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rampart scandal
'bad cops'
race & policing
cover up?

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.

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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 that....

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?

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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 meeting...

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 relevant?

Gerald Chaleff

Former President of the LA Police Commission

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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. ...

Gil Garcetti

Former District Attorney for Los Angeles County

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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 own department....

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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