Even before Rafael Perez's allegations surfaced, the L.A.P.D. was conducting
an internal investigation into suspicious activity among some Rampart CRASH
officers. As of May, 2001, the Rampart investigation resulted in 58
officers being brought before an internal administrative board. Of these, 12
were suspended, seven have resigned, and five were terminated. There are critics,
however, who believe that the L.A.P.D. leadership was not truly interested in
getting to the bottom of the Rampart scandal. Detective Russell Poole claims
that in the early stages of the investigation, crucial leads were ignored.
Others note that administrative decisions taken after the scandal erupted
discouraged officers with critical information from coming forward.
Here are the views of Detective Poole, L.A.P.D. Chief Bernard Parks, Gerald
Chaleff, former president of the L.A. Police Commission, and Gil Garcetti,
former L.A. District Attorney.
Detective Russell Poole
Former L.A.P.D. Robbery/Homicide Detective, lead investigator in the
Lyga-Gaines shooting. Poole was also investigating an alleged station-house beating of a gang member by CRASH officer Brian Hewitt.
We had conducted the investigation for a couple of months. Then the chief, out
of the blue, orders a meeting in his office, which was quite unusual. He never
has done that, really. He wanted to be briefed on the Hewitt investigation. So
we were asked to prepare a timeline on the events leading up through the Hewitt
investigation. My original timeline included all the evidence involving gangs,
all the things that involved that case, all the evidence included in the Biggie
Smalls case involving Mack, all the evidence--some of the evidence involving
Perez and many of the different issues with Hewitt.
And then when I turned it in, they redlined about three pages--took out all of
the gang stuff, all the Mack stuff. In my opinion, I felt that maybe, at the
time, the chief didn't really know all the facts in this. ...
I briefed the chief on the Hewitt investigation. During the course of that
meeting, I was describing other cases that had occurred in the past. ... I
didn't bring up Biggie Smalls. But [Detective] Brian Tyndall brought it up.
Brian Tyndall told the chief that Russ believes that David Mack was involved in
the conspiracy to kill Biggie Smalls. The chief didn't have a comment about
I was describing all the different incidents that involved Hewitt and Perez,
and some of these same officers involved in several other incidents that
occurred, where serious injuries had occurred on some people. I requested to
investigate it further, and he told me, "No, I want you to concentrate on just
this one case, the Jimenez beating, don't do anything further." I said, "Chief,
it's more than just this one case. It has to do with these officers over at
Rampart. You've got a group of vigilante cops over there at Rampart Division."
And everybody went silent. The chief kind of looked over at Lieutenant
Hernandez, then they changed the subject. They changed the subject. If I recall
correctly, it was, "Oh, I think we need to do an audit on some of these police
officers like Hewitt and Perez. Seems that some of these officers came on at
the same time. We need to find out if we've got a series of problem officers in
this span of a year or so at the time these guys came on the police force." And
then they adjourned the meeting, said, "Thank you very much, very good
presentation." Nothing else was said. ...
I did my best to uncover as much as possible. We needed more time to
investigate this whole matter. There was much more to it. But the chief said,
"No, I want a report in two weeks." I wasn't able to do a thorough
investigation on the matter. That included the Jimenez beating, because there
were several things that needed to be investigated further. ...
And so what I did is that I did what the chief said: I prepared a report. I
turned in that 40-page report, the report was suppressed. It was not turned in.
Who didn't turn it in?
I turned it in to Lieutenant Hernandez. Lieutenant Hernandez said we couldn't
turn this in.
He said basically, "The chief doesn't want this in." The chief was calling the
shots on it, which was very unusual. But you've got to know something. I'm the
lead investigator in a case. I'm the one that's going to be testifying in a
court of law. I told Lieutenant Hernandez if there's something inaccurate in my
report, let's change it. He really didn't give me a good explanation why he
didn't want to turn this report in. ...
Eventually, I gave the district attorney my version of the report and was told
that, had we received all the evidence in this report, all the stuff, and all
the other complaints against Hewitt involving other incidents, they would have
filed charges. But I was prevented from doing that--from doing my job.
So, in essence, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that there was some
obstruction of justice. It was just plain and simple. They purged items from
the D.A. package I had prepared. It had documents, documents and photographs
they had purged from... The D.A. should have had those items in order to have a
good picture of what was occurring in this particular case....
For him to get only five years--he's going to be out in June--is a travesty of
justice. So far we've had one court case, and the court case has been
thrown out. You tell me how many prosecutions as a result of Ray Perez's
confessions resulted--zip. Zip. He's getting out in June. All it has resulted
in is civil lawsuits by gang members who are getting rich. The
investigation of Ray Perez was prematurely settled. I think that the head
people at the D.A.'s office were duped by their own people; they were duped by
the L.A.P.D. in charge of this investigation.
Based on the information facts that I have gathered during all these
investigations, it dates back when Chief Parks was in charge of Internal
Affairs. ... I think, over the years, it just kept snowballing from one event
to the next. I think he felt that, if he could contain each investigation
individually, that the sloppiness of Internal Affairs would not be uncovered
and made public. He tried to contain it. ...
...I knew that the chief and some of the other people involved suppressed
evidence, obstructed justice; nothing was being done about it. I complained and
nothing was being done about my concerns. It was all swept under the rug. I
stayed on for another year, [and then resigned].
Chief Bernard Parks
Chief of L.A.P.D.
I wanted to ask you about one fellow... Detective Poole. [He], as you know,
was assigned to a narrow piece of a case, found some interesting stuff, and
wanted to follow that thread. It was Death Row Records. [He has suggested] that
that there was much more there, and that he tried to bring it to you, and that
you shut him down.... Eventually, of course, he left the force. What is your
response to this?
I think it's completely illogical. Why would we gone through what we've done to
ignore credible information? I think what has been very clear throughout this
case is that Officer Poole had some theories that couldn't be
substantiated. And when he couldn't substantiate them, clearly his supervision
gave him the right direction and said, "Until you substantiate them, they can't
be a part of a case."... The thing that concerns me is that, if Detective Poole
really thought seriously that he was being ignored and he had all of this
information, then why didn't he bring it forth before he resigned, and before
he was disciplined because of his own personal misconduct? Why didn't this come
to light before then?
Well, he says that he did. He said he brought it to you at the famous
Russell Poole came to a meeting amongst other detectives, and basically had a
very minimal role in that meeting. Again, why would I insist on moving forward
and pushing the DA to file cases, to bring a task force forward to investigate
the case--be the lone voice in investigating this for two and a half years, and
then listen to Russell Poole and say, "I'm not interested in what you say,
because it might bring something negative towards the department?" It doesn't
make any sense at all.
So it didn't happen?
It didn't happen. And the thing is, in my judgment, it's kind of interesting
that he only brought it up when he left the department, and after he had been
personally disciplined and removed from the task force. So those are things
that cause me some concern.
What was he disciplined for?
I can't go into that, but ... he was removed from the task force, disciplined,
and then retired before he had vested his pension, which then would cause you
concern to say, why would he do all of those things? It wasn't because we did
anything to him. And certainly, why would we ignore information that was
Former President of the LA Police Commission
When Chief Parks began to see these things happening, one thing he did was
form what became a Rampart Task Force to look into what looked liked it might
be a subculture of gangsta cops, basically. Was it appropriate, in your view,
that the L.A.P.D. be investigating itself?
Yes. I think it was appropriate. I think it's appropriate that the police
certainly began the investigation, and then the FBI became involved. I think
that certainly was appropriate.
Do you have every confidence that they expended every effort to actually get
to the bottom of it, wherever it led, however high it led?
Well, I don't think anybody could have [level of] confidence.... Do I think
that the officers involved, or some of the people investigating this were
highly motivated? Yes, because they were ashamed by the actions of these
people. Do I think that we know the full extent of what happened? No. Do I
think we'll ever know the full extent? No.
I think one of the problems we had is Chief Parks' refusal to allow any kind of
amnesty or immunity for officers coming forward for wrongdoing that may have
occurred in the past that they now wanted to talk about. And they are fearful
of being punished, because of L.A.P.D.'s rule about if you fail to report a
misconduct, you're guilty of misconduct. That inhibited the ability to have
officers come forward....
Help me to understand Chief Parks in this Rampart scandal. Where is he on
it? You've been an informed observer. Has he been interested in shutting this
thing down, identifying enough of a scandal to shut it down and move on? Or
has he really been interested in getting in there, and rooting around, and
doing a [thorough investigation]?
That's a difficult question, because I think that he's exhibited both. You can
look at the fact of his highly public dispute with the district attorney about
filing cases--you can argue either way--that he wanted to get cases going so
officers would then begin to cooperate. Or, in fact, he wanted to have certain
ones picked off, and that would be the end of it.
His bringing in the FBI and the U.S. Attorney would indicate that he wanted a
more wide-ranging [investigation.] One of my concerns was that they began to
do administrative hearings too quickly on matters that I thought weren't that
important. That caused the Board of Rights to begin to basically say, "We
can't trust Perez," because there was a drinking party up at the academy,
which is certainly small in comparison to other things. Why? You'd have to
ask them why they did that. I think the department sent out mixed messages....
He certainly wanted certain people prosecuted.... Whether or not there is an
honest belief that it was Perez and limited to a small group of people, or
whether, because of their Board of Inquiry Report or others, or whether they
felt that we should contain it, I can't answer that. I think the best I can
say is that the department has sent mixed messages. ...
Former District Attorney for Los Angeles County
The investigation didn't go, I believe, the way it could have gone.... You
simply cannot make successful police corruption cases without police officers
working with you. We had some officers who were willing to work with us, and
some of them did, to some extent. But the ones that were out there, who we
think could have really helped us, could not, or would not, step forward,
because they were afraid--fearful of administrative retribution within their
The problem simply was that this police department wasn't willing to do what
the New York City Police Department and other police departments had done, and
that is give some administrative leniency to police officers who would help you
go after a bigger fish. In other words, if we had a police officer who had in
fact witnessed some wrongdoing in the Rampart division, but was a rookie cop
and saw it, and was scared to death. Maybe knew that she or he had to report
this, but was scared, and didn't report it. Three or four years later, this
explodes and they said, "OK, I'm going to step forward now." And then he or she
is told, "Fine, step forward. But you will be fired because you did not report
it when you should have."
My position was--and I conveyed this to the chief--I said, "Bend on this, for
heaven's sake. Discipline that person, sure. Give them some time off, or write
up a report. Don't fire them, because that person will never step forward." He
was unyielding on this. And he has total control and discretion here. No one
can tell him--not the police commissioner, not the mayor, not the D.A. No one
can tell him. He said no. If you broke the rule, you have to pay the price, and
the price is you will be fired. He knew that that's the position he was going
to take, and that we would not get those officers who could step forward....
The effect was that we didn't go as far with the case as I felt that we could,
and that is really warranted by the evidence, and by the allegations made by
Perez and others....
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