The union representing the majority of Los Angeles County deputy Sheriffs requested a judge on Thursday to stop the County’s Office of Inspector General from interviewing dozens of deputies suspected of belonging to gangs.
The Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) told LA Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant that the county could not enforce an order requiring deputies to appear at the interviews. In addition, the Inspector General demanded that suspect deputies display their arms and legs for the inspection to determine if they had gang tattoos.
Jacob A. Kalinski of ALADS said there was no way to “unring” these bells in court. He urged Judge Tolbert to act before any deputies were subjected to possible discipline for refusing to participate or admitting gang affiliation.
In May, the Inspector-General sent letters to 30 deputies suspected to be members of the Banditos Group at the East LA Sheriff’s Station or the Executioners Group at the Compton Sheriff’s Station.
Later, Sheriff Robert Luna ordered his deputies to comply with Inspector General’s letter.
ALADS lawyers stated in court documents that the initial interview request and sheriff’s orders could place suspect deputies at legal risk, regardless of their actions to respond. They also said that deputies were at risk of losing jobs through the sheriff disciplinary process or because POST, the agency in the state that certifies police officers, de-certified the deputies due to gang ties.
The union lawyers also argued that the county had failed to negotiate the requirement that deputies answer questions about their gang affiliation. ALADS claimed that this violated labor laws that prevent government employers from changing terms and conditions without discussion.
Judge Chalfant stated at the hearing on Thursday that he would consider the ‘friend of court’ brief submitted by the ACLU of Southern California. The ACLU of Southern California said there was no immediate harm to deputies if the interviews continued. Still, the community would harm if the deputy gangs continued.
In its court filing, the ACLU stated that an injunction “would not preserve the status quo” but would instead increase harm caused to the community. It would also undermine state and municipal laws intended to eradicate law enforcement groups.
California has a law prohibiting officers from joining law enforcement gangs.
The law defines these gangs as engaging in certain prohibited behaviors. These include discriminating against people based on their protected legal categories, violating other officers’ rights or the rights of members of the general public, and using excessive force repeatedly.
Chalfant told the reporter that he would consider this matter and rule later.
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