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History of Paul Tanaka’s Tattoo

largeFormer LA County Undersheriff, Paul Tanaka, has a tattoo that’s more famous than him.  Bring up his name and the first thing out of the listeners mouth is “what about his tattoo”?  2 Urban Girls interviewed Tanaka on his tattoo last July and many surmise he is a racist because of it. 

Paul Tanaka grew up in the City of Gardena in the 60’s.  He grew up in the baptist church and faced racism growing up.  2 Urban Girls has chatted with many members of the Asian community, who also grew up in Gardena.

They shared how Asians were called “Japs”, by whites in nearby Torrance and how Asians weren’t allowed to live there.  They had to settle in Gardena.

They further explained how Asian families were not allowed to bury their loved ones in the Green Hills cemetary in Torrance, they had to go to Rose Hills in Whittier.

Upon graduation from high school, Paul attended Loyola Marymount University (LMU).  He majored in accounting and a chance assignment found him on a ride along with the LA County Sheriff.

Upon graduating from LMU, he first went to work for El Segundo Police department, then lateralled to the Sheriff Department, two years later.

According to Paul:

It (the tattoo) literally was the station mascot for our intramural softball and relay running teams so there was no hesitation to get the tattoo (I was in my 20’s). We were known as the Lynwood Vikings and there was nothing sinister about it in the 80’s. We even used the same logo as the Minnesota Vikings football team. Firestone Station was known as the Firestone Pirates, Norwalk Station’s mascot was Wolverines, and so on.

If I had known this particular tattoo would become such a distraction from the accomplishments of my 33 year public service career, I would never have gotten it. I would have gotten a different tattoo!

In 2012, LA Weekly writer, Simone Wilson, wrote a titillating article titled L.A. Sheriff’s Gang ‘Jump Out Boys’ Reportedly Prides Itself on Officer-Involved Shootings. Here is an excerpt on the Viking tattoo, being identified in a federal court case, that Paul Tanaka was NOT named in:

Then again, how can we really expect these little boys to behave any better, when a former (?) member of The Lynwood Vikings — a “neo-Nazi, white supremacist gang” within the Sheriff’s Department — has been promoted to Baca’s executive staff?

The author used a Los Angeles Times article by Robert Faturechi, who used anonymous sources, as the basis for her article.  Many sheriff deputies lost their job as a direct result of their involvement in the Jump Out Boys.  Paul Tanaka was not one of them.

Faturechi’s article went on further to state the unsanctioned “cliques” were a decades old problem.  Probably dating back to Sheriff Sherman Block.  It is widely known that Block’s successor, Leroy (Lee) Baca, worked very closely with him, at times as his driver.

Related article: Secret clique in L.A. County sheriff’s gang unit probed

Are we really to believe that an Asian, who was discriminated against by whites, would knowingly and willingly join a “neo-nazi white supremacist gang” and place a symbol of that hatred on his body?

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2 Responses so far.

  1. Michael Hill says:

    So grateful for this sensible debunking of what has now become urban legend. Since Tanaka has been mayor of the City of Gardena, their budget has a surplus and they’ve upgraded the streets and have many successful businesses thriving there. The Indictments, I think, are just blowback from Lee Baca’s tenure as Sheriff and I hope he’s exonerated of any wrongdoing by the Federal investigation. Seems they want to throw him under the bus for a cultural bias that has been a part of the Sheriff Department’s ways since the days of the late, Sherman Block, anyway. The explanation is sound as is his years with the department. But sensationalism type journalism will latch on to anything as long as it gets front page for the writer, thus good journalism has, apparently, taken back seat to getting the facts straight and not trying to showboat, as many of today’s aspiring journalist seems bent upon, as of late. This includes many of the inexperienced digital online “journalists” of today, many of whom seem nothing more than “hacks” trying to come up in the organization. Bryan Williams is a good example of what can happen when you violate journalistic integrity for headlines that sell. Good job, 2 UrbanGirls, once again. You’ve become my new “snopes” of the digital wild west now. Congrats on a good job getting to the facts, the real ones, about this man who experienced much in his career. Much better than the LAT’s on this one. A story their editorial department will never put front page or anywhere, apparently. “If it bleeds, it leads” seems, still, the mantra of many in the so-called, field of journalism today, unfortunately. Thanks again. Cheers!


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