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Hundreds of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies said they have been recruited to join secretive, sometimes gang-like cliques that operate within department stations, according to the findings of a survey by independent researchers.

The anticipated study into the problematic fraternities — which L.A. County officials commissioned the Rand Corp. to conduct in 2019 — found 16% of the 1,608 deputies and supervisors who anonymously answered survey questions had been invited to join a clique, with some invitations having come in the past five years.

All of the roughly 10,000 sworn personnel in the department received a survey, and participation was voluntary. The report also includes interviews with a few dozen sheriff’s and county officials, and 140 community leaders and members of the public were also interviewed.

The study concluded that the groups, which have existed for decades in the Sheriff’s Department and have been criticized for glorifying an aggressive style of policing, are more likely to form at “fast” stations — ones that patrol areas with higher levels of violent crime — and are divisive within the Sheriff’s Department. The researchers did not ask deputies whether they’d ever belonged to a clique.

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