By Macy Lu
LOS ANGELES – Grassroots nonprofit Dignity and Power Now (DPN) has released a statement condemning the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) for its passive response to the harm that “sheriff deputy gangs” have had on LA residents for the past 50 years.
The LA-based organization, which has been fighting for the rights of incarcerated people and their families since its 2012 inception, said it felt compelled to speak out against sheriff’s deputy gangs after the Center for Juvenile Law and Policy (CJLP) at the Loyola Law School released a report identifying 18 such gangs.
The report additionally analyzes the deputy sheriff gangs’ detrimental influence on policing practices and the LA justice system. It notes that in the last 50 years “many LASD members have embraced a warrior model of policing in which deputies behave like an occupying force over the communities they police.”
In response to the CJLP report, DPN Executive Director Dr. Lamia El Sadek commented:
“For too long, it has been an open secret that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is replete with violent Deputy gangs, secrecy and corruption…we are encouraged by the important evidence that this LMU CJLP Report brings to light…Our organizers and family members will not stop demanding accountability for deputy violence.”
The risks due to sheriff deputy gangs and cliques is one reason why the grassroots organization has long advocated for divesting resources away from the LASD to “community-based and front-end approaches to public safety.”
As an organization that favors civilian oversight over the LASD, Dignity and Power Now said it believes it is crucial for authorities and institutions to start believing community members who are brave enough to voice their stories of law enforcement trauma.
DPN’s Director of Campaigns and Policy, Lex Steppling, even goes so far as to claim that if “the press and academia” paid more consistent attention the gangs then “public reckoning would have come much sooner.”
LASD’s practice of labeling community members as gang members based primarily on their “race and class identity” while hypocritically supporting “thriving Sheriff gangs that have existed for generations” also did not escape DPN’s criticisms.
The organization denounced the sheriff’s department’s liberty to label an incarcerated individual as a gang member for so much as expressing affiliation with cultural symbols of Black and Chicano identity. It is a “racial profiling…tool to decide the futures of Black and Brown youth,” DPN claims.
Association with a gang allows courts to impose additional punishments to the initial felony and is frequently cited to extend sentences, decide what programming a person can access while in prison, whether they are eligible for education and job training, and whether they qualify for early transitional housing.
“That law enforcement officers can be known members of Deputy gangs, yet our communities can’t express pride for the Chicano flag, or their cultural literature, is the ultimate double standard,” stressed Michael Saavedra, DPN’s Community Engagement Organizer.
Macy is a junior from Orange County, CA, studying Communications and English at UC Davis. She loves meeting people, reading, and writing.
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