Understanding the Role of Subgroups Within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department

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Los Angeles County has commissioned RAND to conduct an independent research study on deputy subgroups within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD).

The study was commissioned to help the County learn more about how these subgroups are formed, why they exist, and what actions might be taken if it is determined that these groups have a meaningful impact on the LASD’s mission. This study is strictly research related and is not part of any official investigation. Instead, it aims to inform County decisionmakers so they can make appropriate policy choices going forward.

The approximately year-long project will include confidential interviews with Sheriff’s Department leaders, Sheriff’s deputies and a sample of community members. It also will include an anonymous survey of Sheriff’s Department employees.

The research team will consult with and solicit information from a variety of Los Angeles County stakeholders to ensure that a wide range of perspectives are represented.

The purpose is to help Los Angeles County learn more about the subgroups

The primary purpose of this research is to provide a comprehensive picture of deputy subgroups. This will be achieved largely through interviews and surveys, including the following:

  • Confidential interviews with key stakeholders at LASD, including command staff, middle management, and deputies
  • Confidential interviews and focus groups with community members
  • A confidential survey of LASD personnel
  • Review of relevant documents, policies, procedures, and training materials.

The study has the following goals:

  1. Understand deputies’ experiences and perceptions. We will examine deputies’ workplace experiences and perceptions to understand the purposes, roles, and impacts of deputy subgroups. Topics for discussion include why the groups exist, the membership process, real and perceived risks and rewards of membership, shared goals and activities, and how the subgroups relate to the department in general. We will explore whether deputies see workplace factors (like job stress and camaraderie) and organizational factors (like departmental support) as reasons that subgroups form, and what actions, if any, are appropriate for the Sheriff’s Department or Board of Supervisors to take.
  2. Understand the organizational perspective. We will explore those same questions, in addition to managerial and supervisory topics, with department leadership, middle management, union officials, and other County leaders. Interviews will discuss current or prior efforts to intervene with deputy subgroups; managerial, supervisory, or organizational challenges; and any suggestions for change.
  3. Understand community members’ experiences and perceptions. Civic leaders, residents, and members of faith-based, grassroots, and other community-based organizations will also be interviewed and invited to participate in focus groups about their experiences and perceptions of LASD and deputy subgroups and any related concerns.

Due to the potentially sensitive nature of the information shared in this study, and in the interest of full and open communications with the study participants, personally-identifiable information will not be collected or retained.

Study results will be available in 2021

This project is scheduled to be completed in winter 2021. A final public report will synthesize all analyses and will provide actionable recommendations. We will also publicly present the findings to government and community audiences.


If you have any questions or would like more information, please email the RAND project team at RAND_LASD_Study@rand.org or 888-728-1358.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

  • What is the RAND study?

    The nonprofit RAND Corporation has been hired by Los Angeles County to conduct an independent research study on deputy subgroups within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and examine the purpose and function of these groups.

    The project will include confidential interviews with Sheriff’s Department leaders, Sheriff’s deputies, and a sample of community leaders. It also will include an anonymous survey of Sheriff’s Department personnel. In addition, researchers will examine relevant LASD policies, procedures, and training materials, and will consult existing research for relevant best practices to improve departmental approaches to managing deputy subgroups.

    Researchers will prepare a report summarizing their findings that they expect to make public in the summer of 2020.

    RAND was hired for the project pursuant to a motion by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, in consultation with leadership at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) and other stakeholders. Researchers expect to engage directly with Sheriff's personnel as well as members of the community. RAND will also consult with the Sheriff’s Department, unions that represent Sheriff’s Department employees, the Office of the Inspector General, the Los Angeles County Civilian Oversight Commission, the Office of County Counsel, and community stakeholders.

    The project will be reviewed by RAND’s federally chartered Human Subjects Protection Committee and all information collected from research participants will remain confidential.

    The project is expected to last approximately 12 months.

  • What is RAND?

    The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, independent research organization dedicated to helping policymakers make decisions that are based on the best available information. We conduct rigorous research and analysis on important public policy challenges, and our work covers a variety of areas such as the armed forces, homeland security, healthcare, education, and the criminal justice system.

    For more information, visit RAND.org.

  • How is the RAND study different from investigations that have been or are currently being conducted?

    RAND is not conducting an investigation. RAND is an independent research organization undertaking a comprehensive research project grounded in social science to identify potential problems and propose solutions. RAND is not working with any entities investigating the LASD and will not provide confidential information to any outside entity, including the County.

    During the study, RAND will consult with LASD leadership and staff, unions that represent deputies, as well as oversight entities and community representatives to get a wide range of perspectives on the topic. Participating in the RAND study is voluntary, and the RAND team is taking every precaution to maintain confidentiality and privacy for those who participate.

  • How is the RAND study different from previous efforts to study this issue?

    Previous inquiries have touched on the subject of LASD deputy subgroups or cliques. While the Citizen’s Commission on Jail Violence (CCJV; 2012) and Kolts reports (1992) discussed deputy subgroups as part of a broader inquiry into allegations of deputy misconduct, this study is primarily interested in understanding the subgroups themselves. This includes why they form, what their goals are, the risks and rewards of joining, how they are perceived from the outside (including the communities they serve), and many other questions. In addition, the previous studies were not grounded in social science research methods, to our knowledge. In contrast, we will use methods including interviews, focus groups, a survey, and a review of related research.

  • What if I want to make an official report or complaint?

    RAND is not conducting an investigation. If you would like to file a report or complaint, contact the appropriate law enforcement agency or other County organization(s).

  • How will RAND protect privacy?

    Any files containing personal information (e.g., names, contact information, responses interview questions) will be stored in encrypted files on a secure and password-protected server at RAND. No one except the RAND researchers working on this project will have access to personal information. Additionally, RAND will take the following steps:

    1. storing contact information (e.g., names, email addresses) separate from interview notes
    2. not recording names in interview notes, and removing from our notes any other information that could be used to identify participants
    3. securely shredding hand-written notes after they have been typewritten, encrypting all electronic files and making them password protected, and deleting typewritten notes when the study is completed.

    Our reputation as an independent research entity depends on our ability to maintain the confidentiality of information obtained from study participants. While we do not foresee substantial risks for participating in this study, there is always a chance that confidentiality could be breached. We will take every precaution to protect participants' privacy and confidentiality. For instance, to minimize risks, we will not ask participants to sign anything or reveal specific names, and participants should feel free to speak in the third person.

  • What will we get from this research?

    This project should provide clarity and a more complete understanding of deputy subgroups. It gives participants the chance to describe their experiences and perceptions as LASD employees or community members. It may also lead to suggestions for change that improve the work environment at LASD and community experience and trust. We will release a public report and publicly present the findings at the end of this project.

  • How do I contact the researchers involved in the study?

    If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact the principal researcher, Samuel Peterson, at RAND_LASD_Study@rand.org or 888-728-1358.