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SIS: Stormy Past, Shaky Future

LAPD's Special Investigation Section, known by some as the 'Death Squad,' uses unconventional tactics that produce controversial and sometimes deadly results. The Times presents a look inside this unit.


These debriefings, which occur after every mission, are blunt and confrontational. Tempers sometimes flare. Here, away from lawyers and suspects, the officers don't sugarcoat their feelings. Off-color jokes relieve some of the anxiety.

Candidly and without much regard for each other's feelings, the detectives critique their own work and argue about how they could have done better.

This evening, some of the officers are not happy with the way the driver's side door was pinned during Roberts' arrest.

"It wasn't in close enough. What happened?" asks one detective. The driver explains that a civilian got in his way at the last moment.

"That car had you all dicked up," says another detective.

Fourteen hours after arriving for work, they straggle out of the office. Some go home, others go to a bar.

Out of the office, they stay on call, reachable at a moment's notice for the next kidnapping or elusive suspect. When they respond, they know their actions will be watched by critics and colleagues alike.

"One ineffective person can make a tremendous difference," Williams says. "These guys have to have heart and have to be committed to this. They can't be just passing through, getting their ticket punched."

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