LA county sheriff’s deputies challenge tattoo, gang probe orders

A union representing Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies has taken legal action against Sheriff Robert Luna and the Office of the Inspector General for their directives requiring deputies to show their gang tattoos and answer questions about any deputy gangs.

The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs maintains in the Los Angeles Superior Court petition brought Monday, May 22, that its members’ constitutional rights are at stake and that the issue should have been dealt during bargaining.

“As a matter of law, the implementation of those changes must be preceded by reasonable advance notice to (the union), the opportunity to meet and confer with authorized representatives of defendants as well as exhaustion of any and all applicable impasse procedures,” the petition states.

On May 12, the Office of the Inspector General sent letters to some deputies as part of its investigation into alleged law enforcement gangs existing within the department.

“You are directed to appear in person to participate in an interview to be conducted by the Office of Inspector General concerning the presence of law enforcement gangs in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department,” according to the order, which further states the office is “conducting a series of witness interviews to establish the membership of the Banditos and Executioners.”

The targeted deputies are asked to bring photographs of any tattoo anywhere on their bodies that has any symbol or image of the nature specified in the directive.

The union filed an unfair employee-relations-practice charge with the Los Angeles County Employee Relations Commission on March 19 over the compelled compliance and is seeking to preserve the status quo until the outcome of its case is decided.

Luna also sent an email to the affected deputies on May 18. But the union petition says that it does not state whether those ordered to testify before the Office of the Inspector General will receive any protection against incrimination in a potential criminal action.

The union says the deputies have a “reasonable expectation of privacy in non-visible tattoos that are covered by clothing.”

A trial-setting conference is scheduled Aug. 8 before Judge James C. Chalfant.

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