For decades there have been complaints about secret LA County Sheriff’s Department cliques or gangs. In July 2018, then-Sheriff McDonnell announced a comprehensive study of these secret cliques, but the status and results of this investigation is unknown. After a new lawsuit was filed against the County alleging a hostile work environment in the East LA Sheriff’s Station has been created by one of these secret cliques, today the Board of Supervisors approved a motion authored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis that directed the Office of the Inspector General, the Civilian Oversight Commission, and County Counsel to continue the study and report back to the Board of Supervisors.

“The public deserves to be served by law enforcement that they trust. However, unprofessional, threatening, and dangerous behavior by a small minority of Sheriff’s deputies violates that trust,” said Supervisor Solis. “In particular, the East LA community deserves to have confidence in those who protect and serve them in the East LA Sheriff’s Station. We must move quickly and expeditiously to change a culture that allows secret cliques of Sheriff’s deputies to flourish – so that these cliques can be eliminated once and for all.”

As far back as in 1971, a secret clique called the “Little Devils” existed at the East LA Sheriff’s Station. In 1992, a watchdog panel asked the Sheriff’s Department to end secret cliques. Twenty years later, the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence found that “the [Sheriff’s] Department has a long history of deputy cliques…these subcultures within the Department contributed to acts of insubordination, aggressive behavior, and excessive force in the jails for many years.”

Although then-Sheriff McDonnell announced a “comprehensive study of the issue of tattoos and the Sheriff’s Department and subgroup cultures” in 2018, the current status of this investigation, as well as its results and any next steps that are needed to end these secret cliques, is unknown.

Today’s action also requests Sheriff Alex Villanueva to direct his personnel to cooperate with this study. The Office of the Inspector General, the Civilian Oversight Commission, and County Counsel are also ordered to report back to the Board on the status of the study, as well as the cooperation of the Sheriff, within 90 days. Finally, the County’s Chief Executive Officer is directed to report back in 30 days with recommendations on how to expand the Police Integrity unit in the Public Defender’s office and the Integrity Unit within the District Attorney’s office.