The World’s Largest Street Gang

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Recently by William Norman Grigg: The Lethal Illusion Called ‘Authority’

     

Sure, the “3,000 Boys” are a group of tattooed thugs from Los Angeles who spend a lot of time in jail, share cryptic hand signs, have a cultivated sensitivity to being “dissed,” routinely beat up people at parties and instigate fights in bars — but don’t you dare call them a “gang.”

While law enforcement officials will concede that the group engages in “gang-like activity,” they refuse to designate the group itself as a gang. This may have something to do with the fact that this little knot of miscreants is composed of LA County Sheriff’s Deputies employed at the Men’s Central Jail.

For years, inmates have complained about “horrific” conditions in the 3000 Block of the Men’s Central Jail, particularly the routine abuses carried out by the violent clique of guards called the 3,000 Boys. Those protests were consistently dismissed as ACLU grievance-mongering — until members of that officially sanctioned prison gang assaulted a fellow members of the sanctified guild of official coercion during a Christmas party at L.A.’s Quiet Cannon banquet hall last December.

A comment that was interpreted as a “diss” provoked seven of the 3,000 Boys to swarm and pummel two other deputies. A female officer who tried to intervene was punched in the face. “This was not mutual combat, this was not one-on-one,” related an attorney for the victims. “This was a beat-down.”

One of the participants in that assault was fired; six others were subject to various forms of “discipline.” None of them was brought up on criminal charges. A lawsuit filed by the victims accuses LA Sheriff Lee Baca of fomenting a culture of “lawlessness” among the deputies working as jail guards — an accusation made, it should be recalled, by two of Baca’s own deputies.

If the victims had been Mundanes, even the trivial, perfunctory “punishment” of termination most likely would have been avoided. This was demonstrated in the case of bar bouncer Chris Barton, who had a run-in with Deputy David Ortega, a member of the 3,000 Boys.

Barton was attempting to clear out the Slidebar in Fullerton at closing time. Many of the customers probably grumbled a bit when Barton made the familiar “I don’t care where you go but you can’t stay here” announcement, but nearly all of them left. Three sullen, uncooperative males lingered at a table, conspicuously ignoring Barton’s instruction that they leave so the business could comply with applicable local ordinances.

One of the loiterers truculently informed Barton that “he’s a cop, and it doesn’t matter what we say or what [the] laws are,” the bouncer recalled in a television interview. “He’s a police officer, and if he wants to do something, he can do it.”

Ortega tried to provoke Barton by spitting on him three times. Somehow, Barton and his staff managed to get Ortega and his chums out of the bar, but the threats continued to dribble down the inebriated deputy’s chin. First he told Barton that the 3,000 Boys would “take care” of him. Then he said that Barton would be beaten severely and left to die in a pool of his own blood. Finally, Ortega made an explicit death threat.

“At that time he decides to say he’s going to shoot us,” Barton recalled. “So he reaches behind his back like he’s going for a gun. That’s when [I] and another bouncer tackle him.”

Ortega was arrested and charged with four counts — assault, battery, fighting, and making a terroristic threat. All but one charge was dismissed. Ortega was sentenced to a fleeting term of probation, and demoted within the department. As of May 4, reported KTLA, Ortega was “still working in the Men’s Central Jail.”

When police cohere in ultra-violent cliques and behave like the Droogs from A Clockwork Orange, the custodians of acceptable opinion liberally apply one of their favorite semantic cosmetics — the term “rogue.” Thus the 3,000 Boys are habitually described as “a group of rogue Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputies,” despite the fact that the only unforgivable “rogue” behavior appears to be inflicting injury on a fellow officer.

Furthermore, membership in a police gang of this type is a time-honored tradition in Los Angeles. Witness the fact that Paul Tanaka, the current Los Angeles Assistant Sheriff, is a veteran of notorious Lynwood Vikings police gang. Tanaka “was tattooed as a member of the Vikings while a young deputy in 1987 — a year before he was named in a wrongful-death lawsuit stemming from the shooting of a young Korean man,” reported the Los Angeles Times in 1999. “The department eventually settled for close to $1 million.”

At the police station in Lynwood, the Vikings were notorious for adolescent pranks — such as shooting a dog and tying its carcass to the commander’s squad car, or decorating various surfaces with human feces. They displayed a similarly playful touch in dealing out unwarranted violence toward local residents. In 1989, Capt. Bert Cueva, a “no-nonsense” commander with the executive disposition of Dirty Harry, was sent to Lynwood to clean out the gang infestation.

When Cueva started to transfer Vikings to other precincts, these tat-wearing, bad-ass veterans of the street wars responded in a fashion worthy of the bespectacled, briefcase-toting pencil-necks they so heartily despised: The filed a discrimination lawsuit, which lead to an out-of-court settlement and Cueva’s inglorious retirement in 1992.

Four years later, tax victims in Los Angeles were forced to underwrite a $9 million settlement arising out of civil claims filed by victims of Viking-related violence. By that time, the perpetrators had been dispersed throughout the LAPD and the LA Sheriff’s Office, where many — Tanaka most prominently — now have leadership positions. This would certainly help explain the culture of “lawlessness” described in the Quiet Cannon lawsuit.

“You keep your mouth shut and obey the code of silence,” explained former Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Osborne, who had been invited to join the secretive Vikings society, in 1999. “Any illegal acts you witness by other deputies, you don’t say anything. If you’re asked, you say, ‘I didn’t see nothing.’” Osborne and his wife, who was also a deputy, retired in 1996. Mrs. Osborne violated that code by accusing her training officer, Jeffrey Jones, of evidence tampering. At about the same time Jones — who eventually pleaded no contest to felony charges — was arraigned, the Osbornes and their two children were terrorized by a drive-by shooting at their home.

Quasi-official street gangs can be found embedded in many major metropolitan police departments, often making their presence known to the public through episodes of severe off-duty violence. Such was the case with the near-fatal beating of Milwaukee resident Frank Jude, Jr. in October 2004.

Jude, a male dancer hired to perform at a bachelorette party, was set upon by a thugscrum of off-duty officers who accused him of stealing a badge. Jude was thrown to the ground, beaten, kicked, and choked; a knife was put to this throat, and a pen was jammed into one of his ears.

The near-fatal beating inflicted permanent brain damage. None of the relevant facts were in dispute, but a jury accepted the claim that the beating was an effort to “subdue” a resisting suspect with a criminal history (Jude wasn’t charged in connection with the incident).

Former Milwaukee Police Officer Jon Bartlett, the ringleader of the gang beating, was eventually convicted — along with six others — on federal civil rights charges. An internal affairs investigation revealed that Barlett and other officers who assaulted Jude belonged to a tattooed street gang calling itself the “Punishers,” described by MPD Commander James A Galezewski as “a group of rogue officers” — there’s that sanitizing adjective again — “who I would characterize as brutal and abusive.”

This “gang-like” group — don’t you dare call it a “gang” — borrowed its name and its logo (a stylized skull) from a nihilistic comic book vigilante. By the time he was convicted on federal charges stemming from the attempted homicide of Frank Jude Bartlett — who had long been known to be a “troubled” officer — was serving a prison sentence for calling in a bomb threat to his former police station.

Galezewski offered a detailed description of the Punishers in official reports filed on two separate investigations — one in 2005, the other in 2007. He also described his findings at length in a sworn deposition in November 2010. One training supervisor and at least one active-duty police officer have been identified as current members of the gang. Nonetheless, last January MPD Chief Edward Flynn stated that the existence of the gang was merely a matter of “rumor” — which, in light of the evidence collected by his own department, could be construed as Flynn’s attempt to obey the “code of silence” referred to by Mike Osborne. 

All governments, as Augustine observed, are merely criminal syndicates, distinguished from apolitical robber bands “not by the renouncing of aggression but by the attainment of impunity.” As the state’s enforcement apparatus, police are, by strict definition, a street gang invested with “authority” to establish a monopoly of coercive violence. Thus it shouldn’t surprise us when members of the officially sanctioned street gang begin to affect the accoutrements, identifying gestures, and patois of their competitors as a way of enhancing morale within their brotherhood of sanctified violence.

Prison offers the most congenial environment for cultivating quasi-official police gangs, and the talent pool from which jail and prison guards are drawn is usually a stagnant pond of otherwise unemployable Epsilon-class bullies. Thanks to a decades-long prison construction binge, there is no shortage of incubators in which those proto-fascist fraternities can put down roots and thrive.

The residential real estate bubble collapsed years ago, and the commercial real estate market is imploding, but one segment of the housing market continues to thrive — incarceration. As with any other Federal Reserve-driven economic bubble, the prison economic boom — call it "incarceration Keynesianism" — reflects government intervention, not market demand.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the national crime rate began a precipitous decline in 1994. Measured in terms of reported offenses per 100,000 people, the national crime rate was 18 percent lower in 2004 than it was in 1970. The homicide rate is the lowest it has been since 1965. Yet prison construction, and the concomitant expansion of its support industry, continues unabated.

Civic leaders in many economically depressed communities increasingly look to the prison industry to fill the void created when farming, mining, manufacturing, and construction jobs disappear.

"Jobs, jobs, jobs — it doesn't get much more important than that simple four-letter word," insisted Pennsylvania state representative Bill DeWeese, whose district was selected as the location of three "campuses" for the new, $200-million state prison. "Those are recession-proof jobs at a good, family-sustaining wage level," added Vincent Vicites, Chairman of Pennsylvania's Fayette County Commission. "We sought the prison because this could mean several hundred more good-paying jobs for the county." DeWeese was inconsolable when incoming Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett killed the prison project, complaining that the austerity-dictated decision killed a vital public “investment.”

Most people in the productive sector would find it odd that the political class would be eager to expand the local criminal population, rather than reducing it. A generation ago, "prisons were often seen as dark blotches on the landscapes … but this has changed," observes civil libertarian James Bovard. “In small towns and depressed areas across the nation, politicos applaud government policies that turn other people into fodder because it keeps their own local prison-based economies humming.”

Through the dubious miracle of federally subsidized social engineering, a prison is transformed — in the eyes of government officials, at least — from a wretched slough of despond into a veritable field of dreams: If we build it, they — inmates and the accompanying subsidies — will come. 

No society in human history has put more of its own people in cages than the United States of America. The U.S.A. accounts for more than one-quarter of the world's estimated prison population of roughly 8 million people. China, a country with four times our population and an avowedly Communist government, has a prison population less than half the size of ours. 

As of as of 2008, observes Lew Rockwell of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, the U.S. imprisonment rate was 751 people per 100,000; the closest competitor was Russia, with 627. The median global rate is 125. This means that in addition to having the world's largest prison population, America incarcerates people at more than six times the average world rate. Can any honest observer conclude that the current system is six times more effective at punishing and deterring violent crime? 

Any government-run enterprise will yield minimal benefits at maximum expense. It's difficult to find a better illustration of that axiom than the prison system. Rather than enhancing public safety, the prison-industrial complex is a public works project for the tax-devouring class, which has an ironic interest in enhancing the problem of crime — through exaggeration or redefinition, if necessary — rather than minimizing it. 

The prison economy displays all of the perverse incentives typical of any other form of applied socialism. Former Treasury Department official Paul Craig Roberts writes that between 1980 and 2000, as our national population grew by 21 percent, “the number of state and federal inmates soared by 312%.” James Bovard points out that “prisoners become tokens redeemable for extra federal aid for housing, road building, environmental concerns, and social spending…. Local governments also collect federal windfalls because most prisoners have zero income — thus making the locales appear to be poverty zones.”

Professor Stephen Cox of the University of California/San Diego, author of The Big House: Image and Reality of the American Prison, notes that the prison industry has become "the states' primary source of pork-barrel spending."

The California "correctional" system, which encompasses a total of 30 prisons, employs 69,000 people, making it one of  the largest bureaucratic organizations in that bureaucrat-plagued state. The prison guards union, which calls itself the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, is one of the most powerful revenue-devourers' lobbies in the country: The union donated generously to Jerry Brown's gubernatorial campaign, and Brown made one of his few post-election, pre-inaugural public appearances at the union's January convention in Las Vegas. 

Although California's state economy is circling the bowl, Cox relates, "Governor Jerry Brown has just negotiated yet another Rolls Royce contract with one of the biggest beneficiaries of state government, the prison guards’ union." 

"The California prison system is so corrupt that it is hard to sort through all the issues," writes Orange County Register columnist Stephen C. Greenhut, author of Plunder: How Public Employee Unions are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives, and Bankrupting the Nation. During the reign of Governor Gray Davis, the prison guards union extorted a 34 percent pay hike in the teeth of a state budget crisis. They also wrangled a “3 percent at 50″ retirement plan "that allows a guard who has worked for 30 years to retire at age 50 with 90 percent of his final pay," continued Greenhut. "Furthermore, the former governor fulfilled the guards’ main goal – closing down many of the private prisons that compete with the union-operated prison monopoly."

Earlier this year, Californians were treated to a memorable display of the depraved ingenuity of the union's negotiators, and their sociopathic indifference to public safety.

The February 4 Los Angeles Times reported that prison employees, more than half of whom belong to the prison guards union, "are the main source of smuggled phones that inmates use to run drugs and other crimes." This is because prison staffers, including guards, are exempt from the invasive searches that all private visitors must endure. 

Like other unionized tax-feeders in government-issued costumes, the prison guards union demands public respect for their supposedly indispensable service in holding back the surging tide of crime. Yet allowing criminals to run their enterprises from inside a prison defeats the advertised purpose of the institution. Rather than supporting the obvious solution to this growing public safety threat — requiring guards and other staffers to undergo searches — the union saw the issue as an opportunity to wring more money out of California's tax victim population.

"While union officials’ stated position is that they do not necessarily oppose searches, they cite a work requirement that corrections officers be paid for ‘walk time' — the minutes it takes them to get from the front gate to their posts behind prison walls," recounted the Times. While it would take only a few minutes for an individual prison guard to pass through a metal detector, those minutes would add up quickly, meaning that in the aggregate the unionized prison guards "would have to be paid millions of dollars extra to be searched on their way into work."

The prison-industrial complex — a sprawling enterprise of subsidized social engineering and official corruption — may not survive the ongoing economic collapse. This would be an unalloyed blessing. It would provide an opportunity to build a justice system devoted restitution for the benefit of individual victims, rather than "rehabilitating" the aggressor and compelling him to pay a supposed debt to a vaporous abstraction called "society."

Of course, it's also possible that the economic and social meltdown could result in the irreversible transformation of the U.S.A. into a monolithic prison state, a development prefigured by invasive, degrading treatment of customers at airports, the proliferation of police checkpoints, and the ever-increasing surveillance of inoffensive citizens in everyday settings. Indeed, it seems likely that, unless we kill it now, the prison-industrial complex will metastasize until everyone living in America is, for all practical purposes, an inmate at the mercy of the State’s officially sanctioned prison gang.

William Norman Grigg [send him mail] publishes the Pro Libertate blog and hosts the Pro Libertate radio program.

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