Pubdate: Wed, 26 Feb 2003
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2003 Los Angeles Times
Author: Scott Glover, Matt Lait, Andrew Blankstein


Bratton asks for an outside panel to review how the LAPD handled the 
scandal, fearing it could 'bleed this department to death.'

Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton called Tuesday for an 
independent "blue ribbon committee" to account for the LAPD's handling of 
the Rampart corruption scandal, saying that efforts to do so by department 
officials have been "totally inadequate."

In calling for the formation of the panel, Bratton told members of the 
city's civilian Police Commission that the Rampart scandal still hangs over 
the Los Angeles Police Department and that if it isn't addressed, it has 
the potential to "bleed this department to death."

"Let's take ownership of this issue," Bratton told commissioners during 
their regular weekly meeting on the first floor of police headquarters. 
"Let's get it out of the way."

Police Commission President Rick Caruso immediately embraced Bratton's 

"Let's just do it on our own," Caruso told fellow commissioners. "We're the 
head of this department. Let's act like the head of this department."

The scandal broke in September 1999, after ex-officer Rafael Perez told 
authorities as part of a plea deal that he and other anti-gang and 
narcotics officers in the Rampart Division routinely planted evidence, 
framed suspects and covered up unjustified shootings.

Shortly after, then-Chief Bernard C. Parks promised a report that would 
document "the exact nature and disposition of each allegation" that 
surfaced in the corruption probe.

This so-called after-action report was to be a companion piece to the 
department's Board of Inquiry report, which addressed the administrative 
and managerial failures that police officials believed contributed to 
misconduct in Rampart.

Parks initially said the after-action report would be presented to the 
public by early 2001. But as the investigation continued, the chief and 
other department officials stopped talking publicly about the report. In 
fact, members of the Los Angeles Police Commission and the LAPD's inspector 
general had forgotten that such a report was promised until The Times 
disclosed last year that its release was long overdue.

Since then, nearly weekly, Caruso has been asking the department to produce 
the report.

"It's criminal that in the past this board ... has been asking for a report 
and we haven't been able to get one," Caruso said Tuesday.

Bratton said that, in its current form, the report is actually several 
separate draft documents, "none of which I would describe as complete or 

The chief said he was proposing an outside review because the public "will 
not trust anything coming from the department as it relates to Rampart."

"I've been to too many community meetings where Rampart keeps coming up 
again and again and again," said Bratton, who inherited the scandal when he 
took over the department in October.

To date, Perez and eight other Rampart Division anti-gang unit officers 
have been criminally charged. Of those eight, four pleaded guilty or no 
contest to charges and three others were convicted by a jury. Those 
convictions were overturned by a Superior Court judge and county 
prosecutors have appealed that decision. One officer was acquitted of charges.

Perez and his former partner Nino Durden are serving federal prison 
sentences in connection with the shooting of an unarmed gang member. Three 
others await sentencing.

In November, Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley announced that more than 80 
Rampart-related cases involving criminal allegations against police 
officers would not result in prosecutions. Cooley's spokeswoman, Sandi 
Gibbons, declined comment Tuesday on whether Bratton's lack of confidence 
in the LAPD's accounting of the scandal would have any impact on 
prosecutors' assessment of what occurred in Rampart .

"I don't think it would be appropriate to comment on what is an internal 
matter for the LAPD," Gibbons said.

At the LAPD, top officials have been scrambling to account for the 
department's investigative efforts in Rampart, which critics have described 
as lacking. Some department observers have accused the LAPD of covering up 
and minimizing the true extent of officer misconduct.

Several months ago, then-Assistant Chief David Gascon, a top aide to Parks, 
acknowledged that at least three shootings that Perez alleged were covered 
up had not been thoroughly investigated by the LAPD's corruption task force.

Cmdr. Daniel Koenig, who had been assigned to write the after-action 
report, has been warning commissioners for months that he faced a 
monumental task. He has acknowledged that the internal reports he has 
received were far from comprehensive accounts of the investigative efforts.

In addition, he said some of the internal reports he received from LAPD 
officials were more focused on assigning blame for problems during the 
investigation than on detailing what had been done.

On Tuesday, Koenig said he was not opposed to having a group of outsiders 
try to complete the report.

"If that's what it's going to take, then that's fine," Koenig said. "We 
need to move on and get some closure."

Ramona Ripston, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in 
Los Angeles , praised Bratton's proposal, saying it reflected "a strong 
commitment to reform."

"This issue is too important to be swept under the rug," Ripston said, 
adding that "the department's credibility and prospects for regaining the 
community's trust" are at stake.

Historically, the LAPD has written after-action reports following serious 
episodes. In recent years, for instance, such reports were produced after 
the 2000 Democratic National Convention and after the 1997 North Hollywood 
shootout with two heavily armed bank robbers.

One widely publicized after-action report followed an investigation into 
the taped allegations of former Det. Mark Fuhrman, who told an aspiring 
screenwriter tales of police brutality and discrimination. The tapes 
surfaced during the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

Joe Gunn, executive director of the Police Commission, said the commission 
is expected to discuss the panel's makeup at its meeting in two weeks.

"They will want to get someone from the outside -- probably community 
leaders who are well respected," Gunn said.

If the report was to come from within the Police Department, he added, 
"There's always the accusation that we are white-washing it."
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens