“Yes on Measure A” is a November 8 ballot measure that intends to hold Los Angeles County Sheriff more accountable to the public. The measure authorizes the removal of a sheriff
“The mission of Measure A is to empower the Board of Supervisors to create this mechanism to put pressure on the sheriff himself to do the right thing,” said Franky Carrillo, principal officer of Innocent Project at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA).
Eleven years ago, Carrillo was released from Folsom State Prison after spending 20 years behind bars for a crime he claims he was framed for by a LA County Sheriff’s deputy group known as the “Vikings” when he was 16 and sentenced to life. After two men confessed to the crime and a demonstration proved Carrillo’s innocence, he was released and the case was then dismissed. Carrillo spent his time at California Youth Authority before transferring to Corcoran State Prison and later Folsom State Prison — all in California. Today, he serves as the Principal Officer for the Innocent Project at CSULA.
On January 18, 1991, 41-year-old Donald Sharpy was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in Lynwood and shortly after, Carrillo was arrested. He maintained his innocence for the two decades he spent in prison. He was released in 2011 after witnesses recanted.
Carrillo filed a civil rights lawsuit after he was released from prison and learned deputies involved in his case were also involved in previous lawsuits. In 2016, LA County settled Carrillo’s case for more than $10 million.
“They lied under oath. The department didn’t capitalize them, suspend them, or demote them,” said Carrillo. “Measure A has the mechanisms that force [the Sheriff] to pay attention and no longer ignore the systemic problems that are harming the community.”
According to supporters of the Yes on A campaign, The LA County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) has violated the public trust and created a hostile environment that jeopardizes civilian public safety. The LASD has been accused of having deputy gangs among its ranks. Los Angeles Times reported that an LA sheriff’s department inspector general uncovered evidence that dozens of deputies were members of “gang-like groups.” Some of the deputy gangs are the white supremacist “Vikings” that framed and wrongly convicted Carrillo, the Compton “Executioners” who all have matching Nazi tattoos and the East LA “Banditos.”
Carrillo said that the clamor for Measure A came from the streets and a community cry for justice that has been ignored for too long. “It is interesting how a law needs to be put together and eventually passed in the hopes that [the sheriff’s department] follows it, in the hopes that it gets their attention,” Carrillo said.
In March 2022, the LA Times reported that an independent investigation found that 41 deputies had been linked to two deputy gangs, the “Executioners” and the “Banditos.”
“The hope is that the person in that position will take their position very seriously and understand and engage a community,” said Carrillo. “They can no longer protect law enforcement officers who are beneath them but instead make sure that they are reprimanded, fired or even prosecuted.
CALÓ NEWS recently interviewed Carrillo.
Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
WHY WAS IT NECESSARY FOR YOU TO BE INVOLVED IN THE “YES ON A” INITIATIVE?
I could have gotten a huge settlement of $10.1 million from the county. I could have disappeared onto a desert island, lived it up, and said, “I am done with LA County. I don’t want anything to do with criminal justice. I am just going to go and enjoy my life.” I realized that if I want to give my experience and the tragedy that I went through any true meaning, then I would need to leverage what happened to me and find ways to connect that injustice to correct the terrible things that we have in our society. Sadly, the sheriff’s department is one of those huge problems lurking every day when we have those assigned to have these powers choose to abuse it. I’m not saying all law enforcement, I should clarify and say that, but those that are determined to be the wrong people to serve as law enforcement officers are who I am directing this to. So, my personal experience lends credibility to the messages if I can do anything to prevent someone from suffering the way I, my family, or my community did. Shame on me if I don’t do that.
WHAT COMMUNITIES WILL “YES ON A” HELP THE MOST?
I don’t think there is someone who is going to benefit more than the other. The idea is that this is an internal shock wave for the department. The department patrols unincorporated parts of the county and, if you or a family member ends up in jail in LA County, you will be in their hands. The female prison in Lynwood or the male prison in Downtown LA. You will be one way or directly impacted by their influence, even if you don’t live in an area that LA Sheriff’s Department patrols. We drive in a vast space so that you can be in an area covered by them at any moment. So, you can succumb to anything they want to impose on you at any moment. I think it is a county-wide benefit if this passes.
HOW WILL THE INITIATIVE PROTECT LATINO COMMUNITIES IN LA?
I think it will not only protect them, but I think it will embolden them. The great thing about this campaign is, as a Latino, we have the long game figured out. Hopefully, we are patient and we believe that things are going to get better. That was my full-on take for 20 years in prison that someday this will get resolved. When this passes, know that the community has joined together internally and has aligned itself with other communities to ensure that we hold people accountable and that those in a position of power have historically proven to need internal reform. I think the way that Latinos, in general, would benefit from this would be to know that when they came together and voted for Measure A, their voice was heard; at this point, 51% of the county is Latino. When we come out and vote, especially for things that impact us the most, it will be an example for future Measures, candidates and races that we have a huge voice in the direction of our county.
IF PASSED, WILL THIS SET AN EXAMPLE FOR POLICE/ SHERIFF DEPARTMENTS IN CALIFORNIA AND ACROSS THE COUNTRY?
The sheriff’s department is an organization we entrust to some degree to protect us and come to our aid when we call 9-1-1. The idea is that they will come here and protect and serve. Accountability is an essential thing. The description is the basic common denominator: You are here to protect and serve our community. That call goes out and they respond and come in with a different attitude than we expect. Then I think we are no longer calling someone to protect us; we are calling someone to cause a problem more extensive than it already is. So, the accountability is multilayered. I wouldn’t say that accountability has the potential to cause deep ripples in the department. Further than that, this is an LA County issue. For example, George Floyd and other historical wrongdoing of law enforcement is an epidemic that needs an emergency response. Talking about the George Floyd incident, a month later, a similar incident happened where law enforcement harassed and eventually killed someone. The idea is like, ‘Wait a minute, aren’t they getting the internal email that we aren’t doing that anymore?’ and they are not. That is not the case. When Measure A passes in the county, it will have an even more significant ripple effect on the country that heads of law enforcement agencies can no longer hide behind their badge or gun. They have to do something about their problems.
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN FOR LOS ANGELES’ BLACK AND LATINO COMMUNITIES TO SEE AN END TO DEPUTY GANGS?
What it would mean is that people will have their lives. It would mean that families won’t have to visit their wrongly convicted fathers, sons and mothers behind bars. So one of the things that struck me the most about the deputy gangs is that we have the visuals. We can look them up and learn about them when an officer kills someone in the line of duty. They can shoot somebody and say they thought it was a gun when it was a cell phone, or they abuse their power and have done something that has caused tremendous harm to the community. When it happens and it is well sort of behind the scenes, it isn’t good. And I will not compare it and say that it is worse, but when a sheriff deputy who belongs to one of these deputy gangs is involved in an investigation here in the county, they tend to be already corrupt. They not only plant evidence and force witnesses to testify the way they want them to, but they will go to court in their nice suits and badge and go on the stand, swear to tell the truth and begin to lie. All in the name getting the outcome that they want. They are abusing the sanctity of the court by fooling the judge, the jury, and even the [District Attorney’s] office into believing what [they say] happened is the truth. So, we can think about deputy gangs and the violence, the physical violence. When it comes to the Black and Latino community, I would hope that when Measure A is passed, there is a level of reconciliation for these communities and this law enforcement [agency] to do what they are supposed to do versus what they have been doing so far.
WHAT ARE THE HOPES FOR THE FUTURE OF “YES ON A” AND THE LOS ANGELES SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT?
The hope of Measure A and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department is long overdue and that is a cultural shift, a cultural wake-up in the department. For many, many years, it has been this Texas Ranger, cowboys versus Indians, good versus bad, and it is sad when the person at the top is maybe winking, thumbs up, encouraging that behavior; it only sets us back. The hope is that the person in that position will take their position very seriously and understand and engage a community and that they can no longer protect [bad] law enforcement officers who are beneath them, but instead make sure that they are reprimanded, fired, or even prosecuted. I am hopeful that that is going to happen. Not only will there be reform within the sheriff’s department when Measure A is passed, but I think the ripple effect within the community is that now we have some checks and balances that we can rely on.