Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Fresh Eyes on Rampart Case

June 16, 2003

You don't have to be a die-hard defender of the Los Angeles Police Department to wonder whether, after four years and four thick reports, the city really needs another Rampart investigation. Not that the LAPD's own investigation silenced the questions, as three subsequent reports made clear. But even Connie Rice, the firebrand civil rights attorney who has made a career out of suing the LAPD, admits that the trail has grown cold and deadlines for criminal prosecutions have expired.

The public will probably never know the full truth about how far police corruption extended beyond disgraced former Officer Rafael Perez, who alleged that officers in a gang unit with little oversight routinely planted evidence, lied on reports, beat gang members and covered up unjustified shootings.

So what can the Police Commission's new blue-ribbon committee accomplish? Given its choice of Rice to lead the investigation, plenty -- if the commission fully backs her and keeps the focus narrow.

Being four years out from the scandal has some advantages. L.A. has a new mayor, a new Police Commission and a new police chief. The commission has promised Rice subpoena power never granted previous investigators. Police Chief William J. Bratton not only broke with the past in supporting an outside investigation but says he will grant immunity to encourage officers to testify, something former Chief Bernard C. Parks, now a City Council member, refused to do.

The passage of time also brings perspective. Rice, whose knowledge of police work has earned the grudging respect of many officers, senses a new willingness, even among "old-guard cops who think I'm nuts," to talk about what went wrong and what needs to be changed.

Rice and Police Commission President Rick Caruso say the panel won't so much probe Perez's allegations as look at how the LAPD, from the brass to the rank and file, handled them. It will ask police accountability experts what was done right, what was done wrong and what was not done. "I'm not trying to indict anybody or dock anybody's pension," Rice says. "This is not sanction-oriented; this is solution-oriented."

The committee's second aim is to develop a strategy, if not for avoiding future corruption, then at least for detecting problems earlier and conducting more effective inquiries. Such a pragmatic goal offers a chance -- perhaps the last one -- for the LAPD to "get it right," as Rice puts it, and for L.A. to learn something useful from the scandal.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|