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
That suits the city’s institutions of criminal justice just fine. The LAPD disciplinary hearings that arose from the Rampart scandal have all but ground to a halt, as have the efforts of the department’s Rampart Task Force. Likewise, the D.A. has folded up its Rampart squad; Deputy District Attorney Rosenthal, in particular, has accepted a transfer to the Van Nuys Division, closer to home and far from the frustrations of the downtown office. From all appearances, as far as official Los Angeles is concerned, Rampart is over.
The clear winner in this extended round of power politics is Chief Parks, a disciplinarian and LAPD careerist who, from his first weeks in office, rebuffed the reform initiatives of the Police Commission by asserting that cops are the only ones qualified to police the department.
In the early weeks after Perez began talking, Parks seemed to take the confessions at face value, suspending officers by the score and promising full public disclosure of misconduct. But as the months wore by, his manner changed; by this year, Parks had become downright defiant.
“The real pattern and practice of the LAPD is to provide outstanding service,” Parks declared at a public forum in January. As to Rampart, Parks said, “Our intent was to get to the truth of the matter, to show that this department had a willingness to put an end to this.” That pursuit of the truth found that “Clearly we’re dealing with a number of officers that is less than one-tenth of 1 percent of this department . . . involved in criminal behavior, and they have certainly, many of them been brought to conclusion . . . It is not the crime of the century that has been articulated in the news, nor is it the worst corruption ever seen in Los Angeles.”
It was a telling choice of words. Parks was interested almost exclusively in issues of blatant criminality — theft of drugs in particular — rather than accepting â the idea that Perez was the extreme endpoint of an entire culture that needed reform. When other parties sought to examine the same cases, possibly with a different agenda, Parks and his staff pushed them back.
The department’s effort to stonewall outside inquiries was most pronounced in dealing with its ostensible partner in the case, the District Attorney’s Office. Details of the conflict came to light during the Rampart criminal trial last year, documented in a filing with the court. In a motion seeking access to LAPD personnel records and investigative files, Deputy District Attorney Brian Schirn argued that “The Rampart investigation has demonstrated how difficult it is for a law-enforcement agency to police itself. This is especially true when the investigation is as widespread and far-reaching as it is in the Rampart scandal.
“In many instances the investigators assigned to the LAPD Rampart Task Force worked Rampart [themselves] or were supervisors at Rampart at the time of the officers’ indiscretion. Many of these investigators from LAPD have relationships, even friendships, with some of the individuals under investigation. Accordingly, it is not surprising that there are some LAPD investigators who have difficulty conducting a thorough and complete investigation of the police agency to which they belong.”
Members of the task force, Schirn continued, “at times failed to conduct a thorough investigation, failed to provide vital information to the district attorney, failed to provide full discovery even after a court order, and even warned a suspect officer of search warrants to be served at several officers’ homes.”
In one case that drew broad media attention, Chief Parks himself engaged in a similar round of obstruction. Claiming to be frustrated at the slow pace of investigation and prosecution by the district attorney, Parks, in March of 2000, directed his staff to stop cooperating with the D.A.’s investigators and instead forward the fruits of the LAPD’s investigation exclusively to federal agencies, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI. The decision was pronounced illegal by the city attorney and the state attorney general, but when Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti cried foul, Parks denied the subterfuge and snubbed Garcetti as “a person who has a sagging political future.”
Parks’ conduct prompted an emergency meeting of the Police Commission and an order that Inspector General Jeffrey C. Eglash investigate to determine whether Parks’ statements amounted to official misconduct. After his staff had conducted an “extensive investigation,” including interviews with 28 individuals involved, Eglash reported back that Parks had, in fact, refused to cooperate with the district attorney, had “unnecessarily criticized” Garcetti, and had made “misleading statements” in denying the facts of the imbroglio. Moreover, Eglash reported that the chief’s top commanders, including deputy chiefs Martin Pomeroy and Michael Bostic, as well as Commander Dan Schatz, then head of the Rampart Task Force, had changed their stories to support the chief. Months later, after reviewing Eglash’s report, the Police Commission sided with the chief and rejected the I.G.’s findings.
With the investigation hopelessly stalled, with Chief Parks asserting that his department had “located” the Rampart scandal and “brought it to an end,” the question remains: What the hell happened at Rampart? Was Perez lying all along?