Allegations that white guards at a Castaic jail formed a gang called the “Wayside Whities” that intimidated and beat black inmates are unfounded, according to a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department internal investigation.
The six-month investigation, headed by a black detective, determined that the name “Wayside Whities” was coined by black gang members as a mocking gang-like label for white deputies who serve as guards at the Peter J. Pitchess Honor Rancho. A black inmate told deputies about the nickname and taught some deputies a gang-like hand signal simulating the letter W.
Investigators said two deputies acknowledged flashing the signal at black inmates a couple of times, but said it was not done in an intimidating manner. The internal affairs division investigation concluded that no sheriff’s policies or regulations were violated by the deputies and no disciplinary action has been taken.
The investigation of deputies at the Pitchess jail--formerly the Wayside Honor Rancho--was prompted by a former inmate who said members of a guard group called the “Wayside Whities” took him out of an inmate dormitory for fighting with a white inmate on Dec. 2, 1989, then beat him.
Clydell Crawford, 26, of West Covina said that as he lay prone, deputies jumped on his leg, breaking it. Crawford filed a $1-million civil rights lawsuit against Sheriff Sherman Block and 12 deputies.
The lawsuit, which is expected to go to trial next year, describes the “Wayside Whities” as a “Ku Klux Klan-type organization espousing white supremacy and having as one of its objectives the subjugation, intimidation and terrorization” of black inmates.
“The investigation didn’t show anything like that at all,” said Sgt. Edward Allen, who headed the investigation.
Allen said the term “Wayside Whities” originated with a black inmate who was being interviewed by a deputy assigned to the jail’s gang identification unit, who was trying to learn as much as possible about gang habits and culture. The inmate told the deputy that gang members in the jail had a nickname for white guards and showed the deputy the W hand sign.
“The inmates developed the hand sign and the term to identify the whites,” Allen said. “It was a means to taunt the deputies.”
Allen said dozens of inmates and deputies interviewed during the investigation said inmates routinely made the hand sign at jailers. However, the investigators said only two deputies, both assigned at the time to the gang identification unit, acknowledged using the sign and said they did it to establish rapport with gang members.
Crawford’s attorney, George V. Denny, disputed the sheriff’s findings and said he will continue to press the lawsuit.
“I know of several other cases in which inmates have been badly, badly beaten,” Denny said. “The information that I have is that it is not the black people who make the W sign. It is the white deputies. That sign is regularly flashed by deputies. It is not done in fun or jest, but for intimidation.”
Sgt. Philip Abner, also of the internal affairs division, investigated Crawford’s allegations that he was beaten and that his leg was intentionally broken by deputies and also concluded that the allegation was unfounded.
Abner said the three guards involved in the scuffle reported after the incident that the fight broke out when Crawford attacked a deputy investigating an inmate fight. Two other deputies ran to the first jailer’s aid and one struck Crawford in the leg with a flashlight, unintentionally breaking it, Abner said.
Abner said 30 inmates interviewed during the investigation gave conflicting reports on the fight, but two people who worked in the hospital where Crawford was treated said the inmate told them that he was struck by a flashlight, not jumped on when he was already down.