Cerise Castle is an investigative journalist in Los Angeles, and by journalist, I mean in the pre-1980s sense, not the stenographers of today. She asks tough questions that make those in power uncomfortable, and reports facts that some would like to be ignored or buried. She’s not afraid of those who try or want to silence her.
Castle reported on the Black Lives Matter rally in Los Angeles, June 2020. Despite being a journalist and wearing markings identifying herself, she was intentionally targeted with “non-lethal” weapons, which landed her in hospital. During her time recuperating, she collected documents on Los Angeles County cops via the Freedom of Information Act, uncovering a treasure trove of information about gang activity.
By gang activity, I mean she identified eighteen gangs within the cops, with tattoos, hand signals and initiations which can include crimes ranging from false arrests to murdering people. Nearly all of the gangs are white cops. Andrés Guardado was shot in the back by cops just days after the June 2020 BLM protests, allegedly as part of one such initiation.
Castle has documents showing these gangs go back fifty years, that the city of Los Angeles has known about them all this time, and still takes to action to ban or remove them. It’s possible some of those gang members are now in senior positions of “policing”.
From Knock LA:
The History of Deputy Gangs in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
A 15-part investigative series by Cerise Castle
Part 1: The Protected Class
Part 2: Hunting for Humans
Part 3: Lynwood’s Worst Nightmare
Part 4: The Miracle Trial
Part 5: Working in the Gray Area
Part 6: Regulators: Mount Up
Part 7: The Perfect Breeding Ground
Part 8: What Happens When No One is Looking
Part 9: How to Get Paid for Being Fired
Part 10: Friends of the DA
Part 11: Los Banditos
Part 12: The Pink Hand, Big Listo, and Crook
Part 13: The Carnage
Part 14: The Compton Executioners
Part 15: What We Don’t Know
When I first heard this story, my thought was the 1973 Dirty Harry sequel, “Magnum Force” where a gang of cops commits murders and other crimes for their own motives, vigilantism, money or other reasons. I have to wonder if life imitated the movies (cops decided to start gangs within) or if the movie imitated life (the same way that “Scorpio” in the original “Dirty Harry” mimicked the Zodiac killer).
More below. . . .
From Spectrum News 1:
LOS ANGELES — The paper trail on alleged deputy gangs in Los Angeles County goes back to the 1970s.
Investigative journalist Cerise Castle has uncovered at least 18.
“These gang members are the men who are often admired the most at their station,” Castle said.
Castle’s plan to compile a complete history of alleged gang affiliations inside the county sheriff’s department unfolded in the wake of the George Floyd uprising last summer. She was hit by a rubber bullet while reporting in the field and decided to use the time to write an anthology for nonprofit news site Knock LA.
“I struck gold when I filed a public records request to the county Board of Supervisors and turned up a list of litigation related to deputy gangs that the county actually keeps,” Castle said.
She spent the next six months pouring over the documents, reviewing a trove of lawsuits totaling more than $50 million in settlements funded by taxpayers. The resulting 15-part series on Knock LA is racking up views and resonating.
From Women In Journalism:
Cerise Castle was shot with rubber bullets on May 31 while covering protests in Los Angeles for KCRW. Castle is also the former producer and host for the Emmy-award winning nightly news program, VICE News Tonight.
Despite her injuries, Castle continues to report. For her, it’s about taking charge of the language being used around the protests and the people participating in them.
“I’ve found myself not wanting to leave work or step away for a break because I am afraid that without me there, something offensive or even racist will go on the air,” she says.
In an industry that’s still “largely white, very male and very deferential to power and authority”, black women journalists fight back with tremendous determination shown through their work.