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Police Cases Sent to D.A. Drop Sharply

LAPD: Some officials are concerned by chief's policy that refers fewer officer incidents to prosecutors.

October 23, 2000|MATT LAIT and SCOTT GLOVER | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The two cases that were belatedly referred to SID this summer involve former Southeast Division Sgt. James Clark and ex-Rampart Division Officer Roy Logan.

Clark was accused of routinely having sex with prostitutes while in uniform and on duty. In one case, he propositioned a woman as he stood with his hand on his holstered gun, LAPD documents allege. Later, the documents allege, he ordered the prostitute into his police car against her will and drove her to another location, where he threatened her to obtain her silence.

Clark denied the allegations at his disciplinary hearing, but police officials did not find him credible.

"The board views your participation in the sexual encounters as potentially criminal in nature," wrote then-Cmdr. Kalish, who also presided over Clark's discipline hearing. "Not only was evidence presented that you paid two prostitutes for sexual acts, but this board believes, based on the evidence presented that neither [of the victims] were entirely willing. . . . The board believes that you acted under the color of authority, forcing your demands on [the victims]."

Deeming Clark's actions "a great embarrassment to the Los Angeles Police Department and to the law enforcement profession," the board unanimously recommended his termination on Aug. 30, 1999. Parks fired Clark a short time later.

Then, for 10 months, Clark's case sat in Internal Affairs. In June of this year, more than two years after Internal Affairs was made aware of the allegations, the case was presented to SID.

Prosecutors declined to file charges, saying the statutory deadline on the solicitation allegations had expired. The prosecutors said felony charges of false imprisonment and witness intimidation were still possible if the LAPD could find and interview the prostitute who fled town after she was allegedly threatened by Clark. In August, The Times tracked the woman to Las Vegas, where she still was working as a prostitute at the corner of Fremont Avenue and 15th Street, east of downtown.

In the other delayed referral, Officer Logan is accused of detaining a suspect without cause and then, among other alleged offenses, subjecting him to a humiliating form of abuse known in cop slang as a "screen test."

In that exercise, a suspect is handcuffed and placed in the back seat of a patrol car without being secured with a seat belt. The driver of the car accelerates, then suddenly hits the brakes. The suspect flies forward--face first--into the wire partition, or screen, separating the front and rear seats. If the screen withstands the impact, it "passes the test," hence the phrase.

According to police documents, Logan and his partner Ross Hay were on patrol on Oct. 19, 1997, when they pulled over a pair of men driving near the intersection of Oxford and Sierra Vista avenues about 3:15 in the morning. The officers said they stopped the men as part of a drug and vice investigation.

The men, who were not arrested, alleged they were mistreated by the officers. Although the driver was eventually released at the scene, the passenger was handcuffed, put in the squad car and driven to a nearby alley, LAPD documents allege. On the way, he was allegedly subjected to the "screen test," records show.

When they arrived at the alley, the man was taken out of the car and allegedly roughed up by Logan, according to police documents. The man claimed that Logan kicked his ankles and pushed him into a fence.

Logan and Hay denied any wrongdoing. When the matter went before separate LAPD disciplinary panels, opposite conclusions were reached. Hay was found not guilty of the serious charges leveled against him and given an official reprimand for being discourteous. Logan, however, was found guilty of kicking and pushing the man and administering the screen test. He was also found guilty of an "improper detention." He was fired.

In an interview with The Times, Logan maintained that he was innocent of all the alleged acts of misconduct.

More than a 1 1/2 years later, the LAPD submitted the case to prosecutors. Again, the district attorney's office said the statutory deadline had already passed for misdemeanor filings of improper detention, false imprisonment and battery. Even if true, allegations of assault did not constitute a felony, prosecutors concluded.

Prosecutors said they were surprised that the LAPD had referred the two cases to them after so much time had elapsed. They said that such late referrals and incomplete investigations by Internal Affairs investigators have historically contributed to difficulties in filing charges against LAPD officers accused of crimes.

But it is unclear whether the decrease in the LAPD referrals has had a significant effect on the number of criminal filings against officers. A Times examination of district attorney's files dating to 1995 shows that only about 8% of the more than 350 cases against LAPD officers referred to the district attorney's office for potential prosecution resulted in the filing of charges.

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