Despite the millions of dollars spent at a rate per student much higher than in other states and numerous failed attempts to raise the standards, state and local school systems in California are now ranked among the lowest in the U.S.

California student achievement ranks alongside the poorest systems in the Deep South. The blame for this can be shared among many people, but I would say that poor revisionist curriculum and the retention of sub-standard teachers are largely at fault. The powerful California teachers union perpetuates these problems. Because of their non-academic political agenda, the school curriculum is manipulated and poor performing teachers are retained.

I've recently observed that sources of gang-officer training and gang schools have proliferated throughout the U.S. However, if you're looking for good gang training, remember all gang training is not equal. Like the California school system, many of these sources suffer from poor curriculum and sub-standard instructors.

Lies, Myths and Urban Legends

I have read gang training material from many sources that repeat misinformation about gangs as facts. This is not usually done as deception, but because the material was taken from unreliable sources such as gang informants, the Internet, newspaper articles and law enforcement "experts" who aren't really gang experts. Or even worse, it's plagiarized material from other bad sources.

Contrary to what these sources might report, the original Crips were not inspired by the politics of the Black Panthers. The word Crip was not originally an acronym for Community Revolution in Progress. And Tookie Williams was not the co-founder of the Crips.

There is no one "leader" of any Los Angeles traditional turf-oriented Latino street gang; they're not organized that way. The Mexican Mafia was not started by the mythical "13" original gang members, and the Mara Salvatrucha gang (MS-13) was not spawned in El Salvador.

Wrong-Region Instructors

Gangs vary from region to region and from state to state, therefore your gang expert should have worked with gangs from the region he or she is talking about. I see a lot of gang training material about California-based street and prison gangs coming from Florida and the D.C. area. Although these sources present material that is detailed and professionally presented, it completely misunderstands California's Latino "cholo" gangs and their alliances.

Obviously influenced by exposure to New York and Chicago-based Latino gangs, these sources attempt to attach traits common to the Latin Kings or Neta to Los Angeles-spawned MS-13 and other Sureño gangs. West Coast gangs are completely different that East Coast and Midwest gangs in style and structure.

This can be even more confusing when talking about prison gangs and security threat groups. The California Mexican Mafia is not the same as the Arizona or Texas Mexican Mafia. The Aryan Brotherhood also is different from state to state, and the Black Guerrilla Family can be known as the Black Liberation Army on the East Coast.

No offense, but a gang expert from Memphis can only teach you about what Blood gangs in Memphis, Tenn. And the expert from Little Rock, Ark., can only teach about Bloods in Little Rock. They act differently than the Bloods from their birthplace in Los Angeles. They have different alliances and are influenced by conflicts with regional local gangs.[PAGEBREAK]

Revisionist Gang History

Some gang-school instructors have an ax to grind. They have a political agenda. America haters are going to tell you that racial bigotry and intolerance are responsible for gang violence. It's American society's fault, and poverty or the police are at fault. They'll tell you gangs are just young men and women passing through rites of passage, or protective groups reacting to bullies and unfair pressures from society and religion.

They'll tell you the CIA pushed crack in the neighborhoods to fund the Contras in Nicaragua; that's why kids join gangs. These gang experts want it to be America's fault — don't confuse them with facts. Often influenced by their college professors with left-leaning views, these sources pontificate on the subject from the viewpoint of social science academia without any real world experience. If they ever met a real hardcore gang member in the field, they would run.

Training on the Internet

There is a plethora of websites and blogs available on the internet with reams of gang-training material. Remember to check the credentials of the source, before you accept the material as valid. Remember that this material is given free of charge, so its actual value may be worth exactly what you paid for it.

In Los Angeles, one of the most touted gang websites is written by a U.S.C. student whose gang expertise in the field comes primarily from the fact that he conducted a gang survey for one of his classes, documenting Los Angeles gangs through their graffiti. Later, he interviewed some gang members.

This source discounts law enforcement's versions of gang histories but lists as facts the fictitious versions from his own gang interviews. His interviews on Crips and Bloods occurred in the 1990s, several decades after these gangs formed. Real gang experts such as Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies Ken Bell and Curtis Jackson actually knew the Crip and Blood founders and wrote and taught law enforcement curriculum about the spawning of these gangs from real time experiences. Their original source documents are much more reliable than a Johnny-Come-Lately college student.

Mining for good gold gang information on the Internet actually requires some basic gang training so you are capable of sorting the good gold from the mountain of fool's gold. Even if you have to spend some of your own cash, get some good basic gang training as soon as you can.


Arizona Gang Investigators Association

California Gang Investigators Association

East Coast Gang Investigators Association

Midwest Gang Investigators Association

International Latino Gang Investigators Association

International Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Investigators Association

PMW Associates: This gang training is for prosecutors as well as gang officers. The next class is Nov. 8-10 in Dana Point, Calif.

Any training with retired NYPD Sgt. Lou Savelli or retired Sgt. Joe Sparks from Chicago as instructors.

The National Drug (and Gang) Intelligence Center is another good resource for gang-threat reports.


Richard Valdemar
Richard Valdemar

Sergeant (Ret.)

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

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

View Bio