Pubdate: Sat,  1 Mar 2003
Source: Contra Costa Times (CA)
Copyright: 2003 Knight Ridder
Author: Paul Wilborn, Associated Press
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)


LOS ANGELES - The police scandal that cost the city $40 million in
settlements and led to dozens of convictions being overturned flared anew
this week when the police chief blasted an internal report and newly
reported testimony suggested that corrupt officers were still on the beat.

Police Chief William Bratton criticized a departmental review of the scandal
as so flawed he won't approve it and called for an independent investigation
into the allegations of officer cover-ups, evidence planting, lying under
oath and shootings of unarmed suspects.

Critics of the department said the move toward an outside review is long

"This issue is too important to be swept under the rug," said Ramona
Ripston, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern
California. "At stake is nothing more than the department's credibility and
prospects for regaining the community's trust."

The Rampart corruption scandal, named for the division where it originated
in a heavily immigrant, gang-infested section of the city, broke publicly in
1999 after former anti-gang Officer Rafael Perez was arrested for stealing
cocaine from an evidence locker. He began talking about corruption
throughout his unit and revealed the cover-up of a 1996 shooting in which
officers framed a man who they had shot and paralyzed.

Follow-up investigations into incidents between 1995 and 1998 led to judges
overturning convictions or tossing out charges in about 100 cases.

The city's civilian police commission has awaited an internal review since
2001, but Bratton this week said the final report was useless and that any
internal report would be viewed as biased.

"I've been to too many community meetings where Rampart keeps coming up
again and again and again," said Bratton, who has been chief since October.

An independent panel will be appointed in two weeks, said Joe Gunn,
executive director of the commission. The probe is likely to examine the
chain of command that allowed the problems to fester.

"When you look at the scope of corruption on the street level, it was very
small," said City Councilman Dennis Zine, a former LAPD officer. "I think
Bratton wants to look beyond that into the command level."

Some 70 officers were investigated and nine, including Perez and his former
partner, Nino Durden, have been prosecuted. Both are in prison after
pleading guilty to federal charges stemming from the 1996 shooting.

Durden told state and federal investigators during interviews in 2001 that
officers and sergeants in Rampart's anti-gang unit routinely committed
crimes, according to transcripts of the interviews obtained by the Los
Angeles Times.

"Do I believe that other things were occurring in the seven or eight months
that I was there? Yeah, I do," Durden told the investigators. "I didn't feel
like what was happening was exclusive to Perez and myself."

He named two officers who allegedly filed false reports in connection with
the 1996 shooting and who remain on active duty.
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