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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.
Gangs

Corrections: Stopping Gang Infiltration

Gang investigators with the Prince George's County (Md.) Police Department weeded out gang members working in the jail.

December 22, 2011  |  by Tony Avendorph

One of the Correctional Officers being arrested outside the PGDOC. Photo: Tony Avendorph
 
One of the Correctional Officers being arrested outside the PGDOC. Photo: Tony Avendorph  

The Prince George's County (Md.) Police Department began seeing an increasing gang presence inside their jail in 2007. As a result, officers with the gang unit went on a mission to identify gang members within the county's Department of Corrections.

It began with identifying and validating gang members. However, there were an increasing number of gang-related crimes that began to endanger staff and non-gang inmates.

Capt. Cedric Gamble, Lt. Dusty Orr, and myself began a systematic dissection of gang activity inside the jail, and began investigating criminal activity in housing units and work details.

We began charging gang members for assaults, robberies, extortion, and corruption. Here are a few examples of what we were dealing with:

One MS-13 gang member attempted to rob his cellmate at knife point (with a shank) at the commissary. The gang member had made a pocket inside his inmate pants to secure the shank. We charged him with attempted robbery and possession of a weapon. He was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison.

By January of 2008, confidential sources began telling us that correctional officers were bringing contraband into the jails, such as cell phones, drugs, and food. We were also told some of these correctional officers were gang members.

We began listening to inmate telephone conversations, reading inmate mail, and interviewing other inmates and correctional staff. With the help of Capt. Bill Lynn, we developed enough probable cause to take this case to the Maryland Attorney General's office and a grand jury. Unfortunately, the state attorney declined to prosecute. Arrest warrants were sought, arrests were made, and search warrants were executed.

Two correctional officers were arrested and four were terminated. Three cell phones and two battery chargers were confiscated from inside the jail. Inmate gang leaders were transferred elsewhere. Several gang members were charged with possession of cell phones inside the facility.

In 2009, a leader of the Nine Trey Gangster Bloods set attempted to kill another inmate that refused intimidation to join the Bloods. The lock to the victim's cell was manipulated, and the victim's cellmate left the cell. The Bloods gang member entered and began viciously beating the victim. The victim managed to get out of his cell, and the Bloods gang member picked him up and attempted to throw him off the second tier.

The victim fought back, and saved his own life. We charged the Bloods gang member with attempted murder and first-degree assault. The prosecutor decided to drop attempted murder, and charge the gang leader with first-degree assault. However, the victim was released from jail, disappeared, and the gang member simply "walked" on the charges. Several weeks later the same Bloods gang member attempted to kill police officers by shooting at them after a carjacking and vehicle chase.

The lesson to be gleaned from these stories is simple. Never stop doing your job in going after gang members. Even when there is a lack of cooperation with other agencies or within your own, you have to maintain your integrity and work ethic.

Tony Avendorph retired in 2009 after 40 years in law enforcement, serving with the Illinois Department of Corrections, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and Prince George's County (Md.) Police Department.

Tags: Prince George's County (Md.) PD, Corrections, Bloods


Comments (5)

Displaying 1 - 5 of 5

YOUR BROTHER @ 12/24/2011 1:48 AM

YOU REMEMBER EVERYTHING I TAUGHT YOU---------------GOOD WORK.

A FRIEND OF TONY'S @ 12/26/2011 9:23 AM

Integrity and work ethic is one of the things that can't be drop from your cases. The lack of or no cooperation at all from other agencies should not change the fact that there is a job to do and its what we signed up for. Evden if we have to go after the same people over and over until we get from other agencies the cooperation needed due to their none willingness to recognized the danger that this individuals are to the community and we are all part of the cumminity.

DaveSAM25G @ 12/27/2011 8:29 PM

What was told to me coming up the path of life -"You will be rewarded and judged by actions, not intentions...@ It's never too late to keep a promise to yourself and ensure those following the path have a fine example to follow through leadership- training - every veteran was a rookie once and had a mentor bring him or her to what they have become the garden planting so to speak!

It can be frustrating but rewards that mean allot always come that way through hard work and persistance never forget the hill climb or where you were years gone past everyone starts here...and veterans help you find your way until you are that veteran!

Stay Safe and God Bless!

Morning Eagle @ 12/27/2011 11:21 PM

Gang violence and criminal activity inside jails and prisons all across the nation is a huge problem that ideally should have never been allowed to develop in the first place but now can only be controlled by aggressive action on the part of prison officials at all levels. Having weak, spineless prosecutors refuse to back up the difficult investigative work being done by dedicated officers is inexcusable. What or who are they afraid of? And the smuggling of prohibited items into the facilities by guards or other employees should warrant the most severe penalties possible, including at the least, firing followed up by prosecution to put them on the other side of the bars. And some of the guards are believed to be gang members?? What happened to thorough background checks and periodic monitoring of employees by supervisors and squared away veterans that understand the danger of letting these violent morons run amuck?

John @ 12/28/2011 5:24 AM

Gang issues in Jails is not a new "problem". It has been around for years, even back in the 1800's. A majority of the time it was overlooked or even not cared about at all. Which allowed the issue to get even bigger than it was. Employee issues have also been around since the beginning of jails/prisons. It will never stop, the olny thing that can be done is to contain it to a point.

Documenting these gang members does not slow them down or stop them at all, gang officers need to be present and make sure they are seen out in the jails/prisons. Just being out there monitoring their activities will put a decrease in thier plan a bit. Stay vigilant.....

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