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Parks Seeks $9 Million to Fix LAPD Corruption

Sunday, February 6, 2000

Police: In scathing report on scandal, chief blames lax oversight and says ‘deplorable circumstances’ will recur unless sweeping measures are taken.

By SCOTT GLOVER and MATT LAIT, Times Staff Writers

In a stinging indictment of his own department, Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks has told the Police Commission that lax oversight and poor adherence to departmental policies helped “corruption to flourish” in the LAPD.
Parks’ critical evaluation is contained in a report that the commission will take up Tuesday. In it, the chief says he needs at least $9 million and hundreds of new positions next year alone to fix the problems brought to light by the ongoing Rampart Division corruption scandal.
“These terrible events have forever changed the department and the city,” Parks wrote in the report to his five civilian bosses.
If appropriate steps are not taken, Parks warned, “it is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’ these deplorable circumstances would recur.”
Parks’ budget request offers an extensive preview of the massive internal investigation that the LAPD launched after ex-officer-turned-informant Rafael Perez implicated himself and other officers in a host of crimes and acts of misconduct, ranging from unjustified shootings and false arrests to witness tampering, evidence planting and perjury.
Perhaps the most disturbing finding in Parks’ 17-page report is the disclosure that “a few” officer-involved shootings “have come under serious question.” He said the LAPD’s internal investigation of such shootings must improve. At least seven “questionable” shootings are under review by the LAPD’s corruption task force, which is focusing on criminal wrongdoing by officers.
Among his recommendations, in addition to new positions in other divisions, Parks advocates adding 200 officers and civilian employees over the next five years to the Internal Affairs Division; improving the screening process for new recruits; promoting more and better supervisors; conducting secret “integrity” stings to ensure that officers are honest; and assigning the department’s Robbery/Homicide Division to take over all aspects of officer-involved shooting incidents.
Police Commission President Gerald L. Chaleff said that although the chief’s report “contains many constructive recommendations,” he believes the commission should wait to review the complete findings of the department’s internal probe, known as the board of inquiry, before deciding on a course of action.
“This is an extraordinary and extraordinarily complex situation. We all need to do whatever is required to ensure that it never happens again,” Chaleff said. “We need to proceed aggressively, but deliberately.”
Ted Hunt, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said the chief’s summary made him suspicious of where the department was headed with its internal investigation.
“Management is looking for a scapegoat. They’re going to want to say it’s those bad street cops,” Hunt said. “But street cops follow orders. Orders come from the top.”
The LAPD’s internal probe, which the chief said “was convened to determine how this corrupt and illegal activity was allowed to occur,” was initially slated to be completed in October. However, the probe has taken longer than expected, officials said, and is now scheduled to be released publicly later this month. Investigators have examined tens of thousands of documents and conducted hundreds of interviews.

Aiming to Prevent Any Recurrence
The recommendations in the pending board of inquiry report are aimed at “ensuring [that] such extensive corrupt behavior is never allowed to recur,” Parks told commissioners.
“These failures and their causes cannot be viewed as one-time or episodic events for which the department and the city can ‘close the books’ any more than they can ‘close the books’ on the civil liability which will continue to flow from these failures,” he said.
Last week, the chief and a representative of the city attorney’s office told City Council members during a closed briefing that the city’s civil liability for the corruption scandal could reach $125 million. To date, Parks has said, 99 people have been wrongly convicted of crimes because LAPD officers planted evidence or perjured themselves.
In his report to the commission, Parks referred back to the LAPD’s last major corruption case, which involved vice officers in the 1950s and 1960s, and noted that safeguards implemented in vice operations after that scandal have proved very successful over the years. Similar precautions, he said, need to be adopted departmentwide.
“Systematic problems, such as those we encountered in other places, are virtually unheard of in our vice operations,” Parks wrote. “Therefore, we believe it is necessary to emulate those systems . . . where integrity breaches can be far more serious and liability massive.”
As part of the LAPD’s internal probe, investigators developed profiles of several officers caught up in the corruption scandal. According to Parks’ report, investigators found that pre-employment information on several of the officers they reviewed “raises serious issues” regarding their initial employment.
The report said that although criminal records, inability to manage personal finances, violent behavior or involvement with drugs should all preclude employment with the LAPD, “the reality is that these factors did not disqualify several of these officers, two of whom have now been fired or resigned following felony convictions and a third after beating a handcuffed arrestee.”
To help address the problem, Parks said, polygraph examinations, with a particular emphasis on drug use and integrity, should be administered routinely to all police officer candidates.
The internal probe, Parks said, found that another major contributing factor in the Rampart scandal was the “relative youth and inexperience” of the officers who migrated through the division’s anti-gang CRASH unit.

Unit Staffed With Inexperienced Officers
Such units perform “among the most sensitive and risky of department operations. Yet we staff these units with the basic ranks and all too often fill many of these positions with officers barely off probation.”
In the future, only tenured supervisors and officers should be selected for such assignments, Parks wrote. He added that the board of inquiry investigators found that the “lack of effective field supervision in Rampart was, frankly, glaring.”
Detectives working the criminal aspect of the corruption investigation suspect that at least one supervisor was an active participant in helping officers cover up questionable shootings.
Because of the youth and inexperience in the CRASH units, Parks said, many LAPD employees are unaware of the department’s “less-than-routine” procedures. For example, he said, there was “near-universal ignorance” of the LAPD’s rules for using informants and “even less comprehension of the dangers inherent in the use of informants.”

Officers Accused of Abusing Informants
In the Rampart scandal, informants were allegedly mishandled and abused by anti-gang officers. Several officers used confidential informants without properly registering them with the department. One informant allegedly was beaten in the interview room at Rampart station. And sources close to the criminal probe allege that Perez illegally used informants to pinpoint people with drugs and money for his own personal gain.
When complaints were lodged against officers, too often they were investigated within the division where they occurred as opposed to being referred to the department’s Internal Affairs Division.
“Many of those complaints involved serious community complaints that should have been handled by [Internal Affairs] to ensure the most independent and thorough investigation possible,” the report stated.
The proposed addition of sworn and civilian staff members to Internal Affairs is intended to accommodate such a shift. Parks also wants to beef up the department’s risk management division, which he said failed to recognize “alarming trends.”
But the chief said that responding to complaints is not enough, and that the department must ferret out corruption on its own. To that end, he proposed the formation of an Ethics Enforcement Section within the Internal Affairs Division that would “continually conduct sting operations to find and root out corruption.”

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