The Gangfighters Network is an organization designed to bridge the gap between academia and the criminal justice professions. For more information, visit and The focus is on gangs, initially adult gangs as it appears they have been ignored or absorbed into the mainstream society. There's a special focus on gang members in the military.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Even the lawyers get it! Why can't the Pentagon act NOW?

With more than 1,000,000 criminal street gang members in the United States, communities everywhere are experiencing the negative effects of street gangs (National Gang Intelligence Center [NGIC], 2009). As a result, government officials are searching for innovative and effective ways to restrict the negative impact of gang-related activity on the community. One way of reducing gang-related activity is through gang prevention legislation.

In 1992, Knox (2006) surveyed members of a National Guard unit and found they estimated gang membership in the military from zero to 75%. To date, no follow up research of this nature has been conducted.

On December 12, 1995, following racially-motivated homicides at Fort Bragg, NC, the Secretary of the Army established an investigative task force to “assess the influence of extremist groups in the Army and examine the effect of those groups on the Army's human relations environment." The task force reported: "Gang-related activities appear to be more pervasive than extremist activities as defined in Army Regulation 600-20" (U.S. Department of Defense, 1996, ¶ 16).

Following the homicides at Fort Bragg, members of the Department of Defense concluded that gang members adversely affected the military in a variety of distinct ways. The authors noted there was no official accounting of the scope and nature of the problem; however, the individual branches of the military thought the problem was significant enough to publish gang identification manuals (Flacks & Wiskoff, 1998). To date, no follow up research of this nature has been conducted .

A 2006 Gang Activity Threat Assessment (GATA) by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Command (CID) reported an increase in both gang-related investigations and incidents in 2006 over previous years. The most common gang-related crimes involved drug-trafficking (CID, 2006), though assaults, homicides, and robberies were also reported.

In 2007, the National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC), a multi-agency effort of the U.S. Department of Justice, distributed an unclassified report that identified incidents of gang activity by military and military-affiliated personnel, similar to the findings of Flacks and Wiskoff (1998) and Knox (2006), and identified gang-related crimes such as murder, racketeering, and drug distribution.

As noted in Can you prevent membership in organized criminal groups if you are the SecDef?, H.R. 4986: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 Section 544 - became law (Public Law 110-181), and requires the Secretary of Defense to prescribe regulations to prohibit the active participation of military personnel in street gangs (National Defense Authorization Act [NDAA], 2008, Sec. 544). The bill was passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President back in January 2008, yet here we are, more than 14 months later, with no changes to military policy on gang membership.

Gustav Eyler, Gangs in the Military, 118 Yale L. J. 696 (2009) recently concluded
While the threat and presence of military gang members has intensified over the past decade, the military has done little to improve its existing policies. It is time for this to change. The military needs to overhaul its recruitment process, draft new regulations to detect and prevent gang influences, and improve its removal procedures. The various military services should
accomplish this by coordinating with other agencies and adopting the best practices of civilian law enforcement groups. By seizing the opportunity provided by Congress, the military may realize its goal of sustaining a robust fighting force that is free from the influence of criminal street gangs.
So what's it going to take?

Eyler, G. (2009). Gangs in the Military, 118 Yale L. J. 696. (thanks to Court-Martial Trial Practice for the link)

Flacks, M., & Wiskoff, M. F. (1999). Gangs, Extremists Groups, and the Military: Screening for Service . Retrieved November 19, 2008, from

Knox, G. W. (2006). An introduction to gangs (6th ed.). Peotone, IL: New Chicago School Press.

National Defense Authorization Act. (2008). (Pub. L. No. 110-181. 122 Stat. 117). Retrieved September 30, 2008, from

National Gang Intelligence Center. (2007). Intelligence assessment: Gang-related activity in the US armed forces increasing. Crystal City, VA: National Gang Intelligence Center.

National Gang Intelligence Center. (2009). National gang threat assessment - 2009. Washington D.C.: National Gang Intelligence Center.

U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Command [CID]. (2006). Summary Report Gang Activity Threat Assessment: A review of gang activity affecting the Army. Retrieved January 26, 2009, from

U.S. Department of Defense. (1996, March 21). Army task force report on extremist activity. Retrieved January 19, 2009, from

Thursday, March 5, 2009

G.I. Crip - The Oregon National Guard wants to send this convicted gangbanger to Iraq.


[March 4th, 2009]

More than two years ago, a well-publicized FBI report warned of gang members infiltrating the U.S. military. And while gang violence was spreading on bases, cops say returning gangsters are putting their new combat skills to deadly use in their old neighborhoods.

Now, as the military continues to suffer low recruitment approaching the sixth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, a first lieutenant in the Oregon National Guard says he wants to take a convicted gangbanger off Portland’s streets and send him into a new combat zone—Iraq.

Police describe Levell Peters—who grew up in Northeast Portland but now lives in Vancouver, Wash.—as a longtime gang associate who’s affiliated with both the Rolling 60s and the Kerby Blocc Crips.

He’s also a private first class in the Oregon National Guard set to deploy this year with the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, according to a letter by Lt. Michael Davis, a lawyer with the Oregon Military Department.

But the Guard faces a hurdle in deploying Peters, 22: He was convicted this year of a felony in connection with a drive-by shooting last year in North Portland. And his probation forbids him to carry a weapon—even if he’s armed by the U.S. military.

In a Feb. 10 letter to Peters’ probation officer, Davis asked that Peters’ probation be modified so he can begin training in April and deploy with his unit this summer. Multnomah County Circuit Judge Marshall Amiton is expected to rule on that request later this month.

Davis’ letter says that in Iraq, Peters will be “under the supervision of the U.S. Army and subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” and that he’ll be “completely removed from negative community influences, to wit, gang members.”

But three nationally recognized experts on gangs and the military tell WW it’s a lousy idea to send people with Peters’ history into combat.

“People are under some terrible misunderstanding that the military will change gangbangers,” says Hunter Glass, a retired police detective and private consultant. “You can’t beat blueprinted behavior out.”

Davis did not reply to repeated emails and phone calls, and Peters declined to comment.

“This is a young man who is trying to improve his life,” says Peters’ attorney, Gary Bertoni. “Certainly I would disabuse anyone of the notion that he entered the Army so he could receive training and go back to the neighborhoods.”

Portland Police Sgt. Pete Simpson, who investigated last year’s shooting, says Peters is known to police as a Crips associate previously involved in a drive-by outside Benson High School. Court records show convictions arrests for assault, harassment, disorderly conduct, reckless driving and other misdemeanors.

“This is not a guy you want serving in Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere,” Simpson says. “He can’t be trusted.”

On Feb. 24, 2008, Simpson says, a house on North Commercial Avenue where Peters’ infant son was staying got shot up. The next day, Simpson says, Peters and three friends went out seeking revenge.

According to Simpson, they climbed into a 2008 Chrysler Sebring with Peters behind the wheel and drove through North Portland. They began chasing a Ford Taurus, and Peters gave his gun to a friend who opened fire, Simpson says. The Taurus returned fire and was joined by a Ford Explorer also taking shots at Peters’ Chrysler, Simpson says. The three cars drove several blocks firing on each other until police arrived.

No one was injured. But Simpson says that could change if the shooters had combat training.

“The spray-and-pray stuff they’re doing as gangbangers—that’s not what they’re doing in the military,” he says. “They’re doing precision shooting and explosives.”

When the shooting occurred, Peters had already joined the Guard. A grand jury indicted him for attempted murder and other charges on July 28, 2008, and he was arrested by U.S. marshals while training at a camp near Boise, Idaho.

On Jan. 28, a judge acquitted Peters of attempted murder but found him guilty of unlawful use of a weapon. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail with credit for time served and three years of probation.

After Davis asked for changes to Peters’ probation, Peters appeared in court Feb. 26 accompanied by his mother. Bertoni asked the judge for more time to review the Guard’s request, and a hearing was set for March 11.

Along with gang members, increasing numbers of convicted felons have found their way into the military in recent years under so-called “moral waivers” when they’re recruited.

“Obviously, it’s a huge problem,” says John Hutson, president of New Hampshire’s Franklin Pierce Law Center and a former Navy judge advocate general.

“The military is responsible to kill people,” he says. “It is responsible for the potential of great destruction of property. So you have to ensure that those people who are involved with that kind of activity are of the highest caliber.”

FACT: The military granted 1,605 waivers for convicted felons recruited in 2006. That same year, it kicked out 612 gays and lesbians under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.