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Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

Richard Valdemar

Richard Valdemar

Sgt. Richard Valdemar retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after spending most of his 33 years on the job combating gangs.

How Good Kids are Seduced into Gangs—PART 1

When children have no one to protect them within the system, is it any wonder so many turn to gangs?

March 07, 2008  |  by Richard Valdemar - Also by this author

Before a gang member joins a gang and is physically jumped in, his mind must be seduced into believing a lie. He or she must be convinced that good (society) is evil and evil (criminal gangs) is good.

This subtle seduction of winning potential gang members' minds and hearts occurs early, often as early as grammar school. It is founded in the common experiences almost all children must endure. These negative experiences include social exclusion, feelings of fear, bullying, and victimization.

Valdemar's Gang Axioms

The breeding ground for all gangs begins with an excluded group who feels victimized by poverty, the establishment, or some other real or imagined injustice. It is fed by the anti-establishment culture of drugs, power, hate, and racial separatism.

  • Gangs are not part of the Hispanic, White, Black, or Asian culture.
  • All criminal gangs are part of an outlaw criminal culture.
  • It is the nature of predatory criminals to band together (C.R.I.P = Cowards Run in Packs).
  • All gangs are formed in defense and later prey on their own kind.
  • Gangs, like bacteria, multiply by dividing.
  • To a gang member, the gang comes before God, family, marriage, community, friendship, and the civil law.

Kindergarten Story

When I returned home from Vietnam, I made a pledge to myself to embrace non-violence. I was determined not to abandon my hometown and vowed to remain a resident of the City of Compton even after my background to become a deputy sheriff was completed. My family and my wife's family would remain there for many years after I was sworn into LASD. However, when my daughter was born in 1969, I moved to the upper middle class community of Lakewood. There was no way that I was going to let my daughter go to school in a place like Compton.

In this new environment I raised my kids to be good citizens, color blind, and non-violent. When my daughter Mary was five I sent her to Riley Elementary School. She was the only non-white student in Kindergarten and they called her "Mexican Mary" because two other girls were named Mary. This was not racial bigotry and I was not worried because everyone loved my cute little girl.

A few weeks after the first day of school Mary came home in tears. She was crying because a fellow kindergartner named Bobby had been hitting her. My first reaction was to find this little bully and snap him in two, but after swearing to "beat my sword into a plow spear" and "study war no more" this would be a poor example to my daughter. After cooling down a bit, I consulted several modern sources on child development, including my "bible" by Dr. Benjamin Spock.

I learned that little boys of this age sometimes have difficulty expressing affection for females. Frustrated and confused about their own feelings they sometimes punch the little girls they are attracted to. This made sense. I explained this to my daughter, but the punching and crying continued.

Each day she would come home crying.  A few days later I went to see the kindergarten teacher. The teacher was a professional and very sympathetic. She explained that the class rules clearly forbade striking anyone. Bobby had been sentenced to "time out" several times for punching my daughter, but Bobby was "ADD" and the teacher was not allowed to utilize corporal punishment. I could see that Bobby was running amok and out of control. My daughter continued to come home crying every day.

I made an appointment to see the school principal. The principal was also very sympathetic and professional. He had "counseled" Bobby on several occasions. He told me that he had scheduled a conference with Bobby's parents and the school psychologist …in a couple of weeks.

What if things were different? Now imagine if my daughter had had an older brother. Suppose that her 13-year-old brother was a member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang. How many days do you think he would have allowed his sister to be assaulted before he took care of bully Bobby?

I had failed my daughter. I had failed in my first duty to my daughter. What was my first duty? To protect her, and not to try to understand the bully Bobby! My daughter's teacher, principal, and school system had failed her also. "To protect and serve" should have been our motto, like LAPD. When we follow through on this motto we do more to stop the formation of gangs by protecting the innocent than we do when we "hook and book" the law breakers. Scientific studies show that both the bully and the bully's victim are in danger of forming criminal personalities, and of joining gangs.

Because our official institutions and systems are more concerned with protecting the problem child than with doing what they were designed to do—protecting and serving the public—children often leave to form their own unofficial protective institutions and systems. These evolve from self-defense groups into predatory groups. They are the beginnings of gangs.

Working Outside the System

In my daughter's case I had to go outside the official system. I began to teach Mary how to form a fist, how to effectively throw a punch, and the most devastating places to strike a bully. I felt a little guilty, so I also taught her to give an admonition before using her new martial arts skills. "My Father said if you hit me again I have permission to hit you back." Then she would wind up and smash Bobby right in the nose. But nothing happened for several weeks. I had solved the problem (so I thought).

One evening during the kindergarten Christmas play, the proud parents crowded around the small raised wooden platform that stood in the front of the classroom. Cameras flashed as the cute kindergarten kids sang Christmas carols while they waited in line to climb up the two steps to the stage. They were so adorable dressed up like angels, shepherds, and wise men (Remember, this was before the ACLU and Madeline O'Hare ruined it).

Suddenly my eye caught something that made my stomach tighten up. Bully Bobby was in line behind my daughter and I saw him push her hard from behind. Yikes! She was pointing her finger in Bobby's face giving him the admonition. I waved my arms frantically to get my daughter's attention. As the children spread out to take their places on stage, I watched in horror when bully Bobby punched my daughter in the arm. She wound up and smacked him hard on the nose! Boom! Bobby's little bully feet were pointing at the ceiling lights when he hit the wooden stage flat on his back. He began to cry.

Teachers, parents, and children were yelling at my daughter when I scooped her off the stage. I backed them off telling them, "If you can't protect her, she will protect herself."

Mary was never a gang member. However, she learned too well the lesson of bully Bobby and the politically correct school authorities. To this day nobody, male or female, messes with my daughter.

This is the kind of incident that occurs every day to demonstrate to kids that our system can't be relied on to protect them and that when the going gets tough you can only count on your friends and your fists.

Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

irishone @ 3/7/2008 4:03 PM

I have a theory about kids who join gangs and throwing money at gang prevention programs is never going to work unless the issue causing violence gets addressed. The issue I have identified as being the primary reason for kids joining gangs is domestic violence.

Kids notoriously learn and repeat what they see their parents do. Kids have seen their parents interact in a violent way, so this becomes their accepted norm. As kids grow, and their bullying and violent ways left unchecked take these bad traits to kindergarden, where their bullying skills are put into practice. Left unchecked, bullying becomes the norm throughtout their school years, and personal relationships. Gang members are bullies, where did they learn it but at home?

Lakewood27 @ 3/9/2008 7:21 AM

While what kids experience at home obviously has an effect on how they interact within society, I think it's a bit simplistic to make an umbrella statement blaming domestic violence for gang involvement.

Yes, DV plays a role for some kids. But what about those who choose to join gangs yet come from homes where domestic violence is not an issue? One-parent households where there is no father figure probably have more to do with gang involvement than DV on a percentage basis. Drug-addicted parents who simply aren't parents will help drive kids toward gangs where they feel like they have a sense of belonging and 'family' as well.

Kids from 'good families' also end up in gangs. I can cite my own nephew. My brother and his wife are hard-working middle class folks without DV issues, they are not drinkers or drug users, and they provided a stable home environment for their kids. Yet my nephew decided because of where they lived in California that he needed to run with a gang for 'protection.' Once caught up he was afraid to leave, and ultimately he got caught up in the criminal lifestyle. He is now a lifer at Pelican Bay, doing time for murder.

Domestic Violence was not the issue in his case. It goes much deeper than that. Yes DV is an evil that we need to continue to address, but I think that we run a risk in naming any specific evil as the single cause for any other evil. We tend to get tunnel-vision when this occurs and that will cause us to lose our ability to find solutions for problems because we can't see the big picture. Kind of like missing the forest for the trees.

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