The Civilian Oversight Commission voted to condemn the use of the Fort Apache seal by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and called for its immediate removal.
The Fort Apache symbol appears on the back door to the sheriff’s East Los Angeles Station. It was banned by former Sheriff Jim McDonnell, but reinstated this year by Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
It makes reference to a 1948 western movie starring John Wayne, about a U.S. Army outpost in the midst of Apache territory.
Deputies created the seal as a critique of a former sheriff’s order that the station refrain from using force against anti-Vietnam War protestors, according to the COC resolution.
It shows a riot gear helmet resting on a boot below the words “Fort Apache, East Los Angeles” and above the statement, “siempre una patada en los pantalones,” which translates to “always a kick in the pants,” and the words “low profile.”
The COC said the symbol “may suggest the sheriff station is a lone outpost where deputies are at war with local communities” and is found to be “offensive and culturally insensitive” by many members of the community.
Villanueva appeared before the panel to accuse the commissioners of ignoring residents who support the logo and said some people in East L.A. were too intimidated to speak up in favor of it, the LAist website reported.
He told the panel the logo is in areas not visible to the public.
The LAist reported the symbol appears in a central hallway, on a flag above the station, and also on shirt pins and patrol car bumper stickers.
In an interview Monday, the sheriff told KCRW, “That logo’s been around longer than most deputies have been alive.” Villanueva said then that the commission was mistakenly conflating the issue of tattooed deputy subgroups with the Fort Apache logo.
“They’re two entirely separate things,” he told the radio station.
The COC has no authority to force the department to take action.