LAPD’s 77th Street Division Under Investigation After Flying Jolly Roger Flag
LAPD has refused to provide records of the incident.
In November, an ominous flag adorned with a skull and crossbones sporting a crown was spotted waving over the Los Angeles Police Department’s 77th Street Community Police Station. The logo has been seen decorating various kinds of police paraphernalia sold online over the years. Knock LA filed a public records request seeking information about why the flag was flown, and discovered LAPD is investigating the incident.
The flag was first seen on November 22, at 11 AM by someone driving west along 77th Street near the station. The observer, who wishes to remain anonymous, says they were curious about the flag because they had heard about gangs in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. “The flag was clearly visible from the street on the southwest side of the building and seemed to be hanging from ropes in some kind of obstacle course,” they told Knock LA. The tipster sent the image to People’s City Council, who posted it to Twitter.
Knock LA asked the department that day to provide any records of the flag being hoisted, any mentions of other paraphernalia containing the same image, and any mention of gangs within the 77th Street Division. Knock LA also asked LAPD to show us a closer picture of the flag. On January 13, the LAPD’s Public Records & Subpoena Response Section denied the request in its entirety. Agencies must respond to requests within 10 days — LAPD took over six weeks. In the denial, LAPD refused to give the records over, citing an “internal investigation” related to “this matter.” We sought more clarity from the LAPD on the scope of the “internal investigation,” but as of publishing time, they have not provided comment.
Some legacy media have been aware of the menacing logo used by local police for decades. The Los Angeles Times wrote about a version of the logo captioned “77th Street Eat Their Dead” in an article published in 2000. The coin was being sold on the now-defunct website LAPDgear.com. Former Port Hueneme officer Wayne Tidwell ran the site with an active LAPD officer who the Times granted anonymity to. Tidwell said that the logos represent camaraderie, while the anonymous co-owner told the Times that the logos represent chaos that officers face in “hot shot” divisions. The website also celebrated the Rampart CRASH unit in the aftermath of the Rampart scandal, which saw more than 70 officers implicated in a range of corrupt activities dealing narcotics and manufacturing evidence. Some officers in the CRASH unit were tattooed with grinning skulls. The scandal led to 140 civil suits, which cost the City of Los Angeles at least $125 million dollars.
In 2017, retired LAPD SWAT Officer Steve Gordon, wrote an article on the Los Angeles Police Protective League’s blog where he uses the 77th skull logo. He writes about the “dark days” of Los Angeles, and says that the LAPD has to “clean up the mess” of a “killing season.” Gordon has shot at least two people. Knock LA reached out to Officer Steve Gordon for comment. He did not respond before publication.
Challenge coins — small medallions often exchanged by law enforcement members — have been spotted from throughout the years with small variations on the design. Worthpoint, an online antique store that sells challenge coins, says in a description that the logo was designed by LAPD officers. Knock LA uncovered two that appear to be in circulation: one reads “Established 1925,” and “Impavidus Bellator,” which translates to “fearless warrior” in Latin. The second is embellished with a gun on one side and handcuffs on the other.
A street sign bearing the logo is currently sold on the Side Action Apparel website. L.A. Taco’s Lexis-Olivier Ray reported last year that Side Action Apparel was founded by former LAPD Officer Danny Arrona. The company sells various products celebrating the shooting of civilian protesters, and sold a challenge coin for LAPD Officer Toni McBride, who shot and killed Daniel Hernandez, before the Los Angeles city attorney’s office sent the company a cease-and-desist letter to stop selling products that infringe on LAPD trademarks.
Knock LA is unaware of the scope of the LAPD’s internal investigation, though the department seldom disciplines its own officers for wrongdoing.