After years of denials and stonewalling, there’s a new sheriff in town.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna on Thursday ordered his deputies to submit to interviews by the office of Inspector General Max Huntsman related to alleged deputy gangs, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“Please be advised that all Department personnel who received such a request are hereby ordered to appear and cooperate in such interviews. All statements made by Department personnel shall be full, complete, and truthful statements,” said Luna in an email that the Times described as “firmly worded.”
A statement from the department added that Luna has “remained in communication” with Huntsman’s office and he is in favor of the inquiry.
“The Department supports any investigation that seeks to uncover wrongdoing, since all members of the Sheriff’s Department are expected to hold themselves to the highest ethical and professional standards,” the statement said. “Department members who engage in misconduct or criminal activity will not be tolerated and will be held accountable.”
Last week, Huntsman’s office demanded interviews from 35 deputies accused of being in the Executioners or Banditos gangs, the Times reported.
Deputies’ unions and organizations have reportedly told LASD employees to delay complying with the order, which they claim is unfairly denying their members their rights.
“We aren’t surprised the Sheriff would order his employees to cooperate with an investigation and answer questions truthfully. We remain concerned, however, about various aspects of this investigation and the manner in which Mr. Huntsman apparently intends to go about it, as we’d like to think the basic rights afforded individuals by the Constitution don’t vary from profession to profession,” Richard Pippin, president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, told KTLA in a statement.
In February, Luna took more action against the alleged gangs when he 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,” Luna said in a statement at the time.
Luna’s decisions mark a stark departure from the rules put in place by his predecessor, Alex Villanueva, who long denied the existence of any gangs or cliques within the department.
In March, the Civilian Oversight Commission issued a report that found the gangs have existed for at least 50 years.
In a statement to KTLA after the report’s release, 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.”