Posted: May 12th, 2011 by Militant Libertarian
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.”
|Gang signs: “3,000 Boys” represent. (KTLA photo.)|
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 eventuallyconvicted — along with six others — on federal civil rights charges. An internal affairs investigation revealed that Bartlett 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, Jon 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.
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 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.
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.
“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.”
“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.”
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.
I’ve been spending more time doing whatever freelance writing gigs — and odd jobs of various kinds — that I can find. My family’s circumstances (described in detail here and here) make it difficult to take on a full-time job, even when such jobs can be found. The stream of paying freelance work has dried up. As soon as Summer vacation begins I will probably be able to find work of some kind (there are plenty of local onion fields, and I’m fluent in Spanish), but as things stand right now our situation is pretty grim.
We’re hardly the only family beset with serious and deepening financial difficulties; I know this is true of many of you who take the time to read this blog. If each of you who regularly reads Pro Libertate could donate ten dollars, we would raise a sufficient amount to get my family through the next quarter — or even through the end of the year, if I can land a job of practically any kind.
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Dum spiro, pugno!