Understanding Subgroups Within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department: Community and Department Perceptions with Recommendations for Change
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RAND was commissioned by Los Angeles County to conduct an independent research study on deputy subgroups within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD).
The study aimed to help the County learn more about how these subgroups are formed, why they exist, and what actions might be taken if it was determined that these groups have a meaningful impact on the LASD’s mission. This study was strictly research related and not part of any official investigation. Instead, it aimed to inform County decisionmakers so they could make appropriate policy choices.
The team collected interview and focus group data from 141 community leaders and members; interview data from 57 individuals, including members of LASD and other county stakeholders; and responses from 1,608 LASD survey participants.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has been subject to allegations about secret subgroups of deputies who have allegedly mistreated community members and coworkers. LASD leadership can best discourage such behavior with clearer policies to prohibit subgroups and consistent messages to its staff.
Community member interviews indicated that subgroups and problematic behavior associated with them have negatively impacted perceptions of LASD.
Interview and LASD survey findings suggest that, for some parts of LASD, subgroups exhibit features of being a normalized part of the organization.
About 40 percent of LASD survey respondents agreed that subgroups are more common at high-crime stations.
About 40 percent of respondents identified the following criteria for being invited to join a subgroup: being known as a hard worker, working in challenging environments, socializing with subgroup members, and engaging in specific behaviors, such as being aggressive about making arrests.