A federal judge called out the problem nearly 30 years ago, accusing deputies of running a "neo-Nazi, white supremacist gang" named the Vikings within the Lynwood station. Others followed with names such as the Regulators, Grim Reapers, Rattlesnakes and the Jump Out Boys. Inside the county’s central jail, the 2000 Boys and 3000 Boys ran roughshod over the lockup’s toughest floors.
Now, despite past attempts by sheriff’s officials to discourage internal cliques, fresh allegations have arisen of deputies in the department’s Compton station adorned with matching skull tattoos.
One deputy acknowledged in a recent deposition that he and 10 to 20 of his colleagues at the station had the tattoos but denied there was a formal clique.
Attorneys representing the family of a black man shot by deputies during a 2016 foot pursuit have used the existence of the tattoos to argue there is a clique tied to the killing, which they allege was racially motivated.
It’s unclear whether the tattoos signal a return of a secret deputy group that celebrates violence or something more benign. But some law enforcement experts said it’s important for the Sheriff’s Department to understand what’s going on and make sure the clique mind-set has not returned.
“In addition to investigating the police shooting, the department should also look at the culture,” said Alex Busansky, a former prosecutor who served on a county commission that in 2012 found that the department’s tolerance of cliques contributed to excessive force in the jails. “A place where 20 police officers receive matching tattoos is a place where there is a mentality of us-versus-them, and that on its face is concerning.”
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