Los Angeles County has paid out roughly $55 million in settlements since 1990 in civil cases involving allegations that sheriff’s deputies belonged to a secret society, records show.
Los Angeles County has paid out roughly $55 million in settlements in cases in which sheriff’s deputies have been alleged to belong to a secret society, records obtained by the Los Angeles Times show, illuminating the entrenched nature of a subculture that has plagued the Sheriff’s Department for years.
The figure comes from a list that includes payouts in dozens of lawsuits and claims involving deputies associated with tattooed groups accused of glorifying an aggressive style of policing. The report, prepared by L.A. County attorneys, lists nearly 60 cases, some of them still pending, and names eight specific cliques.
The county has paid out nearly $21 million in cases beginning in the last 10 years alone, according to the document.
The high cost underscores how these deputy groups — with monikers such as the Vikings, Regulators, 3000 Boys and the Banditos — have operated out of several Sheriff’s Department stations and jails for decades, exhibiting what critics have long alleged are the violent, intimidating tactics similar in some ways to criminal street gangs. The cases involve incidents that date to 1990.
Over the years, a succession of elected sheriffs has failed to bring the subgroups under control despite multiple internal investigations and, more recently, a probe by the FBI. Many civil liberties advocates and county watchdogs have accused the Sheriff’s Department of turning a blind eye.
“I think it’s a willful failure,” said John Sweeney, an attorney who has represented families of people killed by deputies. “For some reason, they pride themselves, the Sheriff’s Department, on having these violent cliques I guess to show the public who’s the boss. But, you know, what it does is just fosters a horrible relationship between the community that these sheriffs serve.”