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L.A. County sheriff's officials investigate 'stupid joke'

A deputy from the agency's jailhouse intelligence unit allegedly sent an email containing the words 'Black Panther LASD' that singled out two African American colleagues, department spokesman says.

March 29, 2013|By Robert Faturechi, Los Angeles Times
  • This image was emailed by a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy to his unit, singling out two of his black colleagues. The department has launched an investigation into what it is calling a "stupid joke."
This image was emailed by a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy to…

Los Angeles County sheriff's officials launched an investigation Friday into a "stupid joke" a deputy from the agency's jailhouse intelligence unit allegedly played on two black colleagues, a department spokesman said.

The deputy sent an email to the rest of his unit — including his boss — singling out the two black deputies, the spokesman confirmed. "Due to the recent tension between the black and Hispanics, I implemented a new unit," Deputy Mickey Manzo, who is not black, allegedly wrote. "Please give them your full support."

Apparently attached to the email was a document depicting a Black Power fist in between the words "BLACK PANTHER LASD." At the bottom of the document is a slogan for the fictitious new unit, "PUTTING IT DOWN AND KEEPING IT REAL," and the names of the two black deputies.

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said the department received notice of the 2009 email in January. He said a departmental review panel looked at it and recommended a low-level probe. But after a call from The Times on Friday, he said it was decided the agency would conduct a formal internal affairs investigation.

"The sheriff is disturbed by this," Whitmore said.

Whitmore said the email appeared to clash with Sheriff Lee Baca's oft-repeated "Core Values" — a department mission statement that promotes fighting against racism, sexism and other types of bigotry.

The email was sent out within the Operation Safe Jails unit, a team of deputies who try to develop inmate informants inside the county jail system.

The unit has been under fire in recent months. Federal authorities are looking into whether its members purposely hid an inmate working for the FBI from federal agents investigating the jails.

The unit's former boss — Lt. Gregory Thompson — was also accused of interfering with an investigation of a jailer suspected of working as an operative for drug-smuggling skinhead gangsters.

Whitmore said that everyone who received the email — nine deputies in all — had a responsibility to report it, particularly the unit's former supervisor, Thompson.

Called by The Times, Manzo and the two black deputies named in the email all declined to comment.

robert.faturechi@latimes.com

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