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Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department police officers could be operating internally as gang members and Sheriff Jim McDonnell is investigating claims of a secret gang society among the department’s ranks.
McDonnell said at least 20 Compton deputies have matching tattoos of a skeleton holding a rifle and he has launched an investigation into a link to cops taking part in illegal gang activity after a deputy recently admitted under oath he got the mark a few months before a fatal shooting.
“Renegade cliques erode public confidence as well as internal morale, and they will not be tolerated within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department,” McDonnell said, according to the LA Times.
The catalyst that brought light to the investigation stems from a 2016 fatal shooting of Donta Taylor who was shot six times by Compton Station Deputy Samuel Aldama and another deputy.
The family filed a wrongful death lawsuit and in a deposition in that case, Aldama reportedly admitted that he is one of 10 to 20 of his colleagues inked with the tattoo featuring the skeleton with the letters “C P T” for Compton.
However, he said the tattoo was a symbol for “working hard” and not gang related.
The district attorney’s office determined that the deputies acted lawfully and were within their rights.
Priscilla Ocen, a Loyola Law School professor and member of the oversight commission looking into the investigation, said McDonnell’s effort was “a good first step.”
“But the question is, if we investigate and find that there is a rampant culture of cliques or gangs in the Sheriff’s Department, then what will be done about it?” she asked.
McDonnell said he will give his take on the investigation after the report is received in about three months.
“At the end of the day, everyone, most importantly our public, should be confident that there are no ‘gangs’ of deputies operating subversively anywhere within the department,” McDonnell said.