At least four “secret cliques or gangs” of sheriff’s deputies — with names like the Banditos and the Executioners — continue to operate and recruit within the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, despite recent reforms intended to ban them. The persistence of illicit factions is described in a new report commissioned by L.A. County that rebukes a department that “either can’t or won’t” manage a problem that is undermining the legitimacy of the law enforcement agency, and has cost local taxpayers tens of millions of dollars to settle claims of recklessness, violence, and harassment.
Conducted by the RAND Corporation on behalf of the county government, the report draws on an unprecedented survey of the department’s roughly 10,000 sworn personnel, and reveals that nearly one-in-six deputies have been invited to join a “subgroup” — a quarter of those within the past five years. (The report opts for the neutral language of “subgroups” and “cliques,” but recognizes that critics have long decried these factions as “gangs,” pointing to pervasive initiation rituals, tattoos, hand signs, and the groups’ often-violent behavior.)
Since 1990, the county has paid out nearly $55 million in “subgroup related judgments,” including $21 million in the past decade alone. In 2019, for example, the county paid out $7 million to settle a wrongful death claim filed by the family of a man shot and killed by a deputy with an Executioners tattoo.
The report identifies four subgroups by name as “currently active,” each operating within a different geographic station within LASD: the Banditos of East Los Angeles station, the Reapers of South Los Angeles station, the Spartans of Century station, and the Executioners of Compton station.