I’m a former investigative reporter at The Los Angeles Times.
My work has revealed names on a secret list of Sheriff’s deputies with histories of misconduct, prompting the district attorney to review past criminal cases featuring some of those officers. The list was so secret even prosecutors couldn’t access it.
My stories also demonstrated the impact that secret police records have on California’s justice system, where an officer’s testimony could send people to prison without prosecutors or courts knowing about the lawman’s history of dishonesty. My work, in collaboration with my amazing colleagues, helped to bring about new laws that reversed decades of secrecy in police disciplinary files.
After I broke the news that the sheriff was reinstating deputies who’d been fired for misconduct, the county moved to block his actions, sparking a legal battle that tested — for the first time — some of the limits of the sheriff’s authority. I also landed scoops showing that the sheriff was killing internal misconduct investigations, and that new gangs of deputies with matching skull tattoos were emerging in the department, drawing the attention of the FBI.
I previously covered criminal justice at The Advocate, Louisiana’s largest daily newspaper, based at its headquarters in Baton Rouge. There, I was a lead writer on a team that won a national Investigative Reporters and Editors award for our investigation into the business dealings of Burl Cain, the long-serving warden of the notorious Angola Prison, who resigned following our stories. Our work also revealed the network of cronies and family members controlling the state’s prison system and spurred criminal investigations into prison officials, some of whom have been arrested and indicted.
While at The Advocate, I covered the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge Police, the killings of three law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge, and widespread flooding that claimed more than a dozen lives.
My first journalism job was at The New York Times Magazine. But I truly learned how to knock on doors and dig up documents by moving to Louisiana and working in the small newsroom of The Shreveport Times, where I covered crime and criminal justice.
I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal, a few years after I graduated from Vassar College.
maya.lau (at) protonmail.com (secure and encrypted)
Follow me on Twitter