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rampart scandal
'bad cops'
race & policing
the issue of rafael perez's credibility

Perez's shocking allegations about police misconduct in the Rampart CRASH unit are at the heart of the L.A.P.D. scandal. He claimed the unit was rampant with drug dealing rogue cops who were shaking down gang members and framing innocent people. How truthful are his charges? The views of L.A.P.D. Chief Bernard Parks, Former L.A.P.D. Chief Daryl Gates, Judge Larry Fidler,former L.A. District Attorney Gil Garcetti, and Detective Mike Hohan.

Chief Bernard Parks

Chief of L.A.P.D.

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What's important is that when we evaluate what Perez told us early on in his interviews he was very graphic and worldly--that everyone that worked within certain units all did something. But as we continued to interview him, he began to narrow that down on his own. He became very specific as to what he knew officers had done, what he speculated they had done, and when those were in the loop or out of the loop.

As he continued to talk, you'll see that he's far more concise and the numbers of people begin to be smaller, and smaller, as opposed to the worldwide view that he took early on about every CRASH officer does this, or everyone that works in special units does these kinds of activities. He became more specific as, I think, he realized the importance of being accurate, and giving good information had a real impact on his future. He began to get very concise as to what he saw, what he thought he saw. He would very clearly go through and say, "I didn't see this, but I heard this." He was very clear.

Then when we went out early in 1999, or I guess early 2000, and begin to find some of these people who had been arrested. And without telling them what Perez said, they reported back to us how the circumstances occurred, and it matched what he told us. It was pretty clear that, on most of those 1999 false arrests, he was being very accurate, at least at how he had participated in illegal activity.

Fmr. Chief Daryl Gates

Chief of L.A.P.D., 1978-1992

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When you look at the pictures of Rafael Perez, our bank robber, and others like that, and for anyone to tell me that Rafael Perez was not involved and did not know about that bank robbery, is nonsense. If anyone can tell me that he didn't know what was going on in connection with the rappers is nonsense. And no one ever talks about it. Nobody even asks him the questions. Or if they do ask him the questions, he takes the Fifth, he won't answer those. All he's talking about is other cops. And he's an inveterate liar. Two things are happening with Rafael Perez. One, he wants a better deal, and two, he doesn't want to look like the bad guy, so he makes other police officers look like bad guys, because he doesn't want to look like a bad guy. It's his own self-esteem. "It's not just me, it's those other guys, too. I wasn't the only one, those other guys did it too." So he puts a finger on a whole bunch of people, and right from the very beginning, I would have had a hard time believing anything that guy said. I know Internal Affairs has done a lot of investigating, but who are you investigating, gang members? Are you going to listen to what they have to say, too?

These are smart guys. A lot of them are in prison, or have been in prison. All you do is ask the right questions, and you're going to get the right answers. I would have a hard time, and I've had a hard time right from the very beginning with this thing, and believing Rafael Perez....

You've got a real criminal, Rafael Perez, accusing a lot of police officers of things, where they're saying, "I didn't do that. I didn't do that." That's not the way I operate. That's not the way I was taught. That's not the way I do my police work. This guy is a liar.

Judge Larry Fidler

Former supervising judge of LA Superior Court

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He is a very persuasive witness. I'm not saying he's truthful. I'm saying he's a very persuasive witness. And when this story first broke, in talking to other judges, those that knew Perez and had seen him testify--he was fairly well known because he did a lot of cases and testified in a lot of cases. Everyone agrees that he was a very smooth, very persuasive witness.... If he just came in and testified and you didn't know anything bad about him, I don't think he'd have much difficulty persuading you that he was telling you the truth.

And in an awful lot of the cases, it really was his word.

Well, basically what most of the writs turn out to be is that Perez alleges misconduct on his behalf and sometimes other police officers. The corroboration is, for the most part, the defendant and/or his or her co-defendants saying, "That's right, we didn't do it. We're absolutely innocent, and we pled because we were facing a lot of years," or whatever, assuming that it was a plea, as most of the cases were. That's what you have. The corroboration is the defendant saying, "Yes, he says he's lying, and we agree that he is lying. He's telling the truth when he says that he was not telling the truth."

Why do you think, Your Honor, that more police officers didn't come forward?

Well, you have to ask either there's no facts there--is Perez lying? I don't know. Those are matters that need to be resolved. There are lots of reasons why perhaps it didn't happen. But basically, Perez's credibility is now turning out to be a very large question. I'm not saying he's credible, I'm not saying he's not credible. But there have been allegations. It has been public knowledge for some time now that he has allegedly made comments while in prison, post-making his statements, that he can take care of any police officer he wants to if he doesn't like them. The credibility of those statements has not yet been tested, but those are out there. . . .

Gerald Chaleff

Former President of the LA Police Commission

When you hear those stories that Ray Perez starts to tell, what do you hear? What's your response?

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Well, I have a certain cynicism of somebody who has been in the criminal justice system for a very long time. My first thought as I heard them, and read some of them in the newspapers and other places, is that I didn't believe all of it. I thought some of it was true, but not all of it. I thought some people were trying to get a deal. There was embellishment going on. I think that there is some truth to what he says, but certainly I don't think every individual incident that he talks about is probably supported by other facts.

But it certainly was a situation where you said, "There is a problem here. If there is not a department that is out of control, which there didn't appear to be, there are certainly individual parts of it that needed more control, and had problems, major problems." And I think that's what we found.

Gil Garcetti

Former District Attorney for Los Angeles County

Is Rafael Perez a believable fellow?

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That's the question that I asked [the investigators]. "How can we believe him? He's lied to everyone, for God's sake. You want me to believe now what he's saying?" And you know what? They said, "Yes. He's incredible, Gil. This guy is really persuasive. He's telling the truth. We're convinced of this. So we'll go out and find out some corroboration of it then." And they were able to come back with a little corroboration.

But in the meantime, I was asking my staff. This guy has testified. Do you mean to tell me there is not one judge, not one prosecutor, who has said, "Hey, this guy is a liar?" So we started looking and talking. I personally talked to a couple of our prosecutors who had him as witnesses, to tell me about him. One man, a senior prosecutor in our office, said he was the best witness I ever had. Number one, he read the reports before he testified, and that's a big plus right there.

Two, he wasn't someone who came across as biased or prejudiced towards us. He was always friendly to everyone. He came across as relaxed. He was an awesome witness.... At the time Perez appeared for his sentencing, when he gave his statement, I was not in the courtroom. But several people told me that you can see why people would believe this guy. He is tremendous in terms of just engaging you....

Now, let's look at this from a slightly different angle. Step back. We have these incidents. We have a shooting, a weird shooting, involving a cop. We have Death Row Records, Biggie Smalls, and maybe cops involved around the peripheries of that. A bank robbery, Rafael Perez stealing coke, putting coke out on the street. Big deal. You guys go after him. You nail him to the wall. You get him to confess, to plead, and flip him. He is now going to tell you a lot of things.


Does he tell you about David Mack?


Did he tell you anything about Biggie Smalls' murder or any of that stuff?


Does he tell you anything at all about any of the other fellows that might be involved in the bank robberies or any of that?


He stays away from that?

He stays away from it. By other people's accounts--not mine, because I've never met the man--he seems to have a very strong relationship towards Mr. Mack. I don't know if that's fear, or an affection.

So it must occur to you that he knows something.

I'm absolutely convinced he knows something. He has never told us.... He was trying to cut himself a deal. He told us things that we never expected to hear--never. Still, as I sit here a few years later, I'm still stunned by what took place and what he told us. But he didn't tell us the big things that we really wanted to hear.

There is a suspicion that, in the same way that Perez claims that he and his fellows put cases on these gang members, that what Ray Perez is really doing is putting these cases on the cops.

That's why we had to have corroboration. You cannot prosecute one of these cases on the basis of Officer Perez saying, "You did it. Pete is the bad guy." Pete might be the bad guy, but unless you show me as a prosecutor something that corroborates this liar, the thief, the perjurer Officer Perez, then I'm not going to prosecute it....

Detective Mike Hohan

L.A.P.D. Detective, principal investigator on the Rampart Corruption Task Force

What did he say about how widespread this putting cases on people was within CRASH?

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He said it went throughout the city; that based on his comments, I believe it was something like 95 percent of all the specialized CRASH units or specialized units in the city did this type of activity.

Has that borne out, by the way?


What has borne out?

What has borne out is that there are a number of irregularities in cases that developed out of Rampart CRASH. Some of them may rise to the level of criminal conduct. Others arise to the level of administrative misconduct. And others appear to be completely correct.

Is it 20 percent, 30 percent, 60 percent?

I couldn't say precisely. What I can say is that we reviewed approximately 2500 arrest reports. And I believe that, out of those, we found approximately 100 that were questionable....

I never quite got what he meant by being "in the loop." He begins to describe to you all, "Well, there were some cops who were actually out there involved, and then there were others who were in the loop." What does he mean by that?

. . . You might say it's the classic tale of corruption, in the sense that an officer that was in the loop was somebody that knew about the activity that was going on, had participated in some level of the activity, and, because of that, they had him. They had something on him, so the officer couldn't tell anybody about what happened. So you had this. And within this group of people in the loop, you had some people that were proactive. They went out and they did these things. And you had other people that acquiesced. They knew what happened, but because they were either there or witnessed it, they couldn't do anything about it.

How wide was this loop as Perez described it?

When he described it, he named quite a few CRASH officers and former CRASH officers that he alleged were in the loop.

And what did you find?

We found that officers were involved in misconduct, but again, not to the level I think that Rafael Perez has indicated.

What is "take it to the box?"

"Take it to the box" refers to the witness stand [the box]. And Ray Perez explained to us in the interviews we did with him was it meant that, when an officer was charged with misconduct or criminal activity or whatever, he would go into court, commit perjury, and lie for that officer. If there was an administrative hearing, which we call a Board of Rights, you would go into that, lie under oath for the officer, and perjure yourself.

What did you find about that?

We really didn't find that that had happened very often....

I believe Perez's veracity is the same as any other informant's. You have to look at him like that. A portion of it's going to be the truth, a portion of it is just going to be faulty memory. He's going to make mistakes, just because of the lapse of time and the sheer volume of cases he's looking at. He may hold back some information for a rainy day. And there may be something that, for personal reasons, he's not going to be completely truthful.

[Do you think that] Rafael Perez knows something about the Mack bank robbery that he's not telling you?

I believe he does, yes.

It might that be one of the things he's saving for a rainy day?


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