Undersheriff changes course, denies gang-led work slowdown at Compton station

Los Angeles, CA - July 25: LASD Chief April Tardy, left, of Central Patrol Division, listens as commission member Lael Rubin, second from right, questions at the part 4 of public hearing in the Civilian Oversight Commission's investigation on deputy gangs at the Loyola Marymount University, Albert H. Girardi Advocacy Center on Monday, July 25, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA. (Ringo Chiu / For The Times)
April Tardy, then a chief in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, testified in a public hearing in the Civilian Oversight Commission's investigation of deputy gangs in July 2022. (Ringo Chiu / Los Angeles Times)

In an apparent shift from her sworn statements to the Civilian Oversight Commission last year, Undersheriff April Tardy testified during a civil trial Tuesday there was no confirmed work slowdown led by deputy gangs at the Compton sheriff’s station in 2019.

“The information that I had regarding the work slowdown was all allegations,” she told the court this week. “When I testified, I just didn’t say the word ‘allegations.’”

The alleged work slowdown at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Compton station has become a centerpiece of the retaliation lawsuit launched by Lt. Larry Waldie, who said he was targeted and demoted after he “openly opposed” a deputy gang commonly referred to as the Executioners.

The Executioners have been a target of numerous reports and investigations, and last month several of their suspected members were ordered to show their tattoos and submit to questioning by the county Office of Inspector General.

Though one deputy testified last week that the group has no official name, its members are identified by their sequentially numbered tattoos depicting a skeleton gripping a rifle and wearing a Nazi-style helmet.

According to Waldie's suit, that group was behind the alleged slowdown that began in 2019, when he was the acting captain overseeing the station. Early that year, Waldie refused to give a coveted scheduling position to anyone he suspected to be a member of a deputy gang — a move he said angered the group’s alleged shot-caller, Deputy Jaime Juarez. By Waldie’s account, Juarez retaliated by initiating a work slowdown.

In July 2022, during the Civilian Oversight Commission’s investigation into deputy gangs, Tardy seemingly confirmed that account when she said she had moved Juarez to a different station “because of the information that I had received about the work slowdown.”

Sarah Moses, one of the commission’s special counsel, probed for more details during the investigation last year: “So, Deputy Juarez initiated a work slowdown in the Compton station in 2019 when the then-captain did not select Deputy Juarez's preferred deputy as the scheduling deputy. Is that what you're referring to?”

Tardy agreed and told the commission that she confirmed the information was true before transferring Juarez.

On Tuesday in court, Tardy said she should have phrased it differently.

“At the time that I testified, I should have used the word ‘allegations,’” she said. “When I made the moves and transfers, it was prior to the investigation being concluded.”

In the final analysis, she said, monthly data regarding arrests and response times did not appear to back up claims of a work slowdown. Figures presented Tuesday in court showed that the station’s arrest numbers in March 2019 — the month of the suspected slowdown — were noticeably lower than the February 2019 numbers but only slightly lower than the March 2018 numbers.

Last week in court, Juarez took the stand and denied ordering a slowdown. He also showed the court his own skeleton tattoo, revealed the names of other deputies who sport the same ink, testified about inking parties and talked about the process for deciding who could get a tattoo.

He said that his tattoo was a “positive thing” and that its design includes the number 18 because he was the 18th person to get that design. In total, roughly 40 deputies have the same tattoo, he said, adding that no one has a full list of them.

He also said there was “no name” for the tattooed group, but that those who bore the skeleton tattoo were sometimes referred to as “new ink” at the station. Deputies who sported another tattoo — the gladiator image Waldie has tattooed on his leg — were referred to as “old ink.”

It's unclear how many tattooed deputies there are, and previous witnesses have testified that they did not know how many inked deputies are at the Compton station or how many are affiliated with deputy gangs or cliques.

During her testimony Tuesday, Tardy said the Sheriff's Department does not ask sworn personnel whether they are members of prohibited subgroups. Under the previous sheriff, the department barred employees from joining deputy cliques or subgroups promoting conduct that violates people's rights.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.