By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
"I been coming here 45 years. I was born in the neighborhood," says Junior, who has a grizzled face and a husky voice animated by the drinks he's had this afternoon. "When I was young, in the '40s, they had all kind of gangs -- Alpine, White Fence, Loma, Palo Verde, Third Street. You learn to fight or you get your ass kicked, every day. My dad grew up the hard way. His father, he rode with Pancho Villa. I could tell you stories, oooh, could I tell you. Everyone tells me I should write a book.
"These cops here, they don't impress me in the least. Some get abusive. 'Yeah, yeah, don't talk back to me.' They don't do it to tease you -- they're enforcing their authority. I don't say nothin'to them. Some guys get a bad attitude, yes, some do. And there are too many young guys on the force, they don't know how to get along with people. See what I'm saying? You learn from experience. I been here a long time. No one gives me any bullshit; they do, they're gonna be on the ground. I don't take shit from nobody, not even cops. Don't overstep your authority. But I like to get along with everybody.
"I used to come here every day, now I come Fridays and Saturdays. It gets too crowded with those guys, those cops. It gets too loud, too many bad words, everything's 'Go to hell,' or 'Up your ass.' Kind of funny, huh? To serve and protect, and they use too many bad words. That's bullshit. They got the worst mouths of anyone I know. Shit, where's the role model? I got more class than any of those dogs. They're the worst drunks in the world. I guess I could write a book. Probably be a best-seller."
Deana laughs. "I love these guys. I like everything about working here. I like the attention -- I get a lot of sex talk and flirtation. Everybody falls in love with their bartender, if they're a good bartender. I used to be a cop groupie; now I serve them. When they come in, I don't know if they're a cop or not if they don't tell me -- I don't know every cop in L.A. But when they say, 'I'll have a beer, ma'am,' then I know they're a cop. I treat them the same as anybody else. In the end, they're still men."
IT'S HAPPY HOUR IN MID-SEPTEMBER, the fourth day of the Rampart scandal, and the Short Stop is visibly subdued.
"I tried to call you earlier this week, to tell you that good, bad or indifferent, this is not the time for journalists to ask anything," Deana tells me. "The cops have had it."
Mike is sitting with a court reporter I've seen here often but have never spoken with. "This place has been depressed," he says. "When I heard about it, I have to tell you, I almost cried. I taught five of the guys that have been put on home arrest. It's so depressing. For us, this is a huge betrayal."
So they believe it? They don't think Rafael Perez is just trying to shave time off his sentence?
"Oh, it's true. I know it's true," says the court reporter. "They wouldn't have come out with the story if it were just hearsay. It's terrible. They put a gun in [Javier] Ovando's hands and shot him in the head."
How far does it go?
"This is a fraction of the force," says Mike. "Then again, you have to ask yourself, what constitutes corruption? Is it corrupt for officers to accept a $3 lunch at Palermo's? Well, if the owner were to expect we wouldn't ticket his delivery trucks for parking illegally, yeah, it is."
What are the numbers of bad apples?
"I think it's very low, but in a way, it doesn't matter, because what they did hurts all of us. It erodes trust for the entire department."
I know this is true. And further, that the aggregate humanity of all the officers in Los Angeles is not, at present, holding sway over the imagination with the same vigor that the scandal is. And that, yet again, the public is ready to judge the LAPD by its worst members, to tar them all with the same brush, to begin a new round of passive detestation for the police. Which brings to mind an old 1960s line I once heard from owner Mike Balmer: "Don't like cops? Next time you're in trouble, call a hippie."
Will the department protect the guilty men?
"No. Bernard Parks is the one who came out with this," says Mike. "He gave the story to the L.A. Times. If this had happened under Daryl Gates, he would've denied everything to protect his men. But I'm telling you, this scandal is huge. I don't think there's ever been one this huge in Los Angeles."
The court reporter keeps saying, "They shot this kid in the head . . ."
I want to ask about Jesus, who works Rampart, but don't, because I'm pretty sure this would not be okay, because at the end of the day, I am not an officer, I am an artsy-fartsy, someone who is able to go somewhere else and, if the spirit moves me or the shit hits the fan, probably will.