Pubdate: Mon, 13 Mar 2000
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Los Angeles Times
Contact:  Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053
Fax: (213) 237-4712
Author: Eric Lichtblau, Matt Lait, Times Staff Writers
Note: Times staff writer Jim Newton contributed to this story.
Bookmark: For L.A. Rampart Scandal items:


Corruption: Federal lawyers arrive in L.A. to question why LAPD failed to 
implement promised changes and how it plans to move forward with reforms, 
sources say.

Concerned about civil rights violations arising from the Police 
Department's Rampart Division corruption scandal, high-ranking U.S. Justice 
Department officials flew to Los Angeles Sunday to meet today with LAPD 
Chief Bernard C. Parks and other top city leaders.

Bill Lann Lee--the head of the Justice Department's civil rights division 
in Washington, D.C.--wants to find out why the LAPD has not implemented 
some long-anticipated changes and to learn how the department plans to move 
forward on other key reforms, according to a government official familiar 
with the federal probe of alleged civil rights abuses by Los Angeles police 

Over the next two days, Lee and a top aide, Steven Rosenbaum, who oversees 
the Justice Department's inquiry into LAPD's conduct, will meet with Parks, 
civilian police commissioners and City Atty. James K. Hahn.

"We're going out there to talk to them and find out where they are in all 
of this," said the government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The high-level meetings are intended to be substantive and symbolic, 
signaling the Justice Department's desire to take its investigation of the 
LAPD to a new level.

Lee and Rosenbaum have been following developments in the ongoing 
corruption investigation, but waited until after the LAPD released its 
362-page analysis of the scandal before flying out to meet with the chief 
and other city leaders.

Since 1996, Justice Department officials have been monitoring the LAPD to 
determine whether incidents involving excessive force fall into any 
recognizable pattern.

The purpose of such "pattern and practice" reviews, authorized by federal 
law in 1994, is to ensure proper management and oversight at police 
departments and, if needed, to bring federal lawsuits to pressure local 
authorities into cleaning up their operations.

In Pittsburg, the Justice Department and the city agreed on a set of 
reforms intended to curtail corruption and abuse by police officers.

Among the reforms that city adopted was the creation of an officer tracking 
system, similar to a long-stalled project in Los Angeles.

At the LAPD, the recent allegations that Rampart Division officers were 
involved in beatings, unjustified shootings, false arrests, evidence 
plantings and perjury go well beyond the issues the federal government 
previously was examining.

The Rampart scandal "is being taken seriously and we're interested in 
seeing that this investigation stays on the right track," said one U.S. 
government official, who declined to be identified.

In addition to the probe by Justice Department's civil rights division, 
federal authorities have stepped up their involvement in a criminal 
investigation of alleged police crimes and abuses.

While the criminal investigation is looking at crimes allegedly committed 
by individual officers, the civil probe takes a broader approach, examining 
cultural and systemic issues at the department that may allow civil rights 
violations to occur.

One topic Lee is expected to discuss with city officials is why $162,492 of 
federal money set aside two years ago to help the LAPD track the 
performance of its police officers, still sits in a bank account, unspent 
by the city. Los Angeles' failure to spend the money was reported Sunday in 
The Times.

City and police officials have cited a litany of bureaucratic failures that 
has left the money untouched and the key reform unfulfilled.

Federal officials also are interested in what plans the LAPD has to 
implement the more than 100 recommendation that Parks has called for in his 
department's Board of Inquiry report on the Rampart scandal.

Specifically, the Justice Department is focused on reforms that seek to 
enhance the supervision of police officers, one source said.

A focus on supervision and management is typical of such "pattern and 
practices" reviews by the federal authorities.

Another area of inquiry is expected to be the status of police reforms 
which were proposed by the Christopher Commission after the 1991 beating of 
Rodney G. King. Although police officials more than 1 1/2 years ago 
declared that most of those reforms had been completed, the Rampart 
corruption scandal appears to call that assertion into question.

City officials said they are taking the meetings with the Justice 
Department authorities seriously.

"It's their meeting, they're calling it, and we'll be there," said Cmdr. 
David J. Kalish, the LAPD's spokesman.

"This visit reinforces the Police Commission's belief that it must move 
ahead with as wide-ranging an inquiry [into Rampart] as possible," said 
Commission President Gerald L. Chaleff.

He noted that the commission embarked on a massive analysis of the 
corruption and the status of police reforms last week. As part of that 
examination, the commission is holding a series of public hearings starting 

"Ultimately, what is at stake here, is future of civilian oversight and 
local control" of LAPD, Chaleff said.

Though it has been done only in rare cases, the Justice Department has the 
power to go to court and force a local police agencies to accept an outside 
monitor, implement reforms or turn over police records.

When the Justice Department first started its civil rights probe in 1996, 
former Chief Willie L. Williams was in office and the police commission was 
headed by lawyer Raymond Fisher, a well-regarded police reformer, who later 
went on to work for the Justice Department. In that period, federal 
investigators promptly received documents relating to excessive force 
complaints and other matters.

Additional requests in 1998, since Parks has been chief and Edith Perez was 
the acting commission president, were not responded to in such timely 
manner, officials said.

"We got a quicker response to our first request," said one government 
official familiar with the federal civil rights investigation. "Whether 
that was because of the people who were in charge, I can't say."

Many police reformers consider Parks to be resistant to strong civilian 
oversight. In fact, some of the reforms Parks has recommended in response 
to the corruption scandal have been to increase the authority of his 
office. The chief and the commission also have sought to fend off the 
creation of an independent panel, similar to the Christopher Commission, to 
investigate the Rampart scandal.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake