In her final argument, prosecutor Anne Ingalls was able to persuade the jury that, while all citizens want to see the police rid the city of criminal street gangs, ”Let‘s get them fair and square.“ It was enough to bring a verdict against three officers after a four-week trial, but something less than the sense of outrage kindled by the videotaped beating of Rodney King, outrage that led to the formation of the Christopher Commission and the ouster of Daryl Gates.
By contrast, the leading public figure in the Rampart scandal will remain Rafael Perez, an antihero who will get media attention but never exoneration. The question for the city and for the LAPD is, What will become of the second Rampart scandal? Who will move to rein in the cowboy officers like Liddy and Buchanan and Ortiz, who staff the specialized units across the city?
The first Rampart criminal trial made clear that the answer will be a test of leadership, not a measure of civic will. With the federal consent decree and a spate of recent critiques, the apparatus for reform is already in place, but the future of reform at the LAPD must come at the direction of a handful of political figures, including the mayor and the district attorney. To get there, they won’t have the luxury of riding a crest of public outrage. They‘ll have to muster that determination on their own.