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Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva sent a cease-and-desist letter this week to the Board of Supervisors, demanding they and others stop using the phrase “deputy gangs” to refer to secretive groups that operate within department stations.

“This willful defamation of character has injured both individuals and the organization,” Villanueva wrote in the letter, dated Wednesday. “It also serves no purpose other than to fuel hatred and increase the probability of assault and negative confrontations against our people.”

He challenged the supervisors to name deputies “who they can prove are ‘gang members’ ” under the law. “Using this term as a blanket statement,” he wrote, “is political cowardice and opportunistic pandering.”

None of the county supervisors could immediately be reached for comment.

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