Pubdate: Thu, 02 Mar 2000
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2000 The Washington Post Company
Address: 1150 15th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20071
Author: William Booth, Washington Post Staff Writer


LOS ANGELES, March 1 - The leadership of the Los Angles police today
revealed that the worst corruption scandal in the history of the department
was caused, in large part, by its own poor management and a culture of
mediocrity - creating the very conditions necessary for dirty cops to run

In the past five months, the LAPD and Los Angeles have been rocked by
revelations that a cadre of rogue officers in an anti-gang unit operating
in the city's toughest neighborhood planted evidence, beat handcuffed gang
members, lied under oath and shot unarmed suspects 96 all during the
city's highly publicized war on gangs during the 1990s.

At least 99 defendants, according to the Los Angeles Police Department's
own investigations, may have been framed and sent to prison based on
officers' lies. About 40 convictions already have been overturned and 20
officers have been fired, suspended or have quit.

The scandal, which comes as the department is still trying to recover from
the Rodney King beating and the O.J. Simpson trial, keeps growing and may
cost taxpayers here at least $125 million in lawyers fees, settlements,
judgments, investigations and reforms.

Today, LAPD commanders released the results of their own four-month Board
of Inquiry investigation, which sought to answer how the institution
allowed officers in the Rampart Area neighborhood's anti-gang unit to
engage in corrupt and criminal activities. Its main conclusion: The LAPD
has failed to supervise its officers.

Deputy Chief Michael J. Bostic said it was "probably the saddest day of my
career." He said the department no longer can trust the integrity of every
officer in squads and that the revelation stemming from the so-called
Rampart scandal has "stunned" the leadership and rank and file.

"This scandal has devastated our relationship with the public we serve and
threatened the integrity of our entire criminal justice system," the report
stated. The anti-gang unit at Rampart, the report said, "made up its own
rules and, for all intents and purposes, was left to function with little
or no oversight."

In addition to the troubling revelations about the department's lax
supervision, the investigation also found that the young officers working
in the Rampart anti-gang unit developed their own tightknit culture -
operating in an "us versus them" world where the officers wore insignia of
grinning skulls, used street slang and "believed they were engaged in a
life-and-death struggle with the gang element."

One of those Rampart anti-gang officers was Rafael Perez, who in March 1998
stole three kilos of cocaine out of an evidence storage room. Facing a
14-year prison sentence, Perez decided to testify to his own crimes as a
police officer and blew the whistle on his fellow officers for planting
evidence and "dirty shootings."

As part of a plea agreement, Perez was sentenced last week to five years in
prison for stealing cocaine.

LAPD Chief Bernard C. Parks cautioned that so far it appeared that only a
small number of officers were directly involved in corrupt and criminal
activities, but he conceded that civic confidence in the department was
badly damaged and that there were signs of problems in other areas of the
city 96 perhaps not criminal violations, but sloppy and rule-breaking
police work.

But Parks again resisted attempts by the City Council to open an outside
investigation of the department. Asked, after all that has happened, if it
wasn't time for outsiders to launch a formal probe, Parks said, "No."

Yet the FBI, the state attorney and the U.S. attorney's office last week
joined the police department in considering possible criminal charges
against some officers.

The Board of Inquiry found that the department routinely sent its youngest
and most inexperienced officers to work in some of the riskiest, most
sensitive positions, such as the anti-gang unit at Rampart.

Moreover, once there, the young officers were often poorly supervised in
the field, and when complaints about them arose, the complaints were often
mishandled or ignored.

The internal investigation's 362-page report, which reads in sections like
a bitter self-indictment, also concluded that the LAPD must immediately
begin to better screen its recruits to weed out weak candidates. The LAPD,
unlike many big city departments, does not give its recruits pre-employment
polygraph tests, nor does it diligently perform criminal and personal
background checks on them.

Once the recruits are hired, the poor oversight continues, according to the
LAPD report. For example, the system of evaluating officers for their job
performance is "an atrocity," Bostic said. Also, it was disclosed that
officers transferred from unit to unit or from district to district, and
were often not kept track of, to ensure that "problem police" were lost in
the system.

"Pursuits, injuries resulting from uses of force, officer-involved
shootings and personnel complaints had a clearly identifiable pattern," the
investigating commanders found. "Yet no one seems to have noticed, and more
importantly, dealt with the patterns."
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