Parks Excludes Garcetti From Rampart Inquiry

Scandal: Angry D.A. denounces action, saying Police Department is ‘out of control.’ LAPD defends chief’s order, saying corruption cases will be taken to the U.S. attorney.

March 15, 2000

By SCOTT GLOVER and MATT LAIT, Times Staff Writers

In a stunning rebuke, Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks has unilaterally ordered his detectives to deny county prosecutors access to information regarding the ongoing Rampart corruption investigation, sources said Tuesday.
Parks, sources said, blames Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti for mishandling the six-month probe, alleging that prosecutors have given the LAPD bad legal advice and can no longer be trusted.
As of Monday, deputy district attorneys who have been working on the inquiry for months were being told by LAPD detectives that they would no longer be made privy to audiotapes, shooting reports and other documents in the department’s possession, according to sources and documents obtained by The Times. The local prosecutors were being referred to the U.S. attorney’s office for any information they sought, the sources added.
“We have a department out of control–or trying to control everything,” an outraged Garcetti said in an interview late Tuesday. “This is not permissible in our system of government. This chief is accountable to the justice system. If [Parks] wants to test this in court, we are going to win.”
Garcetti said his office and the that of state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer have been working unsuccessfully since Thursday to dissuade Parks from what the prosecutor called the chief’s illegal position.
“I am profoundly disappointed with the chief and the department,” Garcetti said. “We have responded to him that it will be prosecutors and not the chief who make the decisions on prosecutions. I am absolutely determined to get to the very bottom of this and I am not going to permit the chief of police to impair our ability to do so. If necessary, I’ll go to the grand jury and subpoena every document and officer involved in this investigation.”
The district attorney said Parks has made misrepresentations about the Rampart investigation, including his assertion in a letter to prosecutors that decisions regarding federal indictments are imminent and that the state attorney general is considering filing cases stemming from the scandal.
“That is clearly contrary to what the U.S. attorney has told us. He has assured us there are no imminent indictments,” Garcetti said. “The state attorney general also has made it clear to [the LAPD] that they will not enter the case because they believe this office is handling it in a proper and professional manner.”
Cmdr. David J. Kalish, the department’s spokesman, defended the chief’s decision.
“It doesn’t make sense to work with two prosecutorial agencies simultaneously and have two parallel investigations,” Kalish said. “This is the best approach. The cases will be taken directly to the U.S attorney, who will make the appropriate prosecutorial decisions. This is not a matter of anyone being cut out but rather a strategic approach to secure successful prosecutions.”
Parks has justified his action by saying that he considers the U.S. attorney’s office to be the lead prosecutorial agency in the ongoing criminal probe. Federal prosecutors, in a news conference last month, announced that they would work jointly with the district attorney and the LAPD in the corruption investigation, but have never said they were assuming the lead role in the probe.
Alejandro Mayorkas, the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, declined to comment on the chief’s action.
Some legal observers questioned whether Parks has the authority to shut the district attorney out of a local criminal investigation.
“I don’t know if he can do it,” one government attorney said. “Frankly, it’s never come up before.”
Parks informed Garcetti of his plan to deal primarily with the U.S. attorney in a letter dated March 8.
Garcetti, in a letter to Parks on Tuesday, said that the chief’s “refusal to cooperate with our potential prosecutions of crimes committed by members of your department is unacceptable and contrary to your legal responsibilities as chief of police.”
City Atty. James K. Hahn was not available for comment. However, a spokesman for his office, which normally advises LAPD on legal issues, said: “We have not seen the letter. We were not consulted about its contents.”
For months, Parks has publicly criticized Garcetti for being too slow to ask judges to throw out cases tainted by officer misconduct, and for failing to file criminal charges against two current officers and one former LAPD officer implicated in the corruption scandal.
“In the past we’ve been somewhat disillusioned with the D.A.’s office because of leaks of critical information that has hampered the ongoing investigation,” added one LAPD official.
When Parks invited the FBI to join the investigation several weeks ago without informing Garcetti, it was widely viewed as a slap in the face to the prosecutor. Garcetti was forced into a runoff election for his job earlier this month.
The district attorney, sources say, believes Parks is rushing the corruption probe and pressing for the filing of relatively minor criminal charges against officers in an effort to minimize the scope of the scandal.
So far, the LAPD corruption investigation has turned up allegations of unjustified shootings, beatings, evidence planting, false arrests and perjury. The probe, for the most part, has been fueled by the testimony of ex-Officer Rafael Perez, who is cooperating with authorities in exchange for a five-year prison sentence for stealing drugs.
Since September, when the scandal broke, at least 29 officers have been relieved of duty, suspended, quit or been fired. Additionally, dozens of criminal convictions have been overturned.
News of the worsening feud between the district attorney’s office and the LAPD came a day after The Times disclosed that investigators are making progress in the criminal probe, finding at least two LAPD officers implicated in the scandal who corroborate Perez’s account of some police crimes and misconduct.
Deputy Chief Michael Bostic, who headed the department’s Board of Inquiry, elaborated on the chief’s plan Tuesday night.
“It’s important for the federal government to take the first crack,” he said, because federal offenses carry stiffer penalties and federal grand juries are more secure. “Once the FBI decides what to give to local prosecutors, we will work with local prosecutors,” Bostic told an audience gathered at the Skirball Center to hear panel discussions of the Rampart scandal sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League.
In an interview after the presentation, Bostic said that while the LAPD still is working out procedural protocols with federal authorities, the department envisions a process in which all cases will go first to a so-called dirty team of FBI agents and police detectives and then to a clean team. In law enforcement parlance, dirty teams are those that may receive statements that officers have been compelled to give under LAPD regulations. Clean teams are units that will not be exposed to compelled statements and, therefore, will not produce cases containing evidence that may be tainted by violations of officers’ constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination.
The clean team’s cases, according to Bostic, will be forwarded to federal prosecutors. Cases that the U.S. authorities decide not to file, the deputy chief said, will be turned over to the district attorney for possible prosecution under state law.

Times City Editor Bill Boyarsky contributed to this story.

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