LOS ANGELES, Calif. – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the opening of a state civil rights probe into the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department following allegations of excessive force. The department has had a number of officer-involved shootings as of recent, including the controversial killing of Westmont cyclist Dijon Kizzee. The department has routinely rejected civilian oversight.
The LASD, which has jurisdiction of over 200 towns and cities in an area with a history of racism in policing, will be investigated for patterns of unconstitutional practice, according to a statement from the Attorney General’s office.
“The California Department of Justice investigation comes on the heels of allegations of excessive force, retaliation, and other misconduct, as well as a number of recent reported incidents involving LASD management and personnel,” the statement read.
The department has been marred with allegations of “deputy gangs,” within the department. A Loyola Law School report estimated as many as 18 gangs within the department.
“These deputy gangs foster a culture of violence and escalate uses of force against community members, including fatal shootings,” Sean Kennedy, executive director of the school’s Center for Juvenile Law & Policy said in a statement. “The institutional failure to address these deputy gangs in any meaningful way has deprived the community of equal justice under the law.”
AG Xavier Becerra, President Biden’s nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services, tweeted “There are serious concerns and reports that accountability and adherence to legitimate policing practices have lapsed at LASD.”
Last year, deputies from the Sheriff’s Department killed 18-year-old Andres Guardado in an incident a whistleblower has characterized as a ‘deputy gang’ initiation.
Multiple surveillance tapes relating to the incident were reportedly destroyed by LASD. Guardado’s family released an independent autopsy that concluded he was shot in the back 5 times. The LA County Coroner’s Office ordered the first inquest in 30 years following the shooting, declaring the killing a homicide.
Alex Villanueva, the Sheriff of Los Angeles County, has been accused of ‘gaslighting,’ and corruption. L.A. County Supervisors have voted to explore his removal.
Becerra has called for anyone with relevant information to get in touch with the California Justice Department’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section.
“We are undertaking this investigation to determine if LASD has violated the law or the rights of the people of Los Angeles County.” he said.