000 pages of information on the topic were given to the inspector general and the department has a dedicated page for “employee misconduct” where evidence of “deputy gangs” may specifically be reported.

The sheriff continued by saying that no one on his staff has ever been accused of gang activity by the Civilian Oversight Committee, L.A. County Board of Supervisors, or the attorney general. He then said this investigation is being done in part to “influence the outcome of an election.”

“As I have previously stated, I openly challenge every elected leader, or their appointees, to provide facts to me and name individuals who they can prove are ‘gang members,’ as defined by California Penal Code section 13670,”  Villanueva said on Thursday. “Not one elected official, or their political appointees, have provided me even one name. I await whatever new FACTUAL information they can provide.”

LA Weekly