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Jan Perry’s LAPD Blues

Photo by Ted SoquiCouncilwoman Jan Perry's charges of police misconduct against Peter Torres, her opponent in last spring’s election, have been shot down by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Internal Affairs Group, according to documents obtained by the Weekly. Torres, a senior lead officer formerly of Newton Division, now at Rampart Division, was an upstart who got under Perry’s skin while she was running for her 9th council district seat in March. After an eight-month investigation, in which even the witnesses hired lawyers, investigators have determined that two charges by Perry that Torres campaigned while in uniform were “unfounded,” according to Internal Affairs documents.The investigation had all the markings of political payback, with a veteran LAPD officer’s career at stake. Perry’s charges against Torres, who reduced crime more than any other officer in Newton last year, forced the LAPD into an awkward position. Perry reached into Parker Center and the Office of the Inspector General in an attempt to engage Chief Bill Bratton, Deputy Chief Cayler “Lee” Carter and Inspector General Andre Birotte in her beef with Torres.

To read more of Jeffrey Anderson's coverage of the story, and to see the documents obtained by the L.A. Weekly, click here.

In the end, investigators were forced to rule on claims by an elected official who has influence over police budget and salary issues.Another outcome might have been foreordained. However, investigators found that Perry’s statements to the police were inconsistent with other witnesses’ statements and that she refused to cooperate with the investigation, according to Internal Affairs documents. LAPD Complaint Investigation No. 05-0151, prepared by Sergeant Katarina Thomas of Internal Affairs, states: “On June 16, 2005, the investigating officer again requested a tape-recorded interview with Perry through [her lawyer]. [He] said that Perry has told the Inspector General Andre Birotte ‘everything she’s going to say.’ Perry has refused to cooperate with this investigation, other than the initial interview with Captain Kane,” referring to Sean Kane, commanding officer at Newton Division, who received Perry’s complaint by telephone on January 6.On Monday, political-affairs attorney Stephen Kaufman, who has represented Perry since 2000, disputed the investigator’s report, parts of which were read to him over the telephone. “Statements in the report regarding our communication with Internal Affairs not only mischaracterize the situation, but they are outrageous distortions of the truth,” he said. According to Kaufman, Perry “sought to ensure that investigators had all the relevant information” needed to complete their investigation. Kaufman told of a March 18, 2005, meeting in City Hall that he attended with Birotte and Perry, at Perry’s request. “Councilwoman Perry provided complete testimony to Inspector General Birotte regarding this matter on March 18,” Kaufman said on Monday. “[Perry] was there to answer questions [Birotte] had and to give complete facts as she knew them.”The unusually sensitive matter raises questions about the expenditure of LAPD resources, as it does about the nature of Birotte’s involvement, Perry’s use of power and Perry’s credibility. On Monday, Birotte confirmed being contacted by Perry and her attorney, and that he attended the March 18 meeting in City Hall. “I met with them. They expressed their concerns about the allegations against Officer Torres. I confirmed that the investigation was ongoing and that it would address those concerns.”Birotte said he did not recall taking notes as Perry gave what her lawyer described as her “complete testimony.” He said he does not recall whether he initiated a duplicate investigation. He said the Office of the Inspector General gets directly involved with Internal Affairs investigations under certain circumstances. For instance, Birotte said, sometimes the Police Commission requests the Inspector General’s involvement. Or, he said, the Inspector General seeks involvement on its own. In this case, neither of those circumstances applied, according to Birotte. “I wasn’t involved in an investigation.”Perry has leveled previous charges against Torres that investigators dismissed as “unfounded,” according to Internal Affairs documents. In 1997, when Torres first ran for City Council, Perry, while chief of staff to incumbent Rita Walters, accused Torres of interfering at a polling location. “The allegations appear fabricated,” investigators noted, according to Internal Affairs documents. “Ms. Perry’s account of this incident and the allegation are not credible.”Torres referred all questions about the most recent Perry charges to his lawyer, Michael Plotkin: “If you had asked me whether I had confidence in the LAPD’s system for dealing with these types of allegations, I would have said no,” Plotkin said on Monday. “Perry is the worst kind of public official that there is. She is beneath contempt. But the LAPD must be applauded for conducting a complete, thorough and fair investigation.”Reached by cell phone, Perry replied, “I have no comment.”Reaction from LAPD officials was tepid and at times dismissive. “A complaint is a complaint is a complaint,” said Mary Grady, head of the LAPD’s public-information office, brushing aside the significance of the matter, the prominence of the complainant, and the outcome. “We investigate every allegation thoroughly.”Birotte, in an interview in his office last Friday, said that the LAPD has a uniform protocol for investigating charges of misconduct, mandated by a federal consent decree, with charges classified internally as low, medium or high, depending on seriousness. He said Perry’s charges against Torres did not fit cleanly into any of the LAPD’s internal categories. “I can’t seem to recall these types of allegations,” he said.Andrea Ordin, a newly appointed police commissioner who used to be the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, and who now is a partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, wore a pained expression as she ducked questions about the outcome of the investigation. “We like to speak with one voice, but I’m not sure we will speak,” Ordin said of the Police Commission on Friday, when visited at her firm.The charges arose on January 6, when Perry called Captain Sean Kane of Newton Division and accused Torres of campaigning in uniform in two separate places on December 18, 2004. The investigator’s report states that Perry was notified of the formal investigation by certified mail on March 7. Torres lost the March 8 primary by a landslide amid racial insults and signs of ruthless electioneering. On Election Day, phone lines to his headquarters were cut, according to a police report. About a week after the bitter loss, Torres was informed by Kane that a complaint of misconduct had been received, that he had “ruffled someone’s feathers,” according to Plotkin, whom Torres hired out of his own pocket after discussing the matter with Bob Baker and Ted Hunt of the Police Protective League. It soon became apparent to Plotkin that Perry was involved and that she had already contacted top brass at LAPD to convey her displeasure. On March 28, Plotkin and Torres met with Baker and attorney Hank Hernandez of the Police Protective League, according to Plotkin. He said he was informed that Perry or a representative of hers had contacted Chief Bratton, and that Deputy Chief Lee Carter, who was overseeing the matter, was considering the most serious discipline possible. “They said there was an internal investigation, that it was serious,” Plotkin said. “Baker offered to intervene and wanted one of their lawyers to handle the matter. We got the clear impression that Bratton was personally contacted and that it could be headed to a Board of Rights hearing. They viewed it as a possible end to Torres’ police career.”Carter informed Torres that he was being removed from Newton Division and placed “on loan” to Rampart, pending the outcome of an investigation. “Peter was crestfallen,” Plotkin said. Carter met with the Weekly in early April but refused to discuss the matter. The Weekly reported the story on April 7.Perry’s reliance on Birotte as her point of contact with Internal Affairs appeared to create problems for investigators. They were “unable to resolve discrepancies in her statement,” according to Internal Affairs documents. “The investigation was not completed within the five-month statute, as stipulated by the Consent Decree, due to the investigating officer’s attempts to interview Perry,” an investigator’s note states.“Councilwoman Perry never received a request for her recorded testimony,” Kaufman replied. “Had that request been made, she would have been happy to give it.”The LAPD’s initial complaint form of January 6 states that Perry consulted with Detective Harry J. Eddo, the LAPD’s government liaison, to confirm Torres’ story that he had responded to a shooting near a neighborhood-council meeting he visited while on duty on December 18, 2004. According to the complaint form, Eddo told Perry there was no such call for service that night. When contacted by an investigator, Eddo “did not recall the specifics of that telephone call,” according to Internal Affairs documents.After confirming a call for service related to a shooting on the night in question, the investigator concluded that “Torres did not campaign in uniform.” The LAPD’s January 6 complaint form also states that Loma White, one of Perry’s deputies, who also was represented by Kaufman, told her that Torres had shown up earlier that same evening at a different meeting that appeared to be a “staged” political event. According to Internal Affairs documents, White had not been at that meeting. Nor had Perry. Angie English, a Perry deputy who was at that meeting, and who also was represented by Kaufman, told investigators she believed Torres attended the meeting for political purposes, according to Internal Affairs documents. “It was just her belief,” the investigator wrote, noting no evidence that Torres did or said anything to confirm that belief. “Clearly this allegation is unfounded,” the investigator concluded, according to Internal Affairs documents.In August, investigators recommended that Torres be returned to Newton. He has remained a senior lead officer at Rampart. Newton’s loss has been Rampart’s gain. Captain Denis J. Cremins, commanding officer at Rampart, said of Torres, “From day one, he rolled up his sleeves and got down to work. He’s done an outstanding job. He’s bonded with the community, and I’ve had nothing but positive feedback. I’m proud to have him in my command.”