2) The Rampart Scandal - A Response - by Joseph Zernik, PhD, Human Rights Alert (NGO), January 28, 2011
The Rampart Scandal - A Response
January 28, 2011 - by Joseph Zernik, PhD, Human Rights Alert (NGO)
Thanks for publishing this interesting review and for bringing the Rampart scandal (1998-2000) back to public attention. [[i]] You insightfully linked the Los Angeles crime wave of the 1980s and 1990s and the Rampart scandal to the crack cocaine epidemic of those decades.
The Rampart scandal investigation, from the perspective of the past decade appears as a cover-up, which prevented correction of the underlying corruption and its causes. Therefore, the Rampart Scandal indeed continues to reverberate in Los Angeles County to this date, not only relative to the LAPD, but also to the justice system in LA in general.
1) Corruption of the justice system in LA County extended far beyond the LAPD, was of historic proportions, and uniquely severe in nature.
� "...judges tried and sentenced a staggering number of people for crimes they did not commit."
Prof David Burcham, Dean, Loyola Law School, LA (2001) [[ii]]
� "This is conduct associated with the most repressive dictators and police states... and judges must share responsibility when innocent people are convicted."
Prof Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean, Irvine Law School (2001) [[iii]]
� "...the LA Superior Court and the DA office, the two other parts of the justice system that the Blue Panel Report recommends must be investigated relative to the integrity of the system, have not produced any response that we know of..."
LAPD Blue Ribbon Review Panel Report (2006) [[iv]]
2) Corruption of the justice system in LA County, was related to the CIA sponsored wholesale crack cocaine trafficking to LA of ~1982-1992
Federal agencies refused to intervene in the Rampart scandal investigation, and permitted the corrupt LA County justice system to investigate, prosecute, and judge itself. The results were predictable, cover up, and placing of the blame on the LAPD alone.
Federal agencies were not in position to investigate the LA justice system, given the collusion of LAPD, FBI, CIA and the courts in covering up the CIA drug trafficking and distribution in LA. [[v]]
As a result, LA County effectively became an extra constitutional zone. [[vi]]
� The LAPD to this date never published the Rampart scandal report, although it was promised a decade ago.
� The Rampart FIPs (Falsely Imprisoned Persons) - victims of framing, false prosecution, false convictions, and false imprisonments - remain by and large imprisoned to this date.
3) Short-term effects of CIA Drug trafficking to LA were underestimated.
In 1997 the US Department of Justice Inspector General published a special report regarding CIA wholesale drug trafficking to LA, and its relationship to the crack cocaine epidemic of the same period. [[vii]]
Most criminologists, and also your report suggest that violent crime, although multi-factorial in nature, was in part directly caused by the crack cocaine epidemic. The numbers you presented, upon further statistical analysis, are likely to lead to the conclusion that the CIA-sponsored, wholesale drug trafficking to LA caused a few hundred violent crime deaths per year in Los Angeles during those years.
4) Long-term effects of the CIA wholesale drug trafficking to LA.
The US DOJ IG report entirely failed to look into the most serious long-term effect of the CIA-sponsored wholesale drug trafficking � deep-rooted corruption of the justice system in Los Angeles County. Corruption of the LAPD CRASH unit was only the tip of the iceberg.
To wit, the official LAPD Blue Ribbon Review Panel (2006) pointed out:
� Corruption of the LAPD was much more extensive than stated in reports of the Rampart scandal, and that the official name of the scandal "The Rampart area corruption incident" was a misnomer. The corruption was not limited to the Rampart Division, and was not an incident, but the prevalent culture.
� Placing the blame on the LAPD alone was unjustified.
� Unless corruption of the DA's office and the LA Superior Court were to be addressed, reform of the LAPD was not going to be long-lasting.
5) Corruption of the justice system in LA remains a problem today, as much as it was in 2000.
The Rampart FIPs (Falsely Imprisoned Persons), victims of the Rampart scandal, mostly black and Latinos, by and large were never released. Their numbers were estimated at 8,000, 16,000, or more. [[viii]] It is a Human Rights disgrace of historic proportions.
� In 2006 the official LAPD Blue Ribbon Review Panel concluded:
"Innocent people remain in prison"
� In 2010, the official report of the United Nations Human Rights Council, upon review of Human Rights Alert(NGO) report of the ongoing false imprisonments in LA County concluded:
"Corruption of the courts and the legal profession". [[ix]]
6) The requirement for financial disclosure was fully justified - aimed to prevent drug dealing by LAPD officers.
The Rampart scandal investigation covered up the fact that LAPD and other agencies were involved in wholesale drug trafficking and control of drug markets in LA. The direct link to the Rampart scandal is evidenced by the cause of the scandal - theft of 6 lbs of cocaine by LAPD Rafael Perez - not a quantity deemed "for personal consumption".
Although it was never stated, it was also the reason for the requirement for financial disclosure in the Consent Decree. However, the comments posted in response to your report show that the writers knew that.
Therefore, the refusal of LAPD police officers to provide financial disclosures, and their choice to resign and move to other police departments instead, raises the question:
Do police officers gain substantial financial benefits in police departments, other than LAPD, which are not part of their lawful police income?
[i] 09-12-17-Rampart-FIPs (Falsely Imprisoned Persons) - Review
[ii] Prof David Burcham, Dean, Loyola Law School, LA (2001)
[iii] Prof Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean, Irvine Law School (2001)
[iv] LAPD Blue Ribbon Review Panel Report (2006)
[v] 00-00-01 96-08-18 CIA Drug Trafficking of Crack Cocaine to Los Angeles County, By Gary Webb, San Jose Mercury News
[vi]10-10-13 Extra Constitutional Zones - Excerpts From Discussion on the OAK Board
[vii] 00-00-01 97-12-00 US Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General, December 1997 Special Report: CIA Drug Trafficking to Los Angeles, California
[viii] 09-05-01 Rampart-FIPs - Rampart First Trial PBS Frontline: Rampart False Imprisonments
[ix] 10-04-19 Human Rights Alert (NG0) submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2010 Review (UPR) of Human Rights in the United States as incorporated into the UPR staff report:
The 1998 Rampart Scandal Continues to Reverberate in the LAPDJanuary 27, 2011 - by Jack Dunphy
In 1992, the Los Angeles Police Department investigated a staggering 1,092 murders, the most in the city's history. The number had risen more or less steadily through the late '80s and into the '90s with the advent of the crack cocaine trade and the gang violence that accompanied it, but since that high-water (high-blood?) year of 1992, homicide in the city has declined in almost every year, with the LAPD recording 297 murders in 2010.
Last year was the first in which Los Angeles saw fewer than 300 murders since 1967, a time when the city had 1.5 million fewer residents. The only interruption to this long, steady decline came in the years 1998 through 2002, when the tally rose from 419 to 647. We may soon see another rise in killing on the streets of L.A., and for reasons very similar to those that engendered the one that began in 1998.
In August 1998, LAPD internal affairs investigators arrested Rafael Perez, at the time an officer assigned to the gang unit at the department's Rampart Division, for stealing cocaine from evidence storage. After being arrested, Perez supplied information on what came to be known at the Rampart scandal, in which, Perez alleged, he and his fellow officers in the gang unit engaged in all manner of misconduct, including planting evidence, perjury, excessive force, and even unprovoked and unjustifiable shootings.
Though Perez implicated dozens of officers in misconduct, criminal charges were ultimately brought against only nine. Of these, five pled guilty, one was acquitted by a jury, and three were convicted at trial. And those who were convicted at trial were later vindicated when their convictions were overturned by the trial judge, a decision upheld through the appellate process. And it is worth noting that those same three officers were later awarded $5 million each when a civil jury concluded that they had been arrested and charged despite the absence of probable cause. That verdict has also been upheld through a long series of appeals. (I wrote about this aspect of the Rampart scandal for National Review Online in 2008. You can read that columnhere.)
In addition to those officers who faced criminal charges, administrative charges were brought against 93 officers, most of whom were cleared. Seven officers were fired or voluntarily resigned, and 24 received punishments ranging from a reprimand to a suspension. In short, though Perez and another officer were shown to have committed some truly despicable acts, the so-called scandal was confined to a handful of officers at a single police station.
And yet, despite the lack of evidence of misconduct elsewhere in the LAPD, then-LAPD Chief Bernard Parks made the decision to shut down the gang units at all of the department's 18 police stations (there are 21 today). One might speculate that the rise in murders that followed was coincidental, but such speculation is rebutted by the fact that murders resumed their decline in Los Angeles when Parks was ousted as chief and the gang units were re-established.
Though the Rampart scandal broke thirteen years ago, its effects are still being felt in the LAPD today. The scandal resulted in the imposition of a consent decree (.pdf) agreed to by the city of Los Angeles and Janet Reno's Justice Department. The consent decree, intended to last five years, governed virtually every aspect of the department's operation, subjecting it to inspection by a court-appointed monitor who demanded an impossibly high standard be met for the department to be found in compliance. It was finally lifted in 2009, though some vestiges remain, including a provision that officers assigned to gang and narcotics units be required to disclose their personal finances so as to detect any who might be deemed inordinately wealthy. The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents rank-and-file officers (and of which I am a member), filed suit seeking to block this provision, but the effort failed in the courts and the financial disclosure rules went into effect in March 2009.
The final version of these rules allowed for a two-year grace period for officers already assigned to these units, with only those newly assigned required to disclose their finances. But that two-year grace period is now coming to an end, and LAPD managers are discovering to their great discomfort just how unpalatable these new rules are to street cops. Rather than disclose their personal financial data (and those of spouses or anyone else with whom an officer might own an asset), many officers are choosing to accept reassignment to patrol or other duties in which these new rules do not apply. The result has been the complete shutdown of the gang units in some areas, and the understaffing of the units at every police station in the city.
For example, at Southeast Division, which patrols Watts and nearby areas of South Central L.A., and where 46 murders were reported last year, the gang unit was shut down in January. At the adjacent 77th Street Division (39 murders in 2010), the gang unit will cease to operate in February. Department managers lamely attempt to claim that this will not affect public safety in Los Angeles, as the officers and their accumulated expertise will remain at the same stations. "The community should not be concerned," said Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger. "We haven't backed away from our gang enforcement posture."
To put it as politely as I can, this is what you might find scattered in a cow pasture after the cows have left. The gang officers remained at their same stations back in 1998, too, but that didn't prevent the city's gang members from taking advantage of the diminished enforcement posture, with the result being a significant rise in bloodshed. If the earlier decline in murders had persisted in those years, or even if the rate had but remained constant, hundreds of murder victims in Los Angeles would have been spared.
To be fair, the information required on the financial disclosure paperwork is anything but intrusive. It asks only for the most general details on an officer's assets and liabilities. Where the trouble arises is in the random audits demanded by the consent decree, at which officers will be required to provide much more detailed information. Despite the repeated assurances of Chief Charlie Beck that the information will be safeguarded against unauthorized disclosure, many officers simply do not trust the department to keep their personal information confidential. Added to this is the fact that no living soul believes these measures will have even the slightest deterrent effect on corruption, so officers have little incentive to take the risk of having their financial information fall into the wrong hands, however minimal that risk might be.
But there is another reason officers are refusing to cooperate with the financial disclosure rules. For more than nine years, LAPD officers watched helplessly as millions of dollars and countless hours of their time were poured down the bureaucratic rathole that was the consent decree. For all that time they had no choice but to follow every one of its byzantine provisions. But now gang officers have a choice, and many of them are choosing to say no. (For an examination of another corrosive remnant of the LAPD's consent decree, see Heather Mac Donald's "Targeting the Police" in the Jan. 31 issue of theWeekly Standard.)
I credit the authors of the consent decree with good intentions in their desire to avert corruption in the Los Angeles Police Department. But as is most often the case when the federal government inserts itself where it has no business, the best of intentions can yield disastrous results. The outcome here is as predictable as the tides: More people in Los Angeles will be murdered this year than last. And what a shame that will be."Jack Dunphy" is the pseudonym of an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department. The opinions expressed are his own and almost certainly do not reflect those of the LAPD management.