Not All Scandals Are at Rampart

By Matt Lait and Scott Glover
Times Staff Writers

August 11, 2003

Although top LAPD officials have long maintained that the corruption they found in Rampart did not spill over to other divisions in the department, confidential law enforcement documents and discipline records suggest similar problems in other divisions.

Officers from Southeast, Central, 77th and other divisions throughout the LAPD have been accused of planting evidence, assaulting suspects, falsifying police reports and other forms of misconduct similar to those described by ex-cop-turned-informant Rafael Perez.

The criminal convictions of more than two dozen suspects have been overturned, and the city has paid millions to settle civil-rights lawsuits in cases that arose in divisions other than Rampart.

In Southeast Division, William Ferguson and Jeff Robb were known on the streets as “Batman and Robin.” During their short tenures, the officers — who previously had worked in Rampart — were the subject of numerous personnel complaints, the most serious of which stemmed from Ferguson’s shooting at a teenager who allegedly had pointed a gun at him from the window of a crack house.

Last year, the city paid $1.7 million to settle a federal civil-rights lawsuit alleging that the shooting had been unjustified and that the officers had covered it up. Federal authorities say the shooting and allegedly retaliatory arrests that officers made a week later remain under criminal investigation.

Robb resigned from the LAPD in 2000 while facing misconduct charges. Ferguson, who had five burglary- or theft-related arrests before he joined the LAPD, has been suspended without pay for more than two years, pending the outcome of a departmental hearing.

Four Southeast officers were fired for shooting their guns into the air while drunk in 1999. Two others were accused of drugging and raping a woman. They were found not guilty at an LAPD board of rights when the alleged victim, whose fiance did not know about the alleged assault, refused to testify.

“Had Rampart not blown up when it did we might have had another Rampart down there” in Southeast, LAPD Deputy Chief James McMurray, the head of internal affairs under former Chief Bernard C. Parks, said in a recent interview.

Elsewhere in the department, Northeast Division Officer Ruben Palomares was sentenced to 15 years in prison for buying 10 kilograms of cocaine from undercover drug agents.

Palomares’ legal troubles continue to mount, with authorities investigating allegations that he ran a network of thugs who committed home-invasion robberies. Police from the LAPD and other law enforcement agencies are suspected of participating in the robberies. Among them is Ferguson, who met Palomares at Rampart.

According to law enforcement documents, Palomares and Ferguson stole squad cars from the Police Academy to commit robberies, sometimes in uniform. Palomares also is under scrutiny in connection with an unsolved murder in Huntington Park. He has declined to comment on the charges. Ferguson has denied any wrongdoing.

And in Central Division, Officers David Cochrane and Christopher Coppock each were sentenced to one year of house arrest for beating and threatening to kill a homeless man near the Los Angeles River in 2000.

Though the criminal charges filed against the officers were limited to the beating, defense attorneys have successfully argued for the overturning of more than two dozen of the officers’ drug arrests because of concerns about their credibility.

The city has paid more than $2.3 million to settle lawsuits filed against the two officers, according to city attorney documents.

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