On Friday, a special counsel appointed by the Civilian Oversight Commission released its scathing findings with recommendations for system-wide changes in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in regard to alleged deputy gangs.

The report calls on Sheriff Robert Luna to adopt a policy that blocks deputies from participating in deputy gangs. It also found that these alleged gangs have existed in the department for at least 50 years and that misconduct against colleagues and members of the public has caused the county millions of dollars in civil settlements and judgments.

The findings revealed a “climate of physical fear and professional retribution to those who would speak publicly about the misconduct of such groups.”

Throughout this process, several deputies testified about alleged retaliation toward those who voiced concerns about these alleged gangs.

“I know this commission will continue to keep the pressure on, in the appropriate places, to see that this report is addressed appropriately,” said James P. Harris, a commission member and former lieutenant in the department.

As for cracking down on the so-called gangs, Vice Chair of the Commission Jamon Hicks told KTLA the first step is acknowledging they exist. He also suggested the department could ban “certain tattoos” that have long been associated with suspected deputy gangs.

“You couldn’t have tattoos that depict anything violent. You can’t have any tattoos that would depict anything related to deputy-involved shootings. You couldn’t have any tattoos of an offensive or racially insensitive nature,” he said.

Sheriff Robert Luna last month announced the creation of the Office of Constitutional Policing, led by former U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker.

“This office will be staffed with attorneys, investigators, and auditors, and it will be tasked with helping to eradicate deputy gangs from this department,” he said in a statement.

While Luna has taken steps to crack down on the alleged gangs, his predecessor took a different tack on the issue.

The former Sheriff Alex Villanueva has long refuted the claims published after the multi-month investigation.

The commission has previously blasted Villanueva, claiming he did nothing to address this issue during his time in office and allegedly obstructed criminal investigations into deputy gang involvement.

In a statement to KTLA, Villanueva said that “multiple failed lawsuits and depositions have revealed there is zero evidence of deputy gangs in the LASD” and the commission’s report is “not worth the paper it was written on.”

“These special hearings were nothing more than political theater, complete with a fake courtroom, designed to influence the outcome of the 2022 sheriff election,” he said, alluding to his failed reelection campaign. “Now the sheriff has to pretend to eradicate a boogeyman that doesn’t exist.”

In a statement, Richard Pippin, vice president the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, said the deputies’ union has “always been a willing partner to assist the department to improve its performance and strengthen public trust.”

Despite Pippin criticizing the commission for the “mischaracterization of ALADS’ position” on unlawful behavior by law enforcement, he expressed hope for the future.

“Nevertheless, we do believe that, working together, there is a way forward to achieve common objectives without infringing on anyone’s rights,” he wrote. “ALADS’ members are hardworking peace officers who risk their lives each day to protect others, and it is our hope that under Sheriff Robert Luna, ALADS can actively participate to help enhance the department’s ability to create a safer Los Angeles County.”