Some Materials From A Los Angeles Police Department Gang Enforcement Training Course (Or Maybe Courses) Are Now Available — Undated But Possibly From 2005 — I Believe These Have Never Been Published Before — Including LAPD Pedagogy On How To Write Effective Police Reports To Support Gang Sentencing Enhancements — What Kind Of Facts Must Be Collected To Support The Issuance Of Gang Injunctions — Hints And Tips For Interrogation Of Gang Members — Surveillance Of Gang Members — Some Information About Gang Databases Used By LAPD — Including The Admonition To Never Cite CALGANG In Official Reports But Instead Call It Something Else — Which Seems To Me Like Lying — Along With A Bunch Of The Usual Idiotic But Already Well Known Stereotypes Both Racial And Cultural — I Am Not An Expert But I Believe That Criminal Defense Attorneys May Find This Material Useful In Planning Cross Examinations Of LAPD Officers — Although Maybe This Is All Already Known To Those Who Need To Know It

I recently discovered that the Los Angeles Police Department runs a number of training courses for officers working gang enforcement. Obviously as soon as I heard I submitted a request under the California Public Records Act for all the course materials. And the first batch came in just recently!

There is enough material here and it seems sufficiently important that I am publishing what I have now and will hit you up with the rest if and when it comes to me. LAPD produced three RTFs and one DOC. Here are links to the originals along with PDFs that I exported myself in case they’re useful.1

outline_23161.rtfPDFInstructional Goal: Cal-Gang students will acquire fundamental training in the techniques and skills necessary to use the system.

outline_23214.rtfPDFInstructional Goal: Prepare all Gang Impact Teams (GIT) members assigned to GED/CLEAR to gather gang-related intelligence and information, identify gang crime patterns, monitor gang activity and implement crime suppression strategies — This is much longer and contains much more information than the other three items.


outline_26011.rtfPDFCourse Goal: To develop law enforcement personnel capable of investigating and testifying in gang related criminal trials.

Read on for more detailed descriptions of the contents of these essential records, including some transcribed selections.

outline_23161.rtfPDF — Course outline on CalGang database.

This is an outline of a course covering the CalGang database. As the outline says, “Subjects in CalGang may not have prior arrests or a criminal history, thus mandating a higher level of security and restricted access,” and much of the most interesting material in this record has to do with that security. For instance, they are very concerned that the material will be made available to the public via the California Public Records Act in particular:


A. The records of intelligence information and security procedures incorporated Into the gang reporting, evaluation, and tracking system by law enforcement agencies are not subject to public disclosure under the Public Records Act.

B. These records are generally exempt.

C. While these records are “exempt” from disclosure, it does not guarantee that the materials will not be disclosed pursuant to a Subpoena Duces Tecum.

By “generally exempt” here they seem to mean something like “generically exempt.” That is, they seem not to be claiming that most of the records are mostly exempt but rather that they’re exempt by definition. Even more disconcerting than this is that the secrecy extends past the content of the database to the very existence of the database, or at least in relation to any particular use of it in court.

Thus users are instructed not to mention the database even when they are citing material they obtained from it. Instead they are told to call it something else entirely, which seems like lying, which seems like it would invalidate testimony. The cases aren’t exactly parallel, but courts have taken a very dim view of police hiding information about technology they’ve used in their investigations.

It seems pretty obvious to me, although of course I am an amateur and do not actually know what I’m talking about, that not knowing the source of information in a police report would severely handicap the defense in a criminal case the investigation of which included use of CalGang. Here’s the actual language:

CalGang is not subject to public disclosure and shall not be referred to in official reports. It shall be described as a “Station Resource” (such as a Field Interview card ) or “Source Documents”, such as a response from the Consolidated Criminal History Reporting System (CCHRS).

There’s also some interesting language on when and how LAPD officers are allowed to photograph people they consider to be gang members. This outline refers to a 2004 special order on CalGang issued by then-Chief William Bratton, and can be read profitably in parallel with it.

outline_23214.rtfPDFInstructional Goal: Prepare all Gang Impact Teams (GIT) members assigned to GED/CLEAR to gather gang-related intelligence and information, identify gang crime patterns, monitor gang activity and implement crime suppression strategies — This is much longer and contains much more information than the other three items.

This is a long, hugely complex document. I cannot possibly do it justice in this post. Just for instance it has detailed descriptions of the major gang genera from the cop point of view, including such pearls of cop wisdom as
Number one rule while in custody is “No varrio tripping”
The gangster attitude: Antiauthority, Anti-police, Non-cooperative, Life is cheap, Be violent, Be smarter that the cops [sic]
Gangsters last name should be the same as his father’s last name
The 1992 Riots lead to a decrease in respect for the police and planned attacks on the police

And perhaps predictably, things get even weirder when they’re discussing Asian gangs:
There are college and graduate students
Asian gangs are known to have superior weapons compared to other ethnic gangs
Use of females to flirt with officers to distract them
It is important to be respectful in the Asian cultures; no prolonged eye contact, always recognize the eldest first

Also importantly this document explains the purpose of the whole gang cop education program:

3. It is clear that we, the Gang Enforcement Teams, are not going to get more officers or more equipment
a. What we need to do is to work smarter
b. We are going to accomplish this with knowledge based training
1) Help us know our gangs better
2) Enable us to testify as gang experts in court
3) Enable us to get enhancements, resulting longer imprisonment terms
4) We will be able to predict who is likely to commit the next criminal act because our know your gangs
4. Our job today is difficult than it has ever been due to the political environment
a. This is why we need to be trained to do our job even better
b. This course will help you in court when your list your credentials

There’s a long section on gang injunctions, now mostly mooted by the fact that a federal judge finally ruled that, as everyone, probably even the City, had known all along, they were simply unconstitutional. It’s still relevant, though, if not least for the insight it gives us into LAPD attitudes. For instance, part of the section on what kinds of evidence the police need to gather to effectively support a gang injunction mentions that officers need to:

3) Use “Downtown Los Angeles Jury” standard:
a) Have a photo of the gang member flashing their hand sign
b) Not just an entry in CalGang

In case you’re wondering, NPR explains that ‘”downtown jur[y]” [is] code for black/brown/not highly educated juror pools.’ But to me the most revealing, the most disconcerting, part of this document is the detailed instructions on what to put into a police report in order to increase the chance of adding gang enhancements to charges. Gang enhancements are extra time added to sentences pursuant to §186.22 of the Penal Code for various crimes if they are committed “for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with any criminal street gang, with the specific intent to promote, further, or assist in any criminal conduct by gang members.”

And the document says explicitly that getting these is one of the goals of a Gang cop: “Detectives will seek gang enhancements pursuant to 186.22 PC for all predicate crimes.” In order to do that effectively the officers have to make sure that they include all the required elements in their police reports, and in order to do this, they have to know what they are and what kinds of descriptions and narratives have worked in the past to establish not just that a crime was committed but that it was committed for the reasons listed above, necessary to add the gang enhancements.

And this document just flat out lists them. And note the instructor’s explanations of what these so-called experts ought to include by way of expert opinion. Stuff that ought to be based on the facts of the case but evidently is not since it’s so explicitly enumerated in these teaching materials:

3. How do we use these laws? It starts with the arrest report

a. Have to prove that suspect had the specific intent when he was committing the crime to benefit his gang, or himself within that gang
b. Start with a paragraph about who you are and what you have done
c. Next; a paragraph describing the gang involved: how many members are there, what are the turf boundaries, does it meet the Penal Code and Department definition, when it started
d. A paragraph about what happened to lead to the arrest, being a gang member is not a crime, what is significant is that the act/crime was done to benefit a gang
e. A paragraph about the suspect: he has gang tattoos, he has adopted a particular type of dress used by this gang, has moniker, (such as a sport team jersey that they all wear, remember to book the jersey), and that this makes it likely that he is carrying a gun
f. A paragraph on why you think he/she committed the crime. Give your opinion: if he had come across a rival gang member he would probably get into a conflict with a rival gang member

Or in another section on an actual police report the instructor had the students read, it turns out that making gang hand signals is part of the proof, so they have to be sure to include it:2

a. In this case both were arrested, because he was there to back up his friend by throwing hand signs, to benefit the gang, this act helps establish that the act of shooting was premeditated
b. Suspect throwing gang signs got 15 years

The point of all the training, as stated at the beginning, is to lend credibility to the idea that these officers are gang experts, that there even is such a thing as a gang expert. And once they have a credible identity as a gang expert even their most implausible theories can, it seems, be used to enhance sentences by sprinkling on the magic for-the-benefit-of-the-gang powder. Once they’re qualified as experts they get to testify to their opinions about stuff, no matter how crazy that stuff might be. And that testimony, it appears, is enough to enhance sentences:

) The report must convince, ultimately, a jury. These PC sections allow an officer to bring in his/her opinion, hearsay, photographs of graffiti, whatever it takes to establish specific intent
2) In this instance the non-shooter suspects were booked on conspiracy, so the report needed to show that they knew that they were going out to shoot a rival gang member. The evidence was circumstantial but how it is presented and then the officer’s opinion was enough to show that there was a conspiracy
3) Getting this type of booking will be a challenge
2. Example: Gang members ambush some Wilshire Div officers. This is not enough for a filing. Explain that shooting at an officer will elevate the suspect’s status in the gang, or in prison

Indeed, this other one of the records is an outline of a course specifically on testifying as an expert witness with respect to gangs. I do not have the time to go over it in detail in this post, the end of which we are approaching, but it’s very clear that the whole program is designed to first get officers qualified as experts, even though it appears that most if not all of the content of these courses is entirely fictional, based on ridiculous stereotypes, presented without proof, without evidence, without anything required by even the most minimal epistemological standards.

And then second to teach them exactly what to write in their reports and say in court to get sentences enhanced. So yes, one person shoots another. If the shooting person has the wrong kind of tattoo the putative expert explains to the jury that people with that tattoo like to shoot people because it gives them status with other bearers of the tattoo. This, it appears, gets 15 years added to the shooter’s sentence. If the shooter has the right kind of tattoo or no tattoo at all, no expert testifies. Anyway, this ended up to be far longer than I had planned, so I’m going to have to cover the other two items in a later installment. Stay, as they say, tuned!

Image of LAPD Gang Enforcement badge is ©2019 MichaelKohlhaas.Org and I got the substrate from right over here.

  1. Possibly because I don’t have access to actual Microsoft software the PDFs have fairly eccentric formating, but they’re certainly good enough to read. If you own MS Word or some other software and can produce PDFs that look more like the originals and think it’s a reasonable use of your time to do so please feel free to send me better PDFs and I will replace these substandard ones!
  2. The four records I’m writing about here are very obviously only an exceedingly partial production. Throughout they mention all kinds of supplementary materials, e.g. this arrest report. There are also videos and audio tracks. Those are all public records, obviously, and I am definitely looking to obtain them out of this request.

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