Rampart Scandal

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  • Topic: Los Angeles Police Department, Police, Crime
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  • Published : May 15, 2006
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The Rampart Scandal
When officers from the Los Angeles Police Department's Internal Affairs bureau began shadowing Rafael Perez, watching their fellow cop steal massive amounts of cocaine from evidence lockers in order to sell it on the street, investigators thought they had a major misconduct case on their hands. They didn't know the half of it. The perception of the Los Angeles Police Department has ranged from being the best police force in the United States to being a blatant racist agency. The scandals that have surrounded the agency have taken a toll on the image of the department, The Rampart scandal added to community mistrust of the LAPD, overturned 100 criminal cases, cost the city upwards of tens of millions of dollars in settlements with victims of abuse and led to a federal consent decree, which places a series of restrictions on the way gang details operate, forcing gang officers and their commanders to do far more procedural work. Introduction

One city councilman has described the Rampart scandal as "the worst manmade disaster in Los Angeles history". Finding out who was resposible for such a breakdown in an agency that is to "Protect and Serve" led to an outright blame game. Some blamed the LAPD Chief at the time Bernard Parks; others blamed the officer's attitudes and the police subculture that would allow such a debacle to take place.

Police Corruption

For as long as there have been police there has been police corruption (Garden City: Anchor Books, 1974), p. 1. Corruption has been documented as early as the 1800's, while police departments often had strong rivalries and political and religious factions, in this era, the officers banded together routinely committing perjury to protect fellow officers against civil complaints. Since this time headway has been made to deter police corruption in the early 1970's the Knapp Commission 1973 report stated that there are two types of police officers the grass eaters and the meat eaters. The meat eaters who only constitute a small percentage of police officers. These officers aggressively seek out situations they can exploit for financial gain. Grass eaters are those officers that do not accept payoffs or gratuities. They make up the majority of police officers on the force (Knapp Commission, 1973, Peak, 2003, p 285)

Two basic theories – the "rotten apple" theory and the "environmental" theory have been suggested to explain police corruption. The rotten apple theory is that corruption was the result of having a few bad apples, who probably had character defects prior to employment. The environmental theory states that the corruption is more a result of widespread politically corrupt environment, that politically corrupt cities create environments that are conductive to police misconduct. (Peak, 2003, p. 286).

Christopher Commission Report

In July 1991, some four months after the King beating, the Christopher Commission report was published. The commission, headed by attorney Warren Christopher (who later became U.S. Secretary of State), was created to conduct "a full and fair examination of the structure and operation of the LAPD," including its recruitment and training practices, internal disciplinary system, and citizen complaint system. Its investigation and report was unprecedented, reviewing a five-year period of internal use of force reports, Mobile Digital Terminal (MDT) transmissions between squad cars and police stations, and eighty-three civil damages cases involving excessive force settled by the City Attorney for more than $15,000. The commission also held hearings and interviewed scores of officials and residents (Special Independent Commission, April 1, 1991) Some of the commission's findings stated that:

There are a significant number of officers in the LAPD who repetitively use excessive force against the public and persistently ignore the written guidelines of the department regarding force. The failure to control these...
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