Rampart Report Is a Year Overdue

LAPD: Chief, seeking a new term, is behind on a promised second document. An official blames the complexity of the investigation.

By SCOTT GLOVER and MATT LAIT
TIMES STAFF WRITERS

March 30 2002

Shortly after the Rampart corruption scandal came to light in 1999, Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks promised to get to the bottom of the department’s troubles and publicly explain what went wrong in two comprehensive reports.

The chief issued the first report two years ago, documenting the administrative and managerial failures of the LAPD that police officials believe contributed to the misconduct in Rampart. But the second report, which is supposed to reveal “the exact nature and disposition of each allegation,” has yet to be written.

Parks initially said the second report would be completed by early last year. Department officials now say that document is still weeks, if not longer, away from completion. It has been delayed, they said, because the corruption investigation has dragged on longer than expected, involving hundreds of allegations and making it more difficult to chronicle them all. One effect of that delay is that the report, now more than a year overdue, probably will not be made public until after the city Police Commission decides whether to give Parks a second term as chief.

He is scheduled to appear before the commission Monday to discuss his reappointment. The author of the second report stressed, however, that the delays in producing it are not related to Parks’ bid for another term, but rather are the result of difficulties in gathering large volumes of material and working with other agencies.

Police commissioners have said that they will evaluate Parks, in part, on his handling of the Rampart scandal. The documents related to the department’s response to the scandal are available to the commission even though the final report is not complete.

Although Parks won initial praise for trying to uncover the scandal, many critics have complained that the chief failed to make good on his pledge to investigate corruption wherever it led in the department.

“If Parks had intentionally planned to cover up Rampart, I don’t think he could have done a better job,” said USC professor Erwin Chemerinsky, who has studied the LAPD and who, working for the city’s police union, produced his own report on the corruption.

The LAPD’s investigation, according to Chemerinsky and other department observers, minimized the scope of police wrongdoing. Once completed, the second report could help prove whether that criticism is valid.

“A report like this is long overdue. It’s essential,” said Gary Wigodsky, an alternate public defender. “The LAPD is sitting on a mountain of evidence that corroborates these [corruption] allegations.”

Known in the LAPD vernacular as an “after-action report,” the second document is supposed to account for every allegation of criminal or administrative misconduct that arose from the Rampart probe.

That would mean that police officials would have disclosed for the first time what detectives found in the course of their 2 1/2-year investigation. Much of the investigation was spurred by the admissions and allegations of former LAPD Officer Rafael Perez, who agreed to cooperate with authorities in exchange for a lighter sentence for stealing cocaine.

In dozens of interviews, Perez described what he said was an out-of-control group of anti-gang officers who routinely planted evidence, lied in police reports, committed perjury, beat gang members and covered up unjustified shootings.

Beyond Perez’s accusations, LAPD investigators uncovered other allegations of police misconduct.

Cmdr. Daniel Koenig, who is responsible for drafting the after-action report, said the document will be comprehensive.

“The chief committed to [issuing the report], and that commitment will be met,” he said. “People have a right to know what the hell happened.”

Koenig said he has been receiving information for the report from various department officials, adding that he hopes that the document can be released as soon as mid-April. However, he cautioned that it could take longer to write and edit the report.

After-action reports are undertaken by the LAPD after serious episodes. In recent years, for instance, such reports have been produced after the 2000 Democratic National Convention and after the bloody 1997 North Hollywood shootout.

One widely publicized after-action report came after an investigation into the taped allegations of former Det. Mark Fuhrman, who told an aspiring screenwriter tales of police brutality and discrimination.

That report, also written by Koenig, concluded that Fuhrman exaggerated or lied about his claims of brutality, but was telling the truth when he spoke of institutional harassment of women.

A number of new policies and practices were recommended after the Fuhrman report.

First Report Led to Call for Change

Policy revisions also were recommended after the LAPD’s first report on the Rampart scandal. The so-called Board of Inquiry report addressed mostly the administrative and managerial failures of the department.

For instance, the Board of Inquiry concluded that corrupt officers took advantage of lax department supervision to carry out criminal acts.

The breakdowns included failures to check the backgrounds of police recruits, to monitor police officer misconduct and to supervise officers in the field.

One section of the Rampart after-action report, Koenig said, will assess whether the reforms recommended in the Board of Inquiry report have been implemented and, if so, how they are working.

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