LAPD to Charge 15 Officers in Scandal

Thursday, March 9, 2000

LAPD to Charge 15 Officers in Scandal
Rampart: Most of the misconduct accusations stem from a party. Action signals chief’s desire to clean house.

By SCOTT GLOVER , MATT LAIT, Times Staff Writers

Signaling his desire to begin cleaning house at the Los Angeles Police Department, Chief Bernard C. Parks is charging at least 15 officers swept up in the department’s corruption scandal with misconduct, for which many could be fired, sources said Wednesday.
Even as a criminal probe continues, Parks has launched a massive administrative effort to punish officers implicated in the corruption.
Most of the officers now being brought up on departmental charges are considered minor players in the unfolding scandal, which includes allegations that Rampart Division officers were involved in unjustified shootings, beatings, evidence planting, perjury and an array of other crimes and misconduct.
Sources say the recent action stems largely from a “mug party” at the Police Academy at which officers, on duty and in uniform, drank alcohol. Other officers are accused of witnessing the misconduct and failing to report it.
Ten officers are being ordered to a Board of Rights hearing, the equivalent of a trial in the LAPD, and could be fired. Five others, presumably those who witnessed the misconduct, probably will receive lighter punishments such as suspensions, if found guilty. At least two sergeants were involved, a department source said. The chief’s action will increase the number of officers–at least 21 to date–who have been relieved of duty in connection with the scandal.
“This was a spinoff from the criminal investigation,” the source said. “There will be more to come.”
While these cases appear to have little bearing on the pending criminal investigation, Parks is planning to bring administrative charges against other officers, some of whom are key suspects in the ongoing criminal investigation. At least one officer implicated in an evidence-planting case already has received notice that he will be charged.
Proceeding in this manner, some sources say, could complicate future prosecutions of the officers because neither statements they are ordered to give by the LAPD nor evidence gathered as a result can be used against them in court. Federal and county prosecutors are so concerned about tainting potential criminal cases that they avoided reading the LAPD’s lengthy self-analysis of the scandal for fear that it may contain compelled statements by officers.
Parks, in a recent interview with The Times, said there were ways to proceed both administratively and criminally simultaneously without damaging either investigation. The chief said he could not wait to discipline officers because there is a one-year statute of limitations, beginning at the time department officials learned of the alleged misconduct.
Parks, who has criticized Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti for being too slow to file criminal charges against officers, said he was not willing to postpone punishing or terminating officers on the “gamble” that they would be prosecuted successfully.
Garcetti declined to comment, citing the pending criminal investigation.
It is not just local prosecutors who are concerned about damaging the investigation by mixing administrative and criminal probes. Six FBI agents and an assistant U.S. attorney assigned to investigate the corruption have been designated by their office as “dirty,” meaning they are privy to all of the LAPD’s information, regardless of how it was obtained. They will pass along to their superiors only information that did not come from compelled statements.
“We’re certain we’ll still be able to do the work we need to do,” said James V. DeSarno Jr., who heads the FBI’s Los Angeles office.
One former Rampart anti-gang officer said the department was “scraping the bottom of the barrel” by going after officers who attended the party. He said the event was part of a tradition at the LAPD in which officers celebrated a colleague’s transfer to a new assignment.
As part of the ritual, he said, officers passed around a booze-filled mug, toasting the guest of honor.
“It’s not like anyone got drunk,” he said. “It was no big deal.”
Ted Hunt, the president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said he fears that good officers will be swept up in the department’s zeal to discipline bad ones.
He also accused the department of focusing mostly on rank-and-file officers while ignoring the culpability of the LAPD’s managers.

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