Los Angeles Secretive ‘Deputy Gangs’ Focus of Civil Trial, Provides Insight into Tattooed Law Enforcement Members

PC: Cedric Letsch
Via Unsplash

By The Vanguard Staff

LOS ANGELES, CA – A civil trial here this past couple of weeks centered on “gangs,” but not the neighborhood variety—this testimony focused on “deputy gangs” consisting of LA County Sheriff Dept. deputies.

The trial offers a “rare and candid disclosure…centered on the secretive world”—as the Los Angeles Times wrote—of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Dept. deputy gangs, “reports of which have plagued” the department for a half century, and  has “led to an array of investigations, studies and legal settlements.

Deputy Lt. Larry Waldie sued the county in 2020, claiming retaliation, alleging he was demoted when he “openly opposed” the control the deputy gang—called the Executioners—had over the Compton station while he was acting captain there, said the LA Times.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Jaime Juarez “told the court about his first inking party—the day he got his Compton station tattoo. The intimate gathering was at a home somewhere in Pomona, and most of the people there were strangers.

“But he knew the man who invited him, and knew that man sported the same ink Juarez was about to get — a design commonly linked to a suspected deputy gang known as the Executioners,” wrote the LA Times.

Juarez pushed up a pant leg to reveal that tattoo: a helmet-wearing skeleton gripping a rifle. 

The first few weeks of testimony included current and former Sheriff’s Department officials, and as the Times noted, “Some witnesses offered the names of everyone they’d seen with the so-called Executioners tattoo. One provided pictures of a detective bureau desk decorated with the group’s symbol in several places. 

“But as much as last week’s testimony revealed, it also underscored the difficulties inherent in investigating the secretive cliques. The sheriff has acknowledged that deputy gangs exist and has created an office in his department to ‘eradicate’ them,” the LA Times reported.

However, former Sheriff Alex Villanueva disagreed with the use of the term “deputy gangs,” sending the county Board of Supervisors a cease-and-desist letter last year to demand it stop using “deputy gangs.”

But deputy gangs was not the source of Waldie’s complaint his lawyer said—it was not being promoted permanently to captain at Compton, with the county arguing he wasn’t promoted because others were more qualified.

The LA Times wrote “Waldie — whose father was once an undersheriff in the same department — had been working as the operations lieutenant at Compton station for several months when he took over as the acting captain in January 2019.”

“At the time, Juarez was the Compton scheduling deputy, which gave him power in choosing the training and vacation schedules for others at the station. In early 2019, he approached Waldie with a list of other possible deputies he wanted to take over the scheduling position,” said the LA Times.

But Waldie said he believed Juarez was a “tattooed member of the Executioners, and he wanted a new scheduling deputy who was not,” refusing the request, causing Juarez to allegedly orchestrate a “work slowdown” at the station. “After Waldie complained to higher-ups, he said, Juarez was transferred to another station for a few months,” said the LA Times.

But Waldie was rejected as Captain, and his lawyer argued it was an act of retaliation for complaining about gang activity, even though the county said Waldie was a member of another “deputy gang” —the Gladiators—and he had promoted or given special attention to “fellow Gladiators,” said the LA Times.

Another key witness in the trial was the former sheriff, Villanueva, who charged Waldie’s “remarkable ascension” through the department was nepotism, which ultimately could have left him less qualified as a candidate for captain.

“He also denied there were ever gangs inside the Sheriff’s Department and said he enacted an anti-gang policy only to address the ‘negative campaign’ by the Board of Supervisors. He went on to tell the court that he’d never seen the skeleton tattoo until a photograph of it was published with a news article, and that he’d never conducted a study to determine which tattoos existed within the department,” reported the LA Times.

The court rundown by The LA Times wrote, “The tense testimony comes amid broader debates about when deputies can or cannot be forced to show their tattoos, or reveal the names of others who sport the same ink,” noting a county watchdog order for deputies to show their tattoos, backed by the current Sheriff, Robert Luna.

However, deputy unions filed a labor complaint and a lawsuit, “arguing that the sheriff’s order circumvented the collective bargaining process and violated deputies’ constitutional rights,” said the LA Times.

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