Former Chief Takes Stand In Rampart Lawsuit Trial

Parks Testifies His Goal Was To ‘Get To The Bottom’ Of Allegations

POSTED: 6:03 pm PST January 31, 2006

SANTA ANA, Calif. — Former Los Angeles police chief Bernard Parks denied Tuesday ever hearing that disgraced officer Rafael Perez bragged he had framed officers and that a cellmate had offered to wear a wire to record it.

Parks, now a Los Angeles city councilman, took the stand on the fifth day of trial of a civil rights violation lawsuit brought by Officer Paul Harper, 39, former Sgt. Brian Liddy, 44, and suspended Sgt. Edward Ortiz, 49.

The officers, seeking millions of dollars for damage to their careers, claim authorities made them scapegoats because they were eager to show an example of a clean-up at the LAPD in the wake of police misconduct allegations by Perez that included falsifying of police reports.

Perez later served prison time.Parks was named personally as a defendant in the case, along with the city of Los Angeles, plaintiff attorney Etan Lorant said.

The District Attorney’s Office was dropped from the suit by virtue of prosecutorial immunity.

Parks insisted during questioning by Lorant’s co-counsel, Joseph Avrahamy, that as police chief, his goal was to “get to the bottom” of Perez’s allegations, as well as “identifying corruption and putting a stop to it.”

“It’s been my perception in 30 years as a police officer that the way to get positive reflection in the community is to do the job properly,” he said.

Asked if that included “weeding out” alleged wrongdoing in the department, Parks said that is the job of the police chief.

The “clear premise” of the investigation of Perez was that “we would have to have substantial evidence to support anything Perez said,” Parks said.

He said he was aware that Perez had failed lie detector tests.

Parks said he was not aware of any finding that “completely contradicted” statements Perez made, and had no information that a cellmate claimed that Perez admitted framing fellow officers.

“It’s the first time I’m hearing that information, but there are probably thousands of pieces of evidence I never heard about,” Parks said.

Parks also said he had not heard that the cellmate offered to wear a wire to get the alleged statements on tape.

Parks denied that “an entirely new scandal” would erupt if it were determined that Perez was framing officers.

“The fact that Rafael Perez didn’t tell the truth in another circumstance, I don’t think would be a shocker to those who followed the case,” he said.

Parks said it was the intent of LAPD news releases following the prosecution of officers to send the message, both outside and inside the department, that all misconduct would be investigated and would not be tolerated.

“That’s what our discipline system is based on,” he said.

When asked if the case “was not about truth but about sending a message,” Parks responded that the charges were filed by the district attorney, who does not file cases “based on only sending messages, but on legitimate criminal behavior and whether or not it can be proved.”

Asked if the information about the cellmate would change his opinion that an “exhaustive” investigation had been done, Parks answered no.

“It would not change my opinion if I found one area that someone overlooked or had not handled properly,” Parks said.

“In total, the investigation was an outstanding investigation.

“Parks denied there was any “pressure on the LAPD to arrest just anyone.”

He said there were about 100 cases involving criminals that the department, after the probe, “felt it could not stand behind.”

“They may have been legitimate cases, but we couldn’t support them because the officers accused of corruption were the only witnesses,” he said.

Parks conceded that “a primary part” of the investigation was to get people out of prison if they had been arrested illegally — and that included gang members and people with prior police records.

Parks said he never heard the colloquialism, “Rampart Lotto.”

“Any time you take illegal action to take someone one’s liberty, you put yourselves in (jeopardy) of litigation” and also raise the prospect of paying out settlement sums, Parks said.

Asked if it was true that $100 million was paid out to settle inmate and prisoner claims, Park said he knew it was “several million” but was unsure of the exact amount.

Despite his current position on the council, Parks denied he had any political aspirations during the time of the Rampart investigation.

Parks was asked if he was ever frustrated because the district attorney was not filing the cases against officers fast enough.

He replied that there were times when prosecutors were slow to file, even with “significant evidence” collected by the LAPD.

But when asked if he had ever said on a television program, “Let’s get some officers to court, just get them to a jury,” Parks said, “I don’t recall that statement.

“He said he had given “several hundred” interviews and could not recall that one specifically.

Asked if he was aware that then-District Attorney Gil Garcetti said he had been “hounded” by Parks, the ex-chief said he was “not aware the term hounding was used.”

Perez, as part of an agreement, received five years in prison for stealing cocaine in exchange for identifying allegedly corrupt officers.

As to the plaintiff officers, jurors voted to acquit all three of framing 18th Street gang member Allan Lobos, but Liddy and Ortiz were convicted of obstructing justice in another case tried concurrently.

Those convictions were overturned by the judge, who ruled she had committed an error that tainted the jury’s verdict.

Posted by on Jan 13 2006. Filed under Rampart Police Scandal. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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