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Deputy Unions Challenge L.A. Sheriff's Gang Tattoo Search

The unions for Los Angeles sheriffs' deputies are formally opposing the Sheriff's Department's demands that deputies show their tattoos in an investigation of gang activity inside the department, the Los Angeles Times reports. In one action, a labor complaint, the unions — the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs and the Professional Peace Officers Association — said the county created a new condition of employment when Sheriff Robert Luna threatened to discipline or fire anyone who didn’t fully cooperate with the inspector’s general investigation. The deputy sheriffs association then sued, arguing that ordering deputies to cooperate with the inspector general’s investigation and show their tattoos would violate the 4th Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches as well as the 5th Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination and the right to privacy under California’s constitution.

The Sheriff’s Department, the nation's largest, has long faced allegations about secretive deputy groups running amok in certain stations and jails, controlling command staff and promoting a culture of violence. A Loyola Marymount University report released in 2021 identified 18 such groups that have existed over the last five decades, including the Executioners and the Banditos. Members of the former are alleged to sport tattoos of a skull with Nazi imagery and an AK-47, while members of the latter are allegedly known for their matching tattoos of a skeleton outfitted with a sombrero, bandoleer and pistol. After learning of the lawsuit, Inspector General Max Huntsman — the county watchdog whose bevy of letters set off the legal wrangling — did not respond to the details of the filing, but instead pointed to a recent state law that gives inspectors general added authority to probe police or deputy gangs. “We look forward to court rulings on the new California laws providing for external investigation of law enforcement gangs,” he said.


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