L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Pays Price as Clandestine Deputy Cliques Persist
The image on the deputy’s calf depicted a skeleton in an officer’s uniform, wearing a cowboy hat and clutching a smoking rifle.
Jason Zabala said he was inked by an artist who worked at a Sunset Beach tattoo shop and was the 140th person to get the same design. The tattoo, he said, was a proud mark of camaraderie among his fellow peace officers.
But years later, a judge would order Zabala and another Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy to answer questions about whether they were members of a clique and allow their tattoos to be photographed as part of a wrongful-death lawsuit. The county paid $1.5 million to settle the case last year. Zabala denied he was part of a clique.
The Sheriff’s Department is paying a growing price for its failure to find a solution for an issue that decades of watchdog reports and lawsuits have highlighted as a problem.