Pubdate: Thu, 16 Mar 2000
Source: Contra Costa Times (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Contra Costa Newspapers Inc.
Address: 2640 Shadelands Drive, Walnut Creek, CA 94598
Author: Tom Verdin, Associated Press


LAPD's Parks Denies That He Is Withholding Information, But Says He Is
Giving The FBI And U.S. Attorney Priority

LOS ANGELES -- The probe of one of the worst scandals in LAPD history
degenerated into a free-for-all Wednesday, with the district attorney
accusing the police chief of not cooperating, and the chief implying
the D.A. may not be up to the task.

Chief Bernard C. Parks, who has repeatedly criticized local
prosecutors for moving too slowly in bringing charges against corrupt
officers, said his department is continuing to cooperate with Los
Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, although he has serious
reservations about Garcetti's efforts.

"We are not pleased with the slowness of what has been done," Parks
told reporters during a news conference Wednesday night outside the
Rampart police station, which sits at the center of the

"We certainly have some lack of confidence with their ability to deal
with this case, but we certainly have not let that stop us from
cooperating," Parks added.

At another news conference earlier in the day, Garcetti said the
Police Department had stopped cooperating with his investigators,
adding that if necessary he will subpoena department officials to
obtain access to documents and witnesses.

The rift between Garcetti and Parks, rumored for weeks, brought
expressions of outrage from other city officials, the 9,500-member
police union, and the American Civil Liberties Union when it moved
fully into the open this week.

"I think it sounds absolutely insane," Councilwoman Laura Chick said.
"Certainly we need government agencies working together -- not
quibbling, not pointing fingers at each other."

The corruption scandal centers on a group of rogue anti-gang officers
in the department's Rampart division who framed, bullied and sometimes
shot innocent people. At least 29 officers have been relieved of duty,
and dozens of criminal convictions have been overturned.

Key to the investigation is veteran undercover officer Rafael Perez,
who was convicted of stealing cocaine from a police evidence locker.
In exchange for a five-year prison sentence, he identified dozens of
fellow cops who he claimed abused their power and maintained a code of
silence between 1995 and 1998.

The District Attorney's Office has yet to file charges against any
officer implicated in the corruption, fearing that moving too swiftly
could jeopardize cases.

The lack of criminal action against officers has angered Parks, who
invited the FBI to join the investigation several weeks ago without
informing Garcetti.

A March 8 letter Parks wrote to the District Attorney's Office notes
the Police Department's desire to bring swift prosecution of officers
accused of misconduct.

"Continued delay endangers criminal prosecutions and our department's
administrative disciplinary procedures," Parks wrote.

The letter also outlined a new approach to the department's role in
the investigation, saying its top priority will be to give material to
the U.S. Attorney's Office, which also recently entered the

Garcetti contends his office is the lead agency in the

State Attorney General Bill Lockyer and City Attorney Jim Hahn issued
separate statements Wednesday saying Parks has no legal grounds to
withhold material related to the investigation.

Lockyer said the department's actions were "unwarranted, illegal and
not in keeping with the collaborative spirit under which this matter
should proceed."

In a letter to Parks and the city Police Commission, Hahn said he
found no authority for the chief to refuse to cooperate with the
District Attorney's Office.

Hahn said Wednesday, however, that Parks told him he was cooperating
and that the district attorney overreacted.

That was essentially what Parks said at his news conference.

"We've always been cooperative. It's our department that brought the
information to the district attorney," Parks said. "It's our
department that continues the investigation, and when the district
attorney, on the cases we've given him, when he has issues that he
thinks are relevant, we will certainly investigate those when they
come forward."

But he complained that Garcetti was taking too long with the

"We have presented cases that we have documented that have been in his
offices for several months," he said, adding that three cases in which
police asked Garcetti to bring criminal charges have languished so
long that the department now plans to reinvestigate them and turn the
findings over to both the U.S. attorney and the district attorney.

"There is no legal authority for the chief to thumb his nose at us and
I can't accept it. I won't tolerate it," Garcetti said at his news

Mayor Richard Riordan, who supported Parks' request to bring in the
FBI, said Wednesday he would try to mediate the dispute.

"I am not going to pass judgment," he said. "My job as chief executive
of this city is to get the parties together, to get them to work
together, to get Rampart behind us."

The finger-pointing is likely to increase public skepticism that the
investigating agencies can adequately root out the corruption, said
Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

"This is really like a school-yard brawl where the adult authorities
have to come in and get everybody to cooperate," she said. "In a city
where the public is already losing credibility in the Police
Department, now you wonder whether those who are supposed to clean up
the mess can do their jobs." 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Derek Rea