Pubdate: Fri, 17 Nov 2000
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2000 The New York Times Company
Contact:  229 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036
Fax: (212) 556-3622
Author: James Sterngold
Bookmark: L.A. Rampart Scandal


LOS ANGELES, Nov. 16 -- A panel of experts issued a long-awaited report
today on corruption in the Los Angeles Police Department, harshly
criticizing what it characterized as the force's dictatorial and
detached management and recommending a shift in power from the top
officers to the civilian police commission.

Although it did not cite them by name, the report focused its harshest
conclusions on the chief of police, Bernard C. Parks, and the mayor,
Richard J. Riordan, who has been a steadfast supporter of the chief
throughout the corruption scandal and in the face of a consent decree
that compelled the department to accept federal oversight.

The report, which is 200 pages and makes 86 recommendations, was
compiled by more than 190 prominent people, including business
leaders, educators, retired judges and law enforcement figures. It was
initiated by the commission last spring, after being strenuously
resisted by the police chief and the mayor. The police commission has
said it will review and vote on the recommendations, which would be
subject to City Council approval.

The report said that one of the gravest shortcomings of the police
department was ineffectual civilian oversight, partly because the
police commission is understaffed and underfunded and partly because
the police chief and his supporters have fought outside control. In
particular, the report said, "the authority of the commission has been
undermined by the mayor's office."

"We're part-time people with a limited staff," said Gerald Chaleff,
the commission's president. "We do not have the tools we need, and
these recommendations could help."

In a survey conducted by the review panel, a majority of police
officers said that the best way to improve morale would be to remove
Chief Parks. In response to another question, a majority of the
officers said they did not believe the department's management was
honest or had integrity.

"Morale among officers is alarmingly low in large part because
officers feel that the department systematically ignores their views
and interests," the report said.

Among other things, the report proposes that the police commission be
led by a full-time president and vice president who would receive
salaries comparable to those of the department's top officers.

The report recommends closer contact between officers and the
community, and better systems for tracking problem officers and
investigating shootings.

The police department said it would not comment until the chief had
reviewed the report. Mayor Riordan issued a statement in which he did
not address the recommendations but said, "I will not rest until the
city stops studying and begins acting upon these critical issues."

The scandal that prompted the report was set off when an officer who
had been caught stealing cocaine began to cooperate with
investigators, and told of how officers in an anti-gang unit had
routinely abused suspects, planted evidence and shot several innocent
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake