LOS ANGELES – 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 certain tattoos and answer questions about alleged deputy gangs.
The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs maintains in the Los Angeles Superior Court petition brought Monday that their members’ constitutional rights are at stake and that the issue should have been dealt with beforehand in bargaining.
“As a matter of law, the implementation of those changes must be preceded by reasonable advance notice to ALADS, 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.
An LASD representative issued a statement Wednesday regarding the petition, saying the department is aware of the legal action and that labor and legal representatives are better equipped to address specifics of the investigation.
On May 12, the OIG sent letters to the affected deputies, including ALADS-represented employees, 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 OIG is “conducting a series of witness interviews to establish the membership of the Banditos and Executioners.”
The affected deputies are asked by the OIG to bring a photograph of any tattoos on their left or right legs from the area of the ankle to the knee and a photograph of any tattoo anywhere on their bodies that has any symbol or images of the nature specified in the directive.
ALADS 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 their case is decided.
Luna also sent an email to the affected deputies on May 18, but the ALADS petition states that the communication does not state whether those ordered to testify before the OIG will receive an admonition or will otherwise receive protection against any incrimination in a potential criminal action.
ALADS further maintains that the deputies have a “reasonable expectation of privacy in non-visible tattoos that are covered by clothing” and that a judge must determine this issue.
Despite the alleged obligation to do so, the OIG “failed to meet and confer in good faith with ALADS” prior to sending out the OIG’s May 12 order, the petition states.
A trial-setting conference is scheduled Aug. 8 before Judge James Chalfant.