between the lines logo (anthony asadullah samad)*The announcement that eighteen current and former Los Angeles County sheriff deputies and administrators were indicted for jailhouse abuses and misconduct in trying to hide an informant in a Federal Bureau Investigation sting investigation, has revealed some very telling realities about social control in our society—ones that the community thought had long passed.

While the community has been saying that the Los Angeles County Sheriffs were out of control since 2004 when a black inmate mysteriously “hung himself,” the Justice Department indictment confirmed another reality—the use of jailhouses informants to target corruption.

The absence of oversight in the Sheriffs have produced more deadly force shootings, of late, than any law enforcement agency in the country. Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department has become what Los Angeles Police Department once was—an unaccountable rogue agency.

What complicates these new revelations in the Sheriffs Department is the disclosure by the County Board of Supervisors that the strict hiring requirements for law enforcement may have been circumvented and compromised, with the hiring of (at least) 80 deputies that had background problems that didn’t qualify them for hire—not to mention that some of the hires were relatives of deputy sheriffs. It’s really a corruption explosion that needed to be exposed in a society where nobody “polices the police.” Until the above the law mindset becomes so corrupt that it is no longer discreet. This is now the case with L.A. County Sheriffs.

What turned the case? An informant. Not a law enforcement (cop) informant.

A jailhouse informant.

A black jailhouse informant.

Not telling on inmates. Informing on cops.

Since 2011, the FBI have been engaging inmates as informants as part of sentence reduction and early parole agreements. The informant that exposed County Jail abuse, currently still imprisoned, is now under sentence reduction consideration. When his cover was blown, the Sheriff Deputies “allegedly” tried to hide him in the system while representing that he had been released. There was no good outcome in this situation once “snitches” are discovered.

That’s when the FBI stepped and made their case public.

Counter-Intelligence programs have been part of America society for nearly 100 years. Used with the rise with J. Edgar Hoover within the FBI, it was first used against Marcus Mossiah Garvey to indict him for mail fraud and bring down the Garvey Movement. The key signal of informants is disruption and creation of confusion that bring about mistrust. The agents were usually law enforcement, or extensions of law enforcement. In communities of color, the agent usually looked like the community.

Every movement of the 20th Century had significant informant infiltration. It is well documented about America’s COIN-TEL program and other local government programs to manage the masses. The last 30 years, imprisonment has been the primary tool. Prisons were used as a form of social control. Going from 700,000 plus to more than two million prisoners in twelve years (1988-2000) offered just a snapshot of what urban and rural communities endured, in terms of having its community ecology disrupted by so-called public safety (anti-crime) policies. The 21st Century witnesses a different reality.

In the post 9/11 environment, surveillance powers of the government were significantly enhanced as technology influenced the anti-terrorism environment. However, community surveillance strategies continued to be vested in relying on information gathering and the constant watch for the rise of another “Black Messiah” (Hoover King Alfred Plan to manage black leadership in the post King assassination-Pro Black Radical environment).

Community debate around who was an agent and who wasn’t an agent, in various cities, are still the subjects of books and folklore. Largely, because they didn’t know who the agents really were. The civil disturbances of the 1990s, the drug and gang warfare and the “gangsta rap” wars all had their infiltrations. They still don’t know “Who killed Biggie,” but they know dirty cops were involved and informants knew where he was going to be.

In 21st Century, the absence of both structure and sophistication of community advocacy has taken the attention off government community surveillance. Some activists are even naïve enough to believe that what was used in the 1920s and 1930s, 1950s and 1960s, 1980s and 1990s are not being used today—in an environment when the masses are most dissatisfied amidst the growing wage and income inequities.

The nationwide “Occupy Movements” and the election of Barack Obama (mass political revolt) set the tone for another wave of mass community infiltration. So, in 2011, in the midst of prison overcrowding and demands to reduce prison population, “model prisoners” were offered “opportunities” for sentence reductions and early parole. The Sheriff Department indictment is the most public event in uncovering the use of inmates as informants. The question communities of color must now ask? Do you think they just engaged one jailhouse informant?

A new community surveillance movement is upon us and the informants are among us-moving from organization to organization, campaign to campaign—with no visible means of support. Just know the government hasn’t stopped community surveillance.

Their people are in place. Some released in or around 2011. Now being legitimized.

The disruption of community organizing has only just begun.

Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist and author of, REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics in 21 Century Popular Culture. He can be reached at and on Twitter at @DrAnthonySamad.

anthony asadulla samad

Anthony Asadullah Samad