Lead Story West Edition

Town hall discusses Compton deputies with tattoos

By Dennis J. Freeman

Contributing Writer

COMPTON — Rumors about sheriff deputies with similar tattoos were addressed at a town hall meeting Aug 9 at the Compton Community Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

The National Association for Equal Justice in America (NEAJA) conducted the two-hour meeting to give the community an open forum to discuss the possibility of a secret tattoo society existing within the Compton Sheriff’s Station.

In July, during a wrongful death lawsuit, a deputy from the Compton Sherriff’s Station testified that he and other deputies had a similar tattoo on their legs.

NEAJA President Royce Esters talked about historical secret cliques and how they can affect communities of color.

“Back in the day, police officers were part of the [Ku Klux] Klan,” Esters said. “We don’t want the klan to be here in the city of Compton. Officer-involved shootings, excessive force. … The color of law includes crimes such as excessive use of force, theft, sexual assault, deprivation of medical attention.

“In other words, when they shoot you, they let you bleed out, make sure you don’t become a witness. You’ll be dead. We’re very concerned about that. We’re concerned about when five or six of them shoot you, and we don’t know who shot you. That’s violating civil rights laws.”

Esters added: “We are [getting] into federal law. … Lying to the FBI, whatever, lying and obstructing justice, we’re going to look at this as a civil rights problem. I know that before we looked at it under the state, but we’re going to go federal on these people. And when they lie in court and all this stuff, Title 18, Section 1623-perjury before a federal grand jury. … So we’re going to look at it as federal law.”

Gilda Blueford didn’t hold back her thoughts about the fractured connection between the Sheriff’s Department and the Compton community.

“I’ve heard some very disturbing discourse,” Blueford said. “I’ve heard things like warrior mentality, under siege, when you’re referring to the deputies. You don’t want deputies to come into a community and feel like they’re under siege, but you never spoke about the community that’s under siege.

“I’m not comfortable in Compton with the complexion of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. … I’m not comfortable with the mentality. So when you use the term warrior mentality, you were spot on with that. You didn’t use it in the right terms, but you were spot on.”

Blueford added: “It has nothing to do with sending whites to a white area or sending blacks to a black area, because historically the police department was created to police black folks; it was not created to police white folks, to protect and serve. You are protecting them from us. You serve them and misuse us.”

Sheriff Jim McDonnell recently said that he is looking into the tattoo matter.

“I want to be clear this incident has been under investigation since it occurred,” McDonnell said via Twitter. “As [with] any investigation, any new evidence or info that may be uncovered will be included and reviewed. If our investigation finds any evidence of misconduct, appropriate action will be taken.”

Max Huntsman, inspector general for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, listens to residents during an Aug. 9 town hall meeting regarding sheriff’s deputies having matching tattoos. (Photo by Dennis J. Freeman)

Max Huntsman, inspector general for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, didn’t disagree with Blueford about cops riding off on that warrior thinking pattern.

“I don’t think that warrior mentality idea is a good one, but it is one that is popular in law enforcement,” Huntsman said. “If a police officer were here, they would say that part of our jobs is protecting ourselves and making sure that we go home. But I’m thinking that use of that warrior concept is destructive and is dangerous.”