The Los Angeles Police Department sought to bypass county prosecutors handling the Rampart corruption probe, even as Chief Bernard C. Parks assured the public that his detectives were cooperating with them, according to a confidential report by the Police Commission's inspector general.
Inspector General Jeffrey C. Eglash said that at a minimum, "The weight of the evidence establishes that Chief Parks made misleading statements" during a news conference about the imbroglio with the district attorney last year. Eglash also determined that Parks later made misleading statements to the inspector general's office during an investigation into the matter.
The report, which was dated Dec. 28 and obtained Monday by The Times, found that Parks "briefly refused to cooperate" with the district attorney's corruption probe and then unjustly accused then-Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti of fabricating the controversy.
The inspector general also concluded that the short-lived effort to shut out the district attorney's office had little effect on the investigation. Nevertheless, the report raises questions about the veracity of the chief's statements and the integrity of his actions.
The Police Commission is expected to discuss Eglash's report during a closed session at today's regularly scheduled meeting. It will be up to the commission to decide what discipline, if any, should be imposed on the chief.
Parks--who has disagreed with Eglash on a number of issues, most notably a controversial shooting of a homeless woman by LAPD officers in 1999--did not return a call seeking comment. Commission President Raquelle de la Rocha declined to comment, citing the confidentiality of personnel records.
In a telephone interview Monday, Garcetti said he felt vindicated.
"I was confident the true facts would eventually come out. Unfortunately, it took a lot longer than I anticipated," Garcetti said.
The dispute between Parks and Garcetti took a toll on both, subjecting Parks to political backlash and, in the view of some analysts, contributing to Garcetti's defeat at the polls in November. Garcetti said Monday that he believed Parks' attack on him was a key factor in his failed reelection race, which he lost to Steve Cooley.
"I paid a huge price," Garcetti said. "It hurt my credibility tremendously, and apparently there was no recovery from that."
The controversy started when deputy district attorneys said Parks had ordered his detectives to deny them access to information regarding the unfolding corruption investigation. Prosecutors said they were told by LAPD officials that because the U.S. attorney's office had joined the probe, the LAPD would send all information to federal authorities instead of the district attorney.
That information included audiotapes, shooting reports and other documents in the department's possession.
"We have a department out of control--or trying to control everything," Garcetti charged at the time.
LAPD officials, including a deputy chief, initially confirmed in a Times article published March 15 that Parks had cut off the flow of information to the district attorney's office, saying they would have to get their information from the U.S. attorney.
Later that day, Parks held a news conference outside the Rampart Division police station to deny that he was withholding information and to accuse Garcetti of making "totally untrue" statements.
Garcetti countered by providing the Police Commission with a package of statements from several prosecutors detailing instances in which they had allegedly been denied information. The commission asked the inspector general to investigate the matter and ordered Parks to cooperate with Garcetti.
Still Parks did not relent in his attack on the county's top prosecutor.
"If we have made a mistake in this process so far it is getting involved in a verbal dispute with a person who has a sagging political future," Parks said at a March 17 news conference, moments before pledging to stop his criticisms of his counterpart.
As part of his 10-month investigation into the controversy, Eglash interviewed nearly 30 people from the district attorney's office, the state attorney general's office, the mayor's office and the LAPD, including Parks and Garcetti.
Representatives from the district attorney's office and the attorney general's office flatly contradicted statements made by Parks and his command staff about their level of cooperation with local prosecutors. Letters generated by LAPD officials also appeared to refute Parks and his command staff when they later said they never sought to deny prosecutors access to information.
In his interview with the inspector general's office, Parks denied any wrongdoing, according to the report.
"Chief Parks is adamant that the department has continuously cooperated with the district attorney's office throughout the Rampart investigation," Eglash said.
However, Eglash determined that the evidence disputed Parks' contention.