The message you see on the police car above is a fraud.
The Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department has taught me a lot about the police all across this country.
In parts of Los Angeles, the police terrorize the very communities they are meant to protect. Fathers like George Floyd are murdered most days, all under the pseudo-semblance of the law.
There is a senior fraternity group among the deputy sheriffs, they’re called the “Banditos”. They’re known to harass civilians and other officers. They beat up the mentally-ill, they pick on minority groups, they even intimidate the non-affiliated.
This group shares a common tattoo. It looks like this:
The deputies in the fraternity are protected. Deputies that commit illegal acts of aggression or make things up in reports are defended by other officers who vouch for their version of the truth.
It’s a fairly well-documented but mostly unknown gang clique within the sheriff’s department here in Los Angeles. As far as I know, they’re still in operation today.
In late September of 2019, eight deputies, not affiliated with the group, filed a lawsuit against the Banditos. The lawsuit states that the group uses illegal forms of policing and unprovoked acts of violence to instill a “stranglehold on unincorporated communities east of downtown” and that the members of the group sport “tattoos featuring a pistol-wielding, sombrero-and-bandolier-wearing skeleton with a thick mustache and a unique number for each member.”
This is one lawsuit among three dozen that the Sheriff’s office is facing; all of which point to a deputy “gang culture that encourages excessive force, particularly against minorities.”
This gang is
- men only.
- predominantly Latino.
- under investigation by the FBI — this started in 2019.
- targeting, harassing, and intimidating other Latino officers not in the group.
- forcing other officers to commit illegal acts (often violent) in order to gain entry into their clique.
- highly suspicious of outsiders.
- keeps a tight hierarchical system.
- leaves unaffiliated officers to be left without backup in dangerous situations.
- generating an “inordinate number of lawsuits, harassment claims, acts of violence, including violence against fellow deputies.”
Here is an example — a real example — of how disgusting and warped the system gets. On January 15, 2016, Sheldon Lockett was standing outside his godmother’s house in Compton, California. Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy Samuel Aldama and his partner Mizrain Orrego hopped out of their squad cars with their guns drawn. Lockett runs away, scared. The two deputies announce over the radio he is armed and they chase him into a corner nearby. When Lockett surrendered, the deputies instead beat him senseless while yelling the N-word repeatedly, according to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed in July of that year against the County of Los Angeles.
They found no weapon on Lockett. He was not armed. He also hadn’t committed any crime. But the deputies arrested him and charged him with attempted murder. Lockett couldn’t afford bail so he was locked up in county jail for eight months before the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office dropped all charges against him.
Lockett and his mother filed a complaint against the two deputies with the LASD, but the department declined to investigate and took no disciplinary action against the officers. The following month, the same deputies broke down Lockett’s mother’s door to destroy her home, attempting to discover a gun they claimed that Lockett had pointed at officers. That gun didn’t exist.
That regularly happens. Complaints that rack up miles in height. None of them are taken seriously. Much like Derek Chauvin, if it hadn’t hit the digital airwaves, the complaints would ultimately be dropped.
Imagine the things those reports said. Imagine the things they backed up. Even when they were discovered to be wrong, a man lost eight months of his life in a jail cell. Two people got to do that. Even when wrong, they’re right. No punishment. No fines. No questions (outside of this lawsuit).
In 2014, a female deputy was given a $1.5 million settlement after filing a lawsuit that claimed she was harassed by members of the Banditos. She had faced retaliation, whatever violence that meant, after refusing to give into sexual favors.
Clubs like the Banditos have existed for decades. They’re not new.
They go beyond filing false police reports. Technically, anything they put on a police report is the truth. It’s backed by a senior hierarchy of officers protecting each other, shielded by impermeable lights and hidden behind the banner of “to protect and to serve”.
These fines don’t land on the people committing the misdeed; the money comes out of the taxpayer that these officers tell people they protect. The irony of twisting the rules to serve your own sense of sick justice.
Beating and killing our very own community members.
Then filing false reports.
Knowing that, if you want, on any given day, you can get away with murder.
Knowing that, if you want, you can press your knee down on a father’s neck until he dies, begging for his dead mother to save him.
All while three of your peers stand by idly until you’re finished killing the man. All while recognizing that people are standing around documenting the murder. The height of privilege is standing in front of the world, murdering someone, fully confident that you’re going to get away with it.