Kim Baldonado & Troy McLaurin
LA County Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore confirms that seven deputies are on paid leave, but says he will not comment further. The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday, May 16, that the deputies were suspended while an investigation probed the "Jump Out Boys," a secret sheriff's clique that the Times uncovered. Kim Baldonado reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on May 16, 2012.
Seven deputies from the Los Angeles County sheriff’s gang unit are on paid leave during an investigation into their suspected involvement in a secret clique that promoted aggressive policing and celebrated officer shootings, sources confirmed to the LA Times Wednesday.
The Times broke the news about the suspected “Jump Out Boys” clique several weeks ago when a supervisor discovered a pamphlet describing the group’s tenents.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore confirmed to NBC4 that seven deputies have been placed on leave, but, citing an internal affairs investigation, would not comment further.
Whitmore told NBC4 that his department was aware of the clique and investigating the suspected gang before the LA Times broke the story.
Days after the news broke, the captain of the division told his deputies in a private briefing that they “shamed the department by forming the group and urged those responsible to identify themselves,” the LA Times reported.
One deputy came forward and named six others, a source told the Times. All seven were placed on paid leave this week.
Sources with knowledge of the inner workings of the division told the Times that current and former Gang Enforcement Team members comprise the clique that used gang-like three-finger hand signs and branded themselves with matching tattoos, modified after a shooting.
Investigators are exploring whether the officers branded themselves with matching tattoos, the suspected design of which includes a grinning skull with red eyes, wrapped in a bandana imprinted with the letters “OSS” – allegedly representing Operation Safe Streets, the name of the larger unit the Gang Enforcement Team is part of, the LA Times reported.
The tattoo’s suspected design was obtained by the Times and confirmed by two sources, the newspaper reported.
All the deputies in question have worked on the Gang Enforcement Team, a unit divided into two platoons of relatively autonomous deputies who target neighborhoods where gang violence is high, locate armed gang members and take their guns away, the LA Times reported.