By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
In fact, according to an L.A. Times follow-up investigation of the Perez transcripts that had been made available to the paper, the higher-ups not only knew about the violence, they celebrated it. In a story in last Saturday’s Times, an officer in the Rampart anti-gang CRASH unit told of attending beer blasts, some at the Police Academy, where awards were given to CRASH officers who’d killed or wounded someone on the street. At two such parties, he said, lieutenants were in attendance, and one was attended by a captain.
Despite the evidence that elements of the department’s command structure were involved in the scandal, however, Parks insists that the Rampart investigation should be conducted by . . . well, the department’s command structure. He has rejected all suggestions that an independent commission, such as Warren Christopher’s, may be better suited to conduct the investigation and recommend reforms. For his part, Riordan has voiced his confidence in Parks and Parks’ approach. In much the same manner that he stood with Parks against granting real power to the inspector general, Riordan now insists that Parks and the department not be subjected to any outside scrutiny. Moreover, according to the Times’ Jim Newton, Riordan has sided with the chief against the current I.G., Jeffrey Eglash, who concluded that the killing by a police officer of Margaret Mitchell — a tiny, middle-aged homeless woman who was brandishing a screwdriver — violated department rules. Parks has disagreed, calling the shooting tragic but justified in policy. Not only has Riordan supported Parks, Newton reports, but he has turned against his own Police Commission chair, attorney Gerald Chaleff, for favoring Eglash’s interpretation, and, on Tuesday, for leading the commission by a 3-to-2 vote to back the I.G.’s position.
In short, throughout this entire period of crisis, Riordan has repeatedly insisted that the department essentially be free of civilian oversight and control.
At Parker Center, it’s Riordan time.
Finally, in classic Riordan fashion, the mayor is doing his work on this crisis almost entirely behind the scenes. On the Rampart rampage itself, the mayor has been all but silent. He’s issued public statements of support for Parks, most recently on Tuesday, but his assaults on Chaleff — like his earlier assaults on Katherine Mader — have been perpetrated almost entirely out of the public eye. No wonder Riordan wants the LAPD to escape civilian oversight: Like the department, the mayor is comfortable only when his work eludes public scrutiny.
The irony, for those who can remember back a whole nine months, is that Richard Rior dan spent much of the past two years campaigning for a new city charter that gives the mayor more responsibility and power. Under the old charter, the mayor argued, accountability was diffused to the point of nonexistence. The new charter would give the mayor clearer responsibility for city departments, and unambiguous control over department heads. Riordan fought with the council, which defended the old charter, on the precise question of whether the mayor could fire department heads. And, by persuading voters to enact the new charter, Riordan’s vision of city government — a vision where the mayor is the hands-on manager of the city’s workers and the deviser of its administrative policies — prevailed at the polls.
And now, with the conduct of city workers and the content of city policies all but certain to be judged criminal, and the city’s financial liability all but certain to be staggering, the mayor has all but vanished. Hands-on Riordan has become Invisible Dick. Media attention has largely been directed to the turf battles between D.A. Gil Garcetti and Parks, between the I.G. and Parks, between certain commissioners and Parks. The chief should have been more vigilant, we’re told, or the D.A. more perceptive, or the commission less compliant.
But read the city charter — both its old version and, even more, its Riordanized new one. When it comes to police practices and conduct, the buck doesn’t stop with Bernie Parks, or Gil Garcetti, or Jeffrey Eglash, or Gerald Chaleff, or John Ferraro, or even Bill Wardlaw. It stops with Richard Riordan — tough enough to turn L.A. around, but nowhere to be found when, as a result of his own priorities, the going gets tough for both the city and its mayor.