Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Remember When The Police Were Good Cops?


OMG Look What These Cops Are Doing To People and Surviving!
(Part 1)

EL Lotto King
Published on Jul 4, 2017
I created this video with the YouTube Video Editor (http://www.youtube.com/editor)

OMG Look What These Cops Are Doing To People and Surviving! 
(Part 2)
EL Lotto King
Published on Jul 11, 2017
Source videos:
Dash cam Footage Proves Seattle Cop Lied To Arrest Elderly Man

Cop Hits Little Girl With Motorcycle Then it get worst when dad comes!

Cop Caught Warning Other Cops to Turn Off Dashcam Before they finish beating!

APD Provoke Assault Then Laugh And Walk Away!

The Video That SHOULD Infuriate EVERY Human Being!!
Published on Dec 31, 2016
Contrary to public action, cops are just people dressed in costumes. They have no more legitimate power than you or I. But OFTEN TIMES they abuse that imagined power....and here's what they do with it...DISGUSTING!
When Cops Break Bad: Inside a Police Force Gone Wild
Over the past five years, police in Albuquerque have shot and killed 28 people
Nick Pinto
January 29, 2015
Illustration by Patrick Concepciîn. Images in illustration: Albuquerque Police Department/AP; © Pat Vasquez-Cunningham/Albuquerque Journal/ZUMA
Looking west from the scrub and boulders of the Sandia Mountains, the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, sprawls across the valley of the Rio Grande, surrounded by the vast openness of the high desert. On the city's eastern edge, the winding roads and cul-de-sacs of tony subdivisions in the Northeast Heights abruptly give way to the foothills of the mountains, whose sharp red peaks tower over the city.
On the afternoon of March 16th, 2014, Albuquerque police received a 911 call from this part of town, a man complaining that someone was illegally camping in the foothills. Two Albuquerque officers responded and, sure enough, encountered James Matthew Boyd, a 38-year-old homeless man who suffered from schizophrenia. Boyd was clearly not well, ranting, telling police that he was an agent for the Defense Department.
Unauthorized camping is a petty misdemeanor. The officers could have told Boyd to move along and left it at that. But as Officer John McDaniel approached, Boyd wouldn't show his hands and McDaniel drew his gun. When the officers moved to pat him down, Boyd pulled out two small knives; the cops stepped back and called for backup, setting off a spectacular circus, with as many as 40 police officers reportedly joining the standoff. Among them were uniformed cops and members of the SWAT team, the tactical K-9 unit and the Repeat Offender Project squad.
Not present, Boyd's family would later allege in a complaint, was anyone clearly in charge. Keeping Boyd surrounded, often with guns drawn, officers tried to get him to surrender his knives. Finally, after three hours, Boyd prepared to come down from the hills. "Don't worry about safety," he told the police. "I'm not a fucking murderer." But as Boyd packed his stuff, both hands full of possessions, Detective Keith Sandy — who hours before, on arriving at the scene, boasted on tape that he was going to shoot "this fucking lunatic" with a Taser shotgun — tossed a flash-bang grenade, a nonlethal weapon designed to disorient and distract. Another officer fired a Taser at Boyd, and a third released a police dog on him. Boyd drew his knives again. Advancing on him, officers ordered Boyd to get down on the ground. Boyd began to turn away, and Detective Sandy of the ROP squad and Officer Dominique Perez of the SWAT team each fired three live rounds at him, hitting him once in the back and twice in his arms. Boyd collapsed, face down, crying out that he was unable to move. "Please don't hurt me," he said. Another officer fired three beanbag rounds from a shotgun at Boyd's prone body. The K-9 officer again loosed his German shepherd on Boyd, and the dog tore into his legs. Finally, officers approached and handcuffed him.
After roughly 20 minutes, Boyd was transported in an ambulance to the University of New Mexico hospital. In the final hours of his life, Boyd had his right arm amputated and his spleen, a section of his lung and a length of his intestines removed. At 2:55 a.m., he was pronounced dead. He was the 22nd person killed by the Albuquerque police in just more than four years.
Boyd's death conformed to many of the patterns governing deadly police violence in Albuquerque. Living with mental illness, Boyd fit the profile of the marginal Albuquerqueans most likely to find themselves shot to death by the city's police. The escalation of a low-level encounter to a standoff involving numerous heavily armed officers wasn't anything new, either. Few were surprised when footage from the lapel camera that Officer Sandy was required to keep running was inexplicably absent. And, as in so many previous officer-involved shootings, Boyd's death was followed by a press conference by the chief of police, who declared the shooting justified and painted Boyd as a dangerous criminal.
But Boyd's case was different. While Officer Sandy's camera didn't produce any video, the helmet-mounted camera of the other shooter, Officer Perez, captured the whole awful sequence of Boyd's death. When the video was released, more than 1,000 citizens rose up in protest unlike anything the city had seen in generations. Police used tear gas against demonstrators and sent out plainclothes officers to collect surveillance footage, further enraging the protesters.
Then this year, on January 12th, Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg made the announcement that her office was pursuing murder charges against officers Perez and Sandy for the death of James Boyd. (Lawyers for both said they intend to fight the charges. Sandy's lawyer, Sam Bregman, said in a statement, "Keith did nothing wrong. To the contrary, he followed his training and probably saved his fellow officer's life.")
In the past five years, the police department of Albuquerque, a city of just 550,000, has managed to kill 28 people — a per-capita kill rate nearly double that of the Chicago police and eight times that of the NYPD. Until now, not one of the officers in those 28 killings had been charged with any crime.
Taken from a video camera worn by an Albuquerque Police Department officer, shows police in a standoff with James Boyd in the Albuquerque foothills just before they fired six shots at him on March 16th, 2014. AP
Albuquerque is hardly an outlier when it comes to police impunity. Brandenburg's announcement resonated far beyond New Mexico, as the pendulum seems to be swinging against police departments' use of violence to enforce the law. The U.S. Justice Department in the past five years has launched 22 investigations into civil rights violations by police departments — more than twice the number it had begun in the previous five years. Surprisingly, there are no reliable national statistics on the hundreds of fatal police shootings each year, or how many officers have been charged and convicted for such killings. 
"My guess is that the number of criminal convictions of officers each year would be on the fingers of one hand," says Franklin Zimring, the William G. Simon Professor of Law at UC Berkeley.
Last August, the killing of teenager Michael Brown by a cop in Ferguson, Missouri, triggered an outright crisis in this country's relationship with its police. When it was announced in November that there would be no indictment in Brown's killing, and then, a week later, that there also wouldn't be one in the death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD, protests erupted in every major city in the country.
In many respects, the systemic meltdown of the APD (department motto: "In step with our community") offers an excellent lens through which to understand how police in America can run amok. Militarization of gear and tactics, an overreliance on specialized tactical units, a blue wall of silence that protects bad cops from the consequences of their actions, and a heavy hand in interactions with mentally ill citizens — all these factors, present in other departments around the country, are painfully evident in the story of how Albuquerque's police came to kill so many of its citizens.
When protesters took to the city streets last spring after the release of the Boyd video, the police-reform movement sweeping the nation was still months away. Now the country at large is wrestling with questions about the very nature of law enforcement: How far do we let cops go in the pursuit of law and order, and how do we hold them accountable when they go too far? With the murder charges against the officers who killed Boyd, Albuquerque may well be the testing ground where some of the new answers to these old questions are fashioned.
Depending on how you measure things, you could follow the roots of violent law enforcement in New Mexico as far back as Pat Garrett, Billy the Kid and the rough justice of the Old West. But many observers trace Albuquerque's recent problems with excessive force to a decade ago. In 2005, officers Richard Smith and Michael King were killed in the line of duty by a man they were picking up for a mental-health evaluation. King had been an academy classmate of Police Chief Ray Schultz, who, in a tearful press conference after the killings, called it "one of the saddest days in the history of the Albuquerque Police Department." Inside the department, former officers say, the deaths were a turning point: Officer safety became the order of the day.
"It wasn't about the mission," says a former SWAT member. "The new culture was: 'anybody you could shoot.' "
Thomas Grover, a lawyer and retired APD officer who now represents cops in personnel disputes with the department, says, "The general directive of the department became, 'You do what you've got to do to go home at night — and forget the citizens.' "
As Breaking Bad fans know, Albuquerque is not an easy place to be a police officer. Perhaps the only major city in the U.S. experiencing a double-dip recession, Albuquerque has a stagnant economy, and crime is a real problem. It's not out of control, however: Albuquerque has less than half the murder rate of Chicago.
The same year Smith and King were killed, Martin Chávez, a centrist Democrat, was running for a third term as mayor on a promise to increase police staffing from 1,000 officers to 1,100. When Chávez won, the department struggled to find enough qualified hires to make good on his promise.
Mayor Martin Chavez, right, addresses his supporters and staff in Albuquerque, New Mexico on October 6th, 2009. Robert E. Rosales/AP
"Standards were getting lower and lower," says retired APD Lt. Steven Tate, who was the director of training at the police academy at the time. "They were hiring people that other agencies in New Mexico wouldn't take."
The department didn't formally change any hiring policies, Tate says. Instead, it bent the existing rules. Even in 2003, when Tate joined the meetings where the final hire decisions were made, the process was being warped. He recalls a conversation with members of the psychological staff tasked with screening applicants to make sure they were fit to be officers. "They said, '[Department brass] are always pressuring us to let people through,' " Tate says.
With the push to hire more cops, things got worse, according to Tate. The department made a number of dubious lateral hires — officers coming in from other law-enforcement departments. Previously, the APD had required all applicants, including laterals, to submit to thorough background checks as well as psychological exams. In 2006, the department began waiving those requirements for lateral hires. In testimony last year, Peter DiVasto, a psychologist then employed by the APD, said that during this period, "people were hired that . . . never came through our unit."
Among those hires were four officers who had just quit or been fired from the state police for double-dipping — getting paid for outside work even as they were on the clock for the state. They were among the contractors teaching classes at Coyote Canyon, a training site southeast of Albuquerque run by the Department of Energy where former Navy SEALs and Delta Force operators rub shoulders with state and local police officers, taking part in realistic live-fire drills and courses with names like "Rolling Day/Night Convoy Ambushes." Though some former APD officers defend the realistic shoot-house training and expert instruction, others wonder whether such a militarized, gun-focused environment is a healthy part of training for young, impressionable officers. "Looking back," one former officer told local KRQE News 13 reporter Jeff Proctor when he investigated police training at Coyote Canyon, "I'm really not sure how convoy ambushing translated to working as a police officer."
The four officers who left the state police under a cloud for double-billing at Coyote Canyon in 2007 were snapped up by the Albuquerque police that same year. At the time, a deputy chief at the APD told reporters the problematic new hires wouldn't be carrying badges or guns; they'd just be civilian employees, collecting evidence.
It didn't turn out that way. One of those lateral hires was Keith Sandy, who was carrying both badge and gun when he killed James Boyd on the mountainside last March. Another was Sean Wallace, who was assigned to the department's tactical K-9 unit in 2011 when he killed Alan Gomez. Gomez, who was struggling with substance abuse, was visiting his brother's home when he started behaving erratically, holding his brother and his girlfriend against their will and brandishing a gun. The girlfriend called 911. At some point, Gomez put the gun down — it was later found in a closet. But when Wallace shot Gomez to death as he stood in the doorway, Gomez's hands were either empty or, according to some accounts, holding a plastic spoon. Wallace claimed he thought he saw a gun. It was his third shooting in seven years, the second in which he'd killed someone. Prosecutors ruled the shooting justified. The Gomez family sued the city and settled for $900,000.
Wallace and Sandy are in good company. In a 2011 report, the Police Executive Research Forum studied Albuquerque's police shootings from 2006 to 2010 and found that while officers hired in any given year were generally responsible for a few shooting incidents at most, the 2007 hires were responsible for nine, nearly twice as many as the nearest cohort. Since the study was conducted, three more shootings, including those of Gomez and Boyd, have brought the 2007 hires' total up to at least a dozen. Tate believes that the department's leadership was feeling pressured by the political machinery to enlarge the force, and the results were predictable. "Instead of a handful of bad apples coming through," he says, "if you start lowering your standards, it's two handfuls."
By the beginning of this decade, as newer officers began to filter up through the department, veterans of the police force say they started to see a shift in the APD's culture. "The idea of being a force for good was a very compelling thing for me," says John, a former member of the department's SWAT team, who didn't want his real name used in this story. "And to be on the SWAT team, in my hometown, a big, violent town, then you were really a force for good."
The men — and they were all men — John worked with when he joined the SWAT team in the early 2000s shared that ethos, he says. But as John's colleagues began to move on, through transfers, promotions and retirements, some of their replacements brought in a different attitude. "The focus was no longer on the mission as I understood it," John says. "It was more about shooting people — as much as you could do so legally. The new culture was: 'Anybody you could shoot.' "
Sam Costales
The culture of violence wasn't just evident on SWAT. Federal investigators faulted the department's "permissive policy on weapons," in which "officers see the guns as status symbols." The APD still allows officers to carry their own personal weapons on the job, rather than the department-issued 9mm Glocks — at least until March, when a new policy is supposed to take effect. Former Officer Sam Costales recalls constant pressure from his fellow cops to upgrade his handgun. "They were like, 'Oh, get a .45, get a .45,' " Costales says. "They just wanted the bigger firepower."
Department rules require officers to qualify on the range with their personal guns in order to receive permission to carry them on the job, but the fallout from at least one police shooting suggests that rule wasn't always taken seriously.
After Detective Trey Economidy shot Jacob Mitschelen, 29, during a traffic- stop in 2011, it became clear that Economidy hadn't qualified on the department's range with the Kimber .45 he used to kill Mitschelen. (Economidy, who said Mitschelen had picked up a gun, was not charged, and the victim's family settled with the city for $300,000.) Media scrutiny of the incident turned up other troubling indicators of the culture within the APD: On his Facebook profile, Economidy listed his profession as "human waste disposal." Economidy wasn't alone in his sentiments. The same year, APD Detective Pete Dwyer listed his profession on MySpace as "oxygen thief removal technician."
Around the same time that John began to notice the anyone-you-can-shoot ethos creeping into SWAT — once a competitive assignment only available to seasoned officers — the unit began accepting green cops with as little as three years out of the academy. John says he watched in dismay as these younger, impressionable officers absorbed the new culture of violence on SWAT. "It reminded me of Animal Farm," he says. "The dog, she has the puppies, and Napoleon came along and took the puppies away, and then the puppies show up again at the end, and they're, like, these vicious killers. It was like that."
John maintains that most Albuquerque cops are careful, restrained and good. But the changes on SWAT provoked a moral crisis for him. His whole career, he'd pushed back against the characterization of police as violent thugs. "I understand: We represent authority. 'Fuck authority' — I get that. But to take it to dehumanizing us, where you're just a murderer, a criminal, a wolf in sheep's clothing, I found that very offensive. And so to come to the end of my career and see that it was true — it totally messed me up."
As these changes were taking place inside the department and police shootings began to spike, there was little public outrage. "The targets of police violence were gang members, drunks or street people, and so it wasn't like they were preying on the people who had voted for the politicians," says Jerry Ortiz y Pino, a state senator who represents Albuquerque. "They were preying on the people the politicians were all too glad to see silenced."
The hostility of the city's government to its homeless population is perhaps best illustrated by an episode from 2010, when police began arresting volunteers who were feeding the downtown homeless on Sundays. "Who gave them permission to feed the homeless at all?" asked an internal police e-mail concerning the operation against the volunteers. The e-mail made clear that the initiative had the approval of City Hall. "Darren White [public-safety director at the time] is allowing us to take the gloves off and deal with some issues of concern," the e-mail began. "WOOOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOO!!!!!!!"
For former APD Officer Dan Klein, the jailing of people for feeding the homeless shows why it's so hard to get popular support for police reform: "If your income is above $200,000 a year, and you live in a nice gated community, and you don't want to be bothered by the panhandler, and you don't want your kids to be accosted by the drunk outside of Trader Joe's, are you crying elephant tears for James Boyd?" he asks. It's not a problem unique to Albuquerque, Klein adds. "It's everywhere — we're just the pimple that is bursting."
If the public wasn't tracking the curdling police culture, neither, for the most part, was the press. One crucial exception was Jeff Proctor, who, working first for the Albuquerque Journal and then for KRQE, broke many stories about the dirty doings inside the APD. Proctor is well-sourced in the law-enforcement community, but one thing has always struck him about the department: "The lack of whistle-blowers," he says. "That says something."
The story of Sam Costales helps to explain why so few officers spoke up. By his own description, Costales didn't fit easily into the culture of the APD. Early on during his time on the force, Costales learned that many officers had a style he wanted no part of. But he figured out how to work inside the APD. He didn't hit people and tried to avoid working with officers who did. Sometimes that wasn't possible. Early in his career, Costales says, he agreed to write a report saying that another officer had injured his ankle while chasing a suspect, not while kicking the suspect mercilessly in the ribs once he'd caught him.
Costales retired in 2001, after 20 years on the force. At his retirement party, he says, another officer asked him what his biggest regret was. "I said, the fact that I witnessed all the crap that cops do to people and I didn't have the guts to come forward and say anything," Costales says. "I thought I was a good cop, but I was no better than the rest of them."
The Justice Department found that the APD "killed civilians who did not pose an imminent threat."
A few years after retiring, Costales agreed to come back to the department under a deal that let him keep his pension while earning a full salary. One day in the summer of 2006, he says, he was helping set up a perimeter around the site of a car chase when he witnessed Bernalillo County sheriff's deputies angrily confronting Al Unser, a 67-year-old pro race-car driver and former winner of the Indy 500, who, misunderstanding the roadblock, had attempted to drive around it on his own property. According to Costales, the deputies dragged Unser out of his car, jumped on his back, forced his face into the brambles and arrested him. The incident troubled Costales, and he reached out to Unser's family to tell them he'd seen what happened. When Unser's attorneys called on him to testify in Unser's trial, Costales took the stand, describing what he'd seen.
The testimony set off a maelstrom of recriminations against Costales. The Bernalillo County sheriff called Albuquerque Police Chief Schultz to complain that one of his officers had testified against fellow cops. Schultz made a public announcement that he'd be investigating Costales for failing to report the incident up his chain of command. (Costales had reported the incident, but it had been dismissed as insignificant.) Perhaps emboldened by Schultz, the secretary of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association e-mailed the sheriff to apologize for Costales, saying most officers were "embarrassed and ashamed" of Costales. The e-mail found its way to the media. Costales says that word spread through the ranks that if he requested backup on the job, he wouldn't get it.
Costales became anxious and stressed. He started seeing a psychiatrist. His request for a transfer off street patrol to a safer post was denied. Instead, his superiors threatened to assign him to the auto-theft division, which was housed inside the sheriff's department substation — the same people Costales had testified against. Costales sued Schultz and the APD in federal court, and in 2009 a jury found that Schultz had violated Costales' civil rights. The city eventually reached an almost $1 million settlement with Costales.
The same year Schultz cost Albuquerque nearly $1 million, Martin Chávez lost his re-election campaign to Richard Berry, a former state congressman. Bucking tradition, the new mayor kept Schultz on the job rather than hiring his own chief. Berry continued to stick by Schultz even as the APD's body count started to mount. Officers killed nine people in 2010. One of the first was Kenneth Ellis III, a decorated 25-year-old veteran of the Iraq War who was suffering from PTSD and had been kicked out of his Veterans Affairs treatment program. One day, while investigating a stolen car, cops cornered Ellis in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven. Ellis pulled out his gun, held it to his head and phoned his mother for help. Soon, he was surrounded by police officers. He never threatened anyone but himself. Nonetheless, after a nine-minute standoff, Officer Brett Lampiris-Tremba shot Ellis in the neck, killing him. After he fired the shot, Lampiris-Tremba asked, "Fuck, was that me?"
In 2011, the APD killed another five people, including Christopher Torres. Growing up in Albuquerque as the youngest of three boys, Torres was cheerful, funny and bright, dreaming of growing up to become a lawyer like his father. "The world was at his doorstep," Stephen Torres recalls of his son. But around Christopher's senior year in high school, his family began to notice something changing in him. In 2003, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The family was devastated but rallied around Christopher, finding good psychiatrists and getting him on a regimen of medication. A family friend gave him a job at a steel-manufacturing business. "He was very high-functioning," says Christopher's mother, Renetta, a high-ranking official in the county government.
Stephen was painfully aware of the risks people living with mental illness face when interacting with police. So he proactively alerted the APD to Christopher's condition, making sure his son was assigned a Crisis Intervention Team officer (a specialist trained to de-escalate interactions with people in mental distress), and asking to be notified first if the police ever had cause to want to speak with Christopher.
On the afternoon of April 12th, 2011, Christopher, then 27, was relaxing in his backyard when detectives Christopher Brown and Richard Hilger called to him over the fence. Brown and Hilger were investigating a road-rage incident from months earlier in which Christopher was suspected. Whether the detectives were there to arrest Christopher or simply interview him is unclear — they've testified to both at various times. In any case, the detectives hadn't done much homework on Christopher — they didn't know he was schizophrenic, and they hadn't contacted his CIT officer or his family.
Dressed in plainclothes, neither officer had brought his department-mandated cameras with him on the assignment. According to Detective Brown's testimony, he hopped the fence and approached Christopher, taking his handcuffs out of their case. Christopher raised his hand as if to strike Brown, but Brown hit him first, and the two went down on the ground. In the resulting scuffle, Detective Hilger hit Christopher repeatedly in the face. Christopher, apparently confused, shouted, "I'm a good guy! This is my house!" Hilger testified that Christopher managed to wrangle his gun out of its holster, and that Hilger called out for Brown to shoot. Brown, who had been rejected by the APD before successfully reapplying after the requirements for lateral hires were relaxed, fired three shots at Christopher, hitting him all three times and killing him.
Afterward, police swarmed the neighborhood, setting off flash-bang grenades and, according to the Torreses, ransacking their home. If the intention of all this mayhem was, as the family suspects, to muddy the water after a transparently bad shooting, it didn't work. Unbeknownst to the police, a neighbor had witnessed crucial parts of the fatal encounter through chinks in her backyard fence. Christie Apodaca would later testify that far from the struggle Brown and Hilger described, she never saw Christopher resisting — just one detective hitting him over and over again while the other detective held him down.
At trial for the Torreses' civil suit, the police version of events quickly unraveled. "The testimony of the Detectives . . . is inconsistent with each other, inconsistent with what Ms. Apodaca saw, and inconsistent with the physical evidence," wrote District Judge C. Shannon Bacon in her findings. "The testimony of the Detectives is not credible."
Christopher's death was unusual because it brought the deadly violence of the APD into a relatively comfortable neighborhood, to a respected, professional family. Renetta Torres says the mother of another man killed by the APD told her that nothing was going to change until the police violence came to a family like the Torreses. "She said she was very sorry that we lost Christopher," says Renetta, "but she felt that it probably took something like Christopher's killing to move forward."
The Torreses banded together with relatives of other people killed by the APD and began looking for justice. Along with Kenneth Ellis II, the father of the veteran killed in the 7-Eleven parking lot, and Mike Gomez, whose son Alan was killed standing in his brother's doorway, as well as more than a dozen others, they began petitioning the government of Albuquerque to do something. "We'd go to the city council," says Gomez. "They'd look at us, they'd act like they cared, and then they wouldn't do anything."
Renetta Torres and her husband Stephen Torres stand in the spot outside the westside home where their son Christopher was shot by APD officer. Roberto E. Rosales/Albuqueque Journal/Zuma
After more than a year of unsuccessfully pleading with local elected officials to rein in the APD, in November 2012 the relatives of the victims, with the support of groups like the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center, finally persuaded the U.S. Justice Department to open a civil rights investigation into the Albuquerque Police Department. When the DOJ released its findings last April, shortly after Boyd was killed, they amounted to a scorching indictment of the APD and everyone who had enabled its slide into brutality. Reviewing 20 fatal police shootings from 2009 to 2012, the report found a majority of them to be unconstitutional. "Albuquerque police officers shot and killed civilians who did not pose an imminent threat," the report found, noting that "Albuquerque police officers' own recklessness sometimes led to their use of deadly force."
Citing the case of Ellis, the veteran killed while holding a gun to his own head, the report found that "police officers used deadly force on individuals in crisis who posed no threat to anyone but themselves," and cited multiple examples of "excessive force against individuals with mental illness, against individuals with impaired faculties and against individuals who require medical treatment."
As stark as the report's conclusions were, its details, chronicling in dispassionate tones one horrible abuse after another, are perhaps more disturbing. A typical passage describes a 2009 encounter with a drunk 60-year-old, identified in the report by the pseudonym "Albert," whose friend had called the cops claiming Albert threatened him with a knife and a pellet gun:
"Forty-seven officers responded to the scene, including snipers and officers from specialized tactical units. After some delay, Albert complied with officers' orders to drop a knife that he was holding . . . and walked outside unarmed. After an additional delay, he stopped and began to turn. At that point, an officer was ordered to 'bag him.' An officer with a shotgun fired five successive rounds of beanbags at Albert. Another officer deployed a flash-bang grenade. Another officer shot him with a canister of four wooden batons, two of which penetrated his skin. Another officer deployed a police canine that bit Albert in the arm, tearing his flesh as the dog tried to pull him down. . . . Two officers fired Tasers at Albert; one of them fired six five-second cycles of electricity into him. Albert finally collapsed, and officers carried him away unconscious, leaving behind a trail of blood and urine."
The Justice report places much of the blame for these problems on a macho, dick-swinging culture of violence among street-level officers, beginning with training that "leads officers to believe that violent outcomes are normal and desirable." But it concludes that that culture has been enabled by the department's leadership and allowed to flourish by ineffective civilian oversight. "Officers have faced little scrutiny from their superiors," the report found. "External oversight is broken and has allowed the department to remain unaccountable."
The Justice Department investigation gave rise to some optimism that the APD and city government might finally recognize that they have a problem and undertake real reform. That hope was kindled further when, four months after the DOJ's announcement that it would be opening an investigation, Schultz declared his intention to retire as police chief. But close observers of the department saw reasons to be skeptical that anything was really improving.
For one thing, changes in the police leadership weren't exactly encouraging. Mayor Berry selected Gordon Eden, a politically connected former U.S. marshal who had most recently headed up the Department of Public Safety under Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. Upon his appointment, Eden promised a proactive reform campaign to "take the department well beyond any findings the DOJ has." But Eden's subsequent actions proved disappointing and baffling to many.
Two days before the DOJ singled out the city's SWAT team for special criticism in its blistering report, Eden announced that his deputy chief would be Robert Huntsman, who had spent 10 years as the APD lieutenant in charge of special units, including SWAT. A month later, Eden made another top-level appointment, promoting Tim Gonterman to major. Eight years earlier, a federal jury had awarded a homeless African-American man named Jerome Hall $300,000 in a suit alleging that Gonterman, then a patrol officer, had applied a Taser to the unarmed Hall so relentlessly that Hall was eventually hospitalized with burns to his face, stomach, back, neck, shoulders and calf. According to his lawyer, Hall also lost part of his ear to the Taser burns.
"I've used Tasers," says Klein, the former officer. "The only way you can burn someone's ear off is if you're torturing them. And that guy's a major now!"
It also became clear that for all his public rhetoric of cooperation, Mayor Berry and his administration weren't just going to meekly accept the Justice Department's findings and recommendations. In June 2014, city lawyers argued in federal court that the DOJ's conclusions shouldn't be allowed into evidence in a trial concerning police use of force, saying the report was plagued by "inconsistent language," "inaccuracies" and "questions of reliability."
The Albuquerque Police Department declined to make its leadership available for this story and didn't respond to further requests for comment, instead suggesting an interview with Edmund Perea, a former commanding officer with the APD now in private practice as a lawyer. "Most active members of the community as well as police personnel saw these issues coming down the tracks like a train for years," he says. "There were a lot of parts that may have been allowed to fester without administrative attention. As we look back at the situation here, no one involved in police policy and operation should get a pass."
Protestors hold up signs protesting Albuquerque Police Department officers as they marched to APD headquarters in Albuquerque on March 25th, 2013. AP
Last October, after months of secretive negotiations, the Justice Department and the city of Albuquerque announced the terms of a settlement agreement — the steps Albuquerque would have to take to avoid being sued by the federal government and potentially giving up control of its police department. The terms of the 106-page agreement aren't terribly surprising: They include reforms to the department's policies and training, and how the department investigates officers' use of force. The department must beef up its protections for people with mental illness; its tactical units must be made more accountable; oversight bodies must be instituted. In January, it announced the selection of a monitor to oversee Albuquerque's compliance.
People who know the APD are worried the DOJ's intervention won't be enough. "I don't see any evidence, behaviorwise, of a buy-in from the police department," says Steven Tate, the retired lieutenant in charge of training. "I'm not seeing any indication that they actually want to fix the issue. They just want to do the bare minimum. The DOJ can say, 'You need to have these policies.' Well, we have had a lot of them. Ninety percent of what they said should have been going on in the past."
The problem isn't policies, it's people, says state Sen. Ortiz y Pino. He thinks the only solution is to clear out generations of bad cops. "Let's get them out of here, let's really start out with a new mentality," he says. "We're gonna be plagued with these guys for years to come. They know this is all fake. They can hunker down until the Department of Justice goes away, and then it will be back to business as usual."
Of course, to truly change the culture of the APD would require a police chief committed to that project. Such a chief would have to be appointed by a mayor who made it a priority. And as the anger that flared after the release of the Boyd video has subsided, many doubt that Albuquerque voters care enough about the issue to demand a mayor who will make police reform a priority.
"We have the police that the people of Albuquerque want," says Ortiz y Pino. "You've got 25 percent who really are concerned about the violence and the direction we're going in. But if you put it to a vote, I shudder to think how it would be."
Shannon Kennedy, one of the lawyers suing the city over the death of James Boyd, believes any real police reform is going to require changes that extend far beyond the department. "If you don't have a response that's as grand as the evil that's been committed, then what the fuck are you doing?" she asks. "We've been individually suing officers for 20 years. Where are we? It's gotten us nowhere."
On January 9th, the list of people shot by an on-duty Albuquerque police officer grew again. Lt. Greg Brachle was working on a low-level drug bust when he opened fire on a black car parked in a McDonald's lot. This time, though, the fusillade from a policeman's gun didn't hit a criminal, or a homeless person, or someone living with mental illness. Two of the four people in the car were undercover cops on Brachle's own team, and one of them was badly injured and listed in critical condition after multiple surgeries. Just what went wrong in the course of the $60 drug buy remains unclear, but the incident did little to reassure the people of Albuquerque that their police were turning over a new leaf of professionalism and restraint in the new year.
Even as this discouraging news story was still unfolding, though, a more promising one emerged. The Monday after the parking-lot shooting, District Attorney Brandenburg announced that she was bringing murder charges against Perez and Sandy in the killing of James Boyd. But the road to bringing the cops to trial might be a rocky one. On October 7th, Brandenburg says, she was in contact with an attorney for the police union to let them know she was leaning toward bringing charges. A week later, the Albuquerque Journal filed a public-records request for a previously undisclosed yearlong police investigation into Brandenburg herself, accusing her of bribery and witness intimidation. Brandenburg's son had been accused of petty thievery by his friends and a couple he used to live with, and the police alleged Brandenburg had pressured the victims not to press charges. Strangely, police never interviewed Brandenburg herself. Anonymous sources had tipped off the Journal to the investigation long before the report was delivered to the state attorney general.
Inevitably, the investigation had political implications. 
A top city official cited the probe in a letter to Brandenburg, questioning the objectivity of the DA's office and suggesting future shootings should be referred to a special prosecutor. Brandenburg denies trying to silence her son's accusers and won't say if she thinks the investigation is being used as leverage against her now. "You can put two and two together," Brandenburg says. "You can speculate on that."
The night after Brandenburg announced the charges, APD officers shot and killed yet another person. But when police and city officials gathered for a briefing, a city lawyer barred the DA's representative from the meeting, saying the DA had a conflict of interest because of the murder charges. Brandenburg's office has argued that the move violates the city's settlement agreement with the Justice Department.​
It will be months before a judge hears the case against Perez and Sandy and decides whether there's enough evidence to try them for murder or some lesser charge. For observers in Albuquerque, the stakes couldn't be higher. Mike Gomez, who has helped lead the fight to hold police accountable since his son was killed, says the stark video evidence makes this the best chance to put the brakes on a police force out of control.
"The guy was killed in front of the whole world," he says. "If we can't hold you accountable for this, what can we hold you accountable for? What's it going to take?"

Fault Lines - Albuquerque police: A history of violence
Al Jazeera English
Published on Apr 12, 2016
Since 2010, police in Albuquerque, New Mexico, have shot 40 people, 27 of whom have died from their injuries.
Bad Cops
Rafael Perez’s testimony on police misconduct ignited the biggest scandal in the history of the L.A.P.D. Is it the real story?
By Peter J. Boyer, The New Yorker
May 21, 2001 Issue
Peter J. Boyer’s investigation into the Los Angeles Police Department is also the subject of a special report on “Frontline,” PBS’s news magazine. Boyer’s “Frontline” piece has a companion that includes streaming audio of Rafael Perez’s confession and a pictorial map of the trail of evidence and key players.
On September 8, 1999, a thirty-two-year-old Los Angeles police officer named Rafael Perez, who had been caught stealing a million dollars’ worth of cocaine from police evidence-storage facilities, signed a plea bargain in which he promised to help uncover corruption within the Los Angeles Police Department. Perez hinted at a scandal that could involve perhaps five other officers, including a sergeant. Later, Perez began to talk about a different magnitude of corruption—wrongdoing that he claimed was endemic to special police units such as the one on which he worked, combatting gangs in the city’s dangerous Rampart district. Perez declared that bogus arrests, perjured testimony, and the planting of “drop guns” on unarmed civilians were commonplace. Perez’s story unfolded over a period of months, and ignited what came to be known as the Rampart scandal, which the Los Angeles Times called “the worst corruption scandal in L.A.P.D. history.”
Eventually, Perez implicated about seventy officers in wrongdoing, and the questions he raised about police procedure cast the city’s criminal-justice system into a state of tumult. More than a hundred convictions were thrown out, and thousands more are still being investigated. The city attorney’s office estimated the potential cost of settling civil suits touched off by the Rampart scandal at a hundred and twenty-five million dollars. A city councilman, Joel Wachs, said that it “may well be the worst man-made disaster this city has ever faced.” The Rampart scandal finally broke the L.A.P.D. in a way that even the Rodney King 
beating, in 1991, and its bloody aftermath had not, forcing the city to accept a federal role in overseeing the police department’s operation. Yet in the view of the lead investigator, Detective Brian Tyndall, members of the task-force team investigating Rampart have come to believe that Rafael Perez is not just a rogue cop who had decided to come clean but a brilliant manipulator who may have misdirected their inquiry. “He’s a convict,” Tyndall says. “He’s a perjurer. He’s a dope dealer. So we don’t believe a word he says.”
One of the early signals of coming trouble for the L.A.P.D. arose from the palm-lined boulevards below Universal Studios, where an officer named Frank Lyga worked undercover narcotics in the Hollywood division. Lyga became the central figure in an episode that exposed deep ruptures within the L.A.P.D., and within the city it polices—dynamics that would, in large measure, define and propel the developing Rampart scandal.
In 1986, when Lyga joined the department, he was already an old-timer, a twenty-nine-year-old transplant from an Adirondack valley that his family had farmed for generations. He’d been on a local sheriff’s force upstate, but he hated the cold, and he believed what he’d heard about the L.A.P.D. “It was professional . . . the best police department in the world,” he says now. “I’m used to the East Coast police—not to knock the East Coast . . . a big fat cop sitting in a car eating doughnuts, drinking coffee. They couldn’t get their gun out if their life depended on it.”
Lyga embraced the ethos of the L.A. street cop, a breed distinguished not so much by race, or even by gender, as by distinctness from the “insiders,” or “bun boys”—officers who make their way to command positions through desk jobs and adjutancy. Street cops haven’t necessarily read the police novels of Joseph Wambaugh, but they’ve seen the movies, and they believe that in “The New Centurions” Wambaugh got it just about right. Officers of the L.A.P.D. may become cynics, depressives, drunks, or bad 
husbands, but they believe that they form the outer membrane of civilization, and that chaos lies just the other side of the “thin blue line”—a term, as it happens, that was coined by the towering William H. Parker, an Eisenhower-era police chief whose distant memory is still revered.
The street cops’ language is something like the voice of arrested adolescence. The suspects they engage (“jam”) are “knuckleheads” and “assholes,” and their encounters are “capers.” They refer to themselves as “coppers.” Frank Lyga’s description of a good day at work is “rockin’ and rollin’, putting people in jail.”
For Lyga, March 18, 1997, was not a good day at work. He and other members of his team were staking out a suspected methamphetamine dealer, and Lyga was the point man, which meant sitting in his unmarked 1991 Buick Regal and waiting for a drug deal to happen, so that he could follow the suspects back to their source. He’d sat there for three hours trying to look like an inconspicuous badass—with a Fu Manchu mustache and a ponytail, and dressed in jeans, a tank top, and a baseball cap adorned with a marijuana-leaf logo—when the deal was called off and the team agreed to reconvene at the Hollywood station.
Lyga pulled his car onto Ventura Boulevard. While he was stopped at a red light, he heard the thumping beat of rap music at high volume emanating from a green S.U.V. that had pulled up next to him. Lyga says he glanced at the driver, a black man with a shaved head. The driver stared back. When Lyga rolled down his window and asked, “Can I help you?,’’ the man made a menacing gesture and said, according to Lyga, “Ain’t nobody looking at you, punk.” Lyga, who prided himself on his Aryan Brotherhood cover—”All I lacked was the lightning bolts on my neck’’—was surprised by the confrontation. He assumed that the other driver was a gang member, especially when, he says, the driver of the S.U.V. shouted, “Punk, I’ll put a cap in your ass.”
”He was a stone gangster,” Lyga recalls. “In my opinion, in my training experience, this guy had ‘I’m a gang member’ written all over him. He had a shaved head, he had a goatee, wearing a nylon jumpsuit, driving a sport-utility vehicle.” Lyga mentioned the “hand motions” the man had given him.
Lyga says he accepted a challenge from the other driver, suggesting that they pull over and have it out it right there. The driver of the S.U.V. did pull over, but Lyga bolted into traffic and drove off, chuckling as he glanced at his infuriated adversary in the rearview mirror. “I’m thinking, What an idiot, thinking I’m going to stop,” Lyga recalls. “And I’m laughing, and I’m watching him in the mirror and he looked like he was going to rip the steering wheel off.”
But the other driver pulled back into traffic, and a slow-motion chase ensued, with the S.U.V. edging through heavy traffic until it neared Lyga’s car. Hoping that his partners were just a few blocks behind, Lyga radioed for help: “Hey, I got a problem. I’ve got a black guy in a green Jeep coming up here! He may have a gun.”
Soon, Lyga was at another stoplight, and the S.U.V. started to pull up beside him on the left. Lyga swore, then unfastened his seat belt, anticipating a street fight. He again called for help—using a hidden radio microphone, activated by a foot pedal—and took out his gun, placing it on his lap facing the S.U.V. Lyga could plainly see the other driver now, and saw his arm extend across the passenger seat toward Lyga’s car, his hand clutching what looked to Lyga like a steel-cased .45-calibre handgun. Lyga leaned forward, out of the line of fire, and radioed again: “He’s got a gun!”
Lyga says he again heard “I’ll cap you,” then he raised his weapon, a 9-millimetre Beretta, and fired into the S.U.V., missing the driver. Two seconds later, Lyga fired again, and this time, he says, “I almost could hear the impact, the thud of the round hitting him, and I definitely saw it in his face.” The S.U.V. wheeled away in a U-turn, then rolled into a gas station, and stopped. Lyga radioed a last transmission: “I just shot this guy! I need help! Get up here!”
Lyga pulled into the gas station and, holding his badge in his hand, yelled to a customer coming out of the station’s minimart to call 911. Soon, a California Highway Patrol unit arrived, followed by Lyga’s boss and the others on his stakeout team. Lyga had been right about his second shot—the bullet had struck the driver on his right side, puncturing his heart before stopping in his lung. Lyga had been right about the gun, too; the highway patrolmen found a stainless-steel 9-millimetre pistol on the floorboard of the S.U.V.
The other officers, following standard procedure, took control of the scene. A few minutes later, one of Lyga’s partners approached him, and Lyga asked, “Is he dead?”
”Oh, yeah,” his partner replied, “he’s dead.”
Good, Lyga thought. In eleven years on the force, he’d fired only two rounds, and had never before hit anybody; he was a brawler, not a shooter. But he figured that the guy in the S.U.V. had left him no choice.
Lyga returned to the station and awaited instruction—there would be paperwork, and investigators would want a reënactment of the shooting. A little over two hours later, Lyga’s boss, Dennis Zeuner, told him about the man he’d shot, whose name was Kevin Gaines. “The guy was a policeman,” Zeuner said. “One of ours.”
The next day, Lyga found media trucks parked near his home, in Ventura County. A group of African-Americans, led by Gaines’s former partner, Derwin Henderson, showed up at the scene of the incident and began conducting an unofficial investigation. It was a provocative move, challenging the L.A.P.D.’s fairness in dealing with racial incidents—which is what the Lyga-Gaines shooting had now become.
Three days after the shooting, Johnnie Cochran, Jr., stepped into the case, having been hired by Gaines’s family to investigate a potential claim against Lyga and the city. Cochran’s first act was to commission a private autopsy of Gaines’s body, which revealed, a Cochran aide suggested, that there might be problems with the official version of Gaines’s death.
Headquarters instructed that Lyga’s “package” be pulled, meaning that the records of his job performance were being examined. On Lyga’s second day back on the job, he was assigned to a desk by the narcotics-division commander, and was told that he had a bad package—some forty use-of-force incidents. The department, in one attempt at reform, had defined “use of force” to include, in some situations, even the use of a “firm grip” to apprehend a suspect; in eleven years, Lyga had arrested many drug suspects who required more than a firm grip. Of those use-of-force incidents, however, four had prompted complaints of unnecessary force, but in each case Lyga was exonerated or the charges were classified as “unfounded” or “not resolved.” Now, however, every use-of-force incident was examined demographically, and tested for signs of racial bias. No apparent indications were found.
A week after the shooting, Kevin Gaines was buried, and his funeral was itself the cause of discord. The biggest association of black officers, the Oscar Joel Bryant Foundation (named after a policeman killed in 1968), requested an official police funeral with full honors, a ceremony reserved for policemen killed in the line of duty. The demand posed a dilemma for the chief, Willie Williams, a black outsider who had been brought in from Philadelphia to head the L.A.P.D. in 1992, after the Rodney King riots. If Lyga’s account was accurate, Kevin Gaines had brandished a weapon at someone he thought was a civilian motorist, and he hardly warranted an honors funeral. On the other hand, the black officers were an important constituency for the besieged Williams, who was widely disliked by the L.A.P.D.’s Old Guard. In the end, Gaines received a semi-official police funeral, attended by both Williams and Deputy Chief Bernard Parks.
Two months later, Cochran filed a twenty-five-million-dollar claim against the city, charging that Lyga was “an aggressive and dangerous police officer” who had failed to summon immediate medical assistance for Gaines, contributing to his death, and that he had conspired to “hide and distort the true facts concerning the incident.” District Attorney Gil Garcetti, whose office had lost the O. J. Simpson case, opened a criminal investigation into the shooting. Lyga noticed the stares now directed his way from black cops. “I was labelled an out-of-control, racist white cop with a history,” he recalls. There was talk of an official coverup, and rumors that Gaines had been the victim of an L.A.P.D. “hit.’’
Witnesses to various moments of the event confirmed Lyga’s account, as did a surveillance camera at the minimart, which recorded the sound of Lyga firing two shots, 1.8 seconds apart. Three months after the incident, the unit investigating the shooting found that Lyga had acted according to department policy. The department’s shooting board recommended no disciplinary action. But that ruling was postponed, pending results of a three-dimensional digital re-creation of the shooting.
In November, 1997, Lyga appeared again before the shooting board, which reviewed the evidence and the 3-D re-creation, and in December Bernard Parks, who had succeeded Williams as chief of police, reported that the shooting was within department policy; no action would be taken against him. The District Attorney’s inquiry also eventually ruled that Lyga “acted lawfully in self-defense.”
Meanwhile, Cochran’s case against Lyga and the city on behalf of Gaines’s family was drawing closer to a trial. Lyga, who was represented by the office of the city attorney, James Hahn, could hardly wait. “My only hope was to go to trial. I wanted to go to trial, win, lose, or draw,” he says. “I wanted the facts to come out—I did not do anything wrong.”
But it was not Lyga’s call. Even though the re-creation of the shooting supported his story, the city and Cochran agreed to a settlement conference the following October, mediated by retired Judge R. William Schoettler, who first met separately with both sides. Cochran had reduced his request from twenty-five million dollars to eight hundred thousand; Lyga didn’t want to settle at all. Cochran dropped his figure to two hundred and fifty thousand—and the city accepted.
Lyga felt betrayed. “My career, my life, is over,” he recalls thinking. “I’m labelled a racist killer who was protected and covered up by the department.”
Judge Schoettler wrote a letter to Parks telling him that he thought Lyga and the city would have won the case had it gone to trial. “Had the matter been submitted to me for a determination, I would have found in favor of the City of Los Angeles,” Schoettler wrote. He added that a settlement had been proposed primarily to avoid adverse publicity, and said, “As you are aware, the settlement can be termed ‘political’ and neither the fact of the settlement nor the amount involved should in any way reflect upon the conduct of Detective Lyga.” The “political” reason for settling the case seemed obvious: City Attorney Hahn was preparing to run for mayor, and black voters made up his principal base.
Lyga had been allowed to return to undercover work in June of 1997, and he did so harboring a measure of bitterness. He knew well why the shooting had become such an inflammatory episode. “Four little words—’No justice, no peace,’ “ he says now. “Bottom line, four words. That’s the political environment in the City of Los Angeles.”
If the L.A.P.D. seems perpetually vexed by racial politics, it is not without historic cause. In the nineteen-twenties, the department had a chief, Louis Oaks, who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. The modern L.A.P.D. was created in the image of William Parker, whose sixteen-year reign (1950-66) was driven by two overriding priorities, neither of which was the building of a racially sensitive police force.
In coming up through the ranks of the L.A.P.D., Parker had been a clean cop in a department so dirty that even the fictional treatments of police corruption, from Raymond Chandler to Hollywood’s gangster pictures, did not defame it. The department’s vice unit protected whores, its exams for promotion and hiring were sold by the mayor and his brother out of City Hall, and one head of the L.A.P.D.’s intelligence squad was sent to San Quentin for bombing the car of an investigator working for civic reformers.
Parker’s first imperative was to create a police force that was impeccably clean. He was compulsive about police honesty; the everyday transgressions winked at in some East Coast police departments were often grounds for instant dismissal in the L.A.P.D. In Los Angeles, police officers even bought their own coffee.
The department was, and is, startlingly small, reflecting a political culture disinclined to spend tax money on its civic structure. For much of the last half-century, the city’s police force averaged about seven thousand officers, meaning that it could deploy only fifteen officers per square mile (New York’s forty-thousand-strong force deploys a hundred and twenty-nine officers per square mile). By necessity, Parker’s L.A.P.D. became a highly mobile strike force, whose operational signature was aggressiveness. Its officers intervened first, and asked questions later.
”I will admit, we were a very aggressive police department,” says Daryl Gates, who was once Chief Parker’s driver and protégé, and who became one of his successors. “We went after crime before it occurred. We didn’t sit back. . . . Our people went out every single night trying to stop crime before it happened, trying to take people off the street that they believed were involved in crime.”
The force had a distinctly militaristic character, inculcated at an academy styled after a Marine Corps boot camp, and reflected in a department whose swat team was so proficient in urban-warfare tactics that it helped train American troops who snatched Manuel Noriega from Panama.
But the L.A.P.D. was not necessarily perceived as a benign presence in the city it policed. Its mission to “stop crime before it happened” felt to some like racial profiling before that term had currency, the more so because the force was for so long glaringly white. The L.A.P.D. didn’t integrate its patrol force until 1961. As the demographic profile of Los Angeles changed—the black population quadrupled between 1940 and 1960—certain sections of the city began to view the police force as an occupying army. The illusion of a dreamy, well-ordered, monochromatic Los Angeles, as projected by the L.A.P.D.approved “Dragnet” series, was pretty well shattered by the Watts riot, in 1965.
That year, Johnnie Cochran filed his first claim against the L.A.P.D. By the time of the Rodney King incident, twenty-six years later, Cochran had become the dean of a flourishing “police-brutality bar,” which portrayed the department as a congenitally brutal force given to victimizing minority citizens. There was a saying that the New York Police Department was corrupt but not violent, and the L.A.P.D. was violent but not corrupt. Critics of the L.A.P.D. coined a term to describe the type of malfeasance they discerned in the department—”force corruption.”
As the criticism increased, the department found itself defending even its fundamental tactics, such as the upper-body control hold that was drilled into every recruit at the academy. This technique, used to subdue a resistant suspect, was also known as a choke hold, and became controversial in the early eighties with the revelation that fatalities occurred disproportionately among black arrest subjects. Chief Gates suggested in 1982 that the hold was killing blacks because their “veins or arteries do not open up as fast as they do in normal people.” That statement, along with a couple of publicized choke-hold deaths that year, produced a ban on the technique. Gates, who complains that the ban left cops with only a gun and a club, predicted that the number of injuries would rise, and they did.
Racial issues upset the department from within, as well. In 1980, the city settled two discrimination lawsuits against the L.A.P.D., one private and one federal, by signing consent decrees mandating minority and female hiring quotas. Women, blacks, and Hispanics joined the department in sizable numbers, but the hiring program seemed only to heighten racial tensions on the force. In 1986, the Los Angeles Times published the results of a three-month study showing that women and minorities felt they were being denied promotion and assignment opportunities, and that some white male officers felt the department had degraded its standards.
When a plumbing-supplies store manager named George Holliday videotaped the arrest of Rodney King, in 1991, he captured a scene that only confirmed a view of the L.A.P.D. that some in Los Angeles already held. A year later, a jury without blacks acquitted the officers who had beaten King, and the city burned for three days. By 1995, black disaffection had reached such a point that Cochran and the rest of O. J. Simpson’s defense team correctly guessed that it could be exploited to contest a murder rap. Their cause was helped immeasurably by Detective Mark Fuhrman, whose serial utterances of the word “nigger” fortified the defense theory that Simpson was framed in a racist police conspiracy.
Such was the atmosphere in Los Angeles when Frank Lyga and Kevin Gaines crossed paths—an atmosphere that perhaps obscured some troubling information that arose from that incident. While Frank Lyga’s background was being examined, investigators also pieced together a profile of the cop he had killed, and what they found startled them. Off duty, Kevin Gaines was apparently given to violent outbursts, causing his wife to file several domestic-abuse complaints. Investigators learned that he had been involved in other road-rage incidents, and in at least one case he had allegedly threatened to “cap” a motorist who had annoyed him.
The most bizarre event in Gaines’s recent past had occurred the summer before his run-in with Lyga, when cops responded to a 911 report of a shooting on the grounds of a Hollywood Hills mansion. Gaines, off duty, pulled up to the scene and got involved in an altercation with the responding officers. Their account was that Gaines became verbally abusive and provocative, and had to be handcuffed. “Tell these motherfuckin’ assholes to take the cuffs off of me, motherfucker!” Gaines shouted. He taunted the officers, saying that he hated “fucking cops.” Gaines’s account was that he’d been mistreated by the police. He hired an attorney and filed a notice of claim against the city. When the incident was investigated by the L.A.P.D.’s Internal Affairs division, it was discovered that the 911 call had been made by Kevin Gaines himself. “The evidence suggests that he did that to engage L.A.P.D. in a confrontation and basically wanted to secure a pension or whatever by filing a lawsuit,” Russell Poole, a former L.A.P.D. detective, says.
Poole, a robbery-homicide detective who was assigned to investigate possible criminality in the Lyga-Gaines shooting, later wondered why that 911 incident had not been more thoroughly pursued by Internal Affairs, which was at the time directed by Deputy Chief Parks. Falsely reporting a crime was against the law, and would likely have warranted Gaines’s removal from the force. Even more significant was the identity of the person who owned the Hollywood Hills home: Sharitha Knight, the estranged wife of the jailed gangsta-rap impresario Marion (Suge) Knight, who founded Death Row Records. In the course of investigating the road-rage incident, Detective Poole discovered that the S.U.V. Gaines was driving—a green Mitsubishi Montero—was registered to Sharitha Knight. It was soon learned that Sharitha had been romantically involved with Gaines for some time, and that he was living with her at the time of his death.
Investigators had been struck by the life style that Gaines had somehow managed on his salary of about fifty-five thousand dollars a year—he wore expensive suits and designer shirts, and drove a Mercedes—and the connection to Knight and Death Row began to explain it. Detectives found that Gaines had nine credit cards, and among the receipts they found in his belongings was one for a nine-hundred-and-fifty-two-dollar tab at Monty’s, a Westwood steak house that was a hangout for people who worked for Death Row Records.
Poole had heard talk around the force that cops earned big money off-duty working security for Death Row; their badges and gun permits made them especially valuable. But to many cops the gangsta-rap scene as epitomized by Death Row was, on the face of it, a crime scene. Gangsta cool glorified street violence, and Suge Knight’s legend as a rap kingpin was notoriously colorful; the three-hundred-and-fifteen-pound record executive had, in building and maintaining a hundred-million-dollar enterprise, supposedly dealt with business associates by dangling one man by his ankles from a hotel balcony, smashing another’s face with a telephone, and forcing another to drink urine from a champagne glass.
More troubling to law enforcement were the apparent connections between Death Row and violent street gangs. The F.B.I. had been investigating Death Row since 1993, and Knight, who had grown up in Compton, was said to be a member of the Mob Piru Bloods gang, associates of which were among the permanent crowd around Death Row.
Within the L.A.P.D., the Lyga-Gaines shooting took on a new dimension. “All those things begin to reflect on his off-duty associations, how he’s conducted himself,” Parks says of Gaines. “We hold our people accountable for their off-duty and on-duty behavior. It’s very difficult to have a life outside of the L.A.P.D. that deals in the criminal element and then come back to work and put on your badge and your uniform and say, ‘I’m now protecting the community and enforcing the law.’ “
On the morning of November 6, 1997, two black men entered a Bank of America branch near the University of Southern California campus, and one of them, dressed in a jacket and tie and wearing sunglasses and a beret, made his way behind the bank’s security shield and, showing a 9-millimetre handgun, demanded money. The robber and his associate—a “layoff man,” whose task was to serve as lookout—walked out of the bank and joined their getaway driver in a white van that had been stolen near the airport the day before. They escaped with more than seven hundred thousand dollars in two bags.
Detective Brian Tyndall, who was then working the robbery-homicide division, concluded that the bank heist had been an inside job. The stolen money was freshly “shrunk”—compressed to fit an automated teller machine—and had just been delivered by armored car that morning. The money had been ordered by the assistant manager, a young woman named Errolyn Romero. Under questioning several weeks after the robbery, Romero, who was visibly nervous, told Tyndall, “You know who it is.” When Tyndall pressed her for a name, she was so nervous that she could not say it. “I suggested that it might be easier for her to write the name down on a piece of paper,” Tyndall recalls. “And she tried to do that and her hand shook, and she couldn’t complete the signature.” Instead, Romero reached into her purse and produced a business card bearing the shield of the Los Angeles Police Department. The name on the card was David Mack.
Mack had grown up in the same Compton neighborhood as Suge Knight, and, like Knight, he’d escaped to find success in the world beyond the old neighborhood. He was a brilliant athlete, and had won a scholarship to the University of Oregon, where he ran track and made the United States national team running the eight hundred metres. He joined the L.A.P.D. in 1988. He was married, had two kids, and, by all accounts, was a good cop. But investigators discovered that, like Kevin Gaines, David Mack had a secret life off duty. He was a club crawler, a gambler, and a womanizer. After one of the women he was involved with, Errolyn Romero, became an assistant manager at the bank, Mack saw his chance at the big score.
When Mack was arrested, in December, 1997, he refused to coöperate with police. He didn’t tell them who his accomplices were, or what had happened to the money. “Take your best shot,” he told Tyndall. He was apparently content to serve out his term—fourteen years in federal prison—and have the money to look forward to upon his release. When Mack was in custody, his jailers began to notice a gradual transformation in him. He started using a red toothbrush, then wearing a pair of red socks, and soon he was adorned by as much red as could be obtained, given his circumstances. David Mack renounced the L.A.P.D. and aligned himself with the Bloods. “It appears he has completely divested himself of all relationships of his life as a police officer,” Parks says, “and he is basically a gang member. He has taken on the role of being a gang member in jail.”
During their investigation, Detective Tyndall and his colleagues found that, on the force, Mack had kept to a tight circle of friends, mostly African-Americans. They also discovered that, two days after the bank robbery, two of those friends had accompanied Mack to a weekend blowout in Las Vegas, and that one of them was Mack’s ex-partner from the narcotics beat, a former marine named Rafael (Ray) Perez.
Three months after Mack’s arrest, on March 2, 1998, six and a half pounds of cocaine were checked out from the property room at L.A.P.D. headquarters downtown and not returned. The coke, evidence in a drug-seizure investigation, had been stored in case it was needed as an exhibit in trial, but there was no trial and thus no legitimate reason for the evidence to have been checked out.
The evidence had been checked out under the name Joel Perez, and there was an officer with that name on the force, but investigators determined that someone else had signed his name. When a clerk at the police property room recollected that Rafael Perez had once checked out a large amount of cocaine, investigators began zeroing in on him. The cocaine theft, on top of what had been discovered about Kevin Gaines and the David Mack bank robbery, suggested a picture of corruption more ominous than any of the misdeeds alone. In any case, it was a possibility that had to be put before Chief Parks.
Unlike his predecessor, Willie Williams, Parks had spent his entire career on the force; he was a straight arrow who managed to avoid being ensnared by the department’s political controversies without ignoring them. He was a founding member of the Oscar Joel Bryant Foundation, the black officers’ organization, but he wasn’t a group activist. He rose steadily in a department that had quelled the aspirations of many black officers. “Bernie Parks is L.A.P.D., and he’s a cop through and through,” Daryl Gates says.
Parks had been Gates’s driver (as Gates had been Parker’s), but, as he rose to command level, he had sometimes been said to be a cautious critic of Gates’s style, and even of the L.A.P.D. culture. After Gates was eased out of the job, in 1992, and it became obvious that the next chief would be black, Parks was a natural choice. When the job went to the Philadelphian Williams, Parks did not go out of his way to help the new chief to succeed, and when Williams failed to win reappointment, in 1997, Parks finally got his chance.
Gates reflexively defended the force whenever controversy arose, and an important lesson Parks took from the decade preceding his appointment was that Gates had done the department a disservice by failing unequivocally to condemn the Rodney King cops. Parks bristled whenever he heard cops argue that the King beating had been, strictly speaking, within policy. “When we did not have the ability to send a message to the community that we were going to be objective in evaluating the set of circumstances, it caused the community to have less trust in us,” Parks says. “And I think that’s the real issue; how we addressed it is as important as what occurred.”
Now, faced with a budding scandal on his own watch, Parks was determined to act decisively in exposing and eliminating what he and his investigators believed might be a crew of gangsta cops.
”Perez is a good friend of David Mack’s, both were good friends of Gaines’s,” Parks says. “I think the picture reflected that we had some people on this department that were, in a coördinated effort, involved in some very serious criminal misconduct.”
Parks ordered the formation of an investigative task force to solve the cocaine theft, and to see if it was connected to the bank robbery or to other criminal activity. The task force decided to focus its investigation on Rafael Perez.
When Perez was a boy and was living near Philadelphia, where he and his mother settled after leaving Puerto Rico, he would watch the cop shows on TV and imagine himself one day having a badge and a gun. He went from high school to the Marines, and from the Marines to the police academy in Los Angeles, where he breezed through and, in 1989, joined the force. After his rookie tour on patrol, Perez was assigned to a special narcotics unit, where he teamed up with a veteran cop whom he came to idolize, David Mack.
Perez and Mack were on a “buy and bust” team, which meant that they travelled undercover throughout the city buying dope on the streets, working with the narcotics squads in different divisions to make arrests. Frank Lyga remembers working with them several times in the Hollywood division, and being struck by the fealty that Perez accorded to Mack. “Ray Perez was the underling and a wanna-be David Mack,” Lyga recalls. “David Mack was the supreme leader, and Ray Perez was the supreme follower. Where one was, the other one was, always.”
Perez later cast his loyalty to Mack as a case of combat bonding, citing an incident in 1993, when Perez says he found himself staring down the barrel of a drug dealer’s gun, pleading for his life, and Mack shot the assailant. (This account has since been disputed by eyewitnesses.)
In 1995, Perez was transferred to the department’s élite anti-gang team, crash (for Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums), in the Rampart division. The custom at special units such as crash was that a prospective member needed to have a sponsor on the team. Perez’s sponsor was an officer named Sammy Martin, a close friend of David Mack’s. (Mack is a godfather to Martin’s son.) It was Sammy Martin who accompanied Perez and Mack on their Las Vegas spree.
Based on those connections, and the statement from the property-room clerk, the task force put Perez under surveillance and began to profile him. It found a pattern in his off-duty life style that was strikingly similar to Mack’s. “Again, a very outgoing, charismatic type person, likes the finer things in life, liked to party a lot,” Detective Tyndall, who was assigned to the task force, says. “Both were womanizers, had a very active social life. . . . On a policeman’s salary, you can do that as long as you’re single. But Ray was married and has a child, so we’re starting to put together the picture now that his extracurricular activities are going to have to be supplemented in some way.”
Investigators subpoenaed Perez’s telephone records, and were surprised to find that he sometimes made more than a hundred phone calls in a day. On the day that the cocaine was checked out, Perez called an unidentified person in the Rampart neighborhood just after the transaction. Detectives traced the number to a Bella Rios, one of several aliases used by a Honduran woman more commonly known as Veronica Quesada. She was a sometime night-club singer with a drug record, and when detectives called on her they got lucky. Inside Quesada’s apartment were the accoutrements of the drug trade—a razor-marked table, and chemicals for converting powder cocaine into rock. As the detectives were interviewing Quesada, the front door opened and in walked Quesada’s brother, Carlos Romero, who was the subject of two outstanding felony-arrest warrants for drug dealing. The officers frisked Romero, and found in his right-front trouser pocket a quarter pound of cocaine, freshly cut from a brick.
Romero was arrested, and while the cops were questioning Quesada she said that she needed to fetch something from a side table. When she opened the drawer, one of the detectives, Mike Hohan, noticed a startling photograph. “Sitting on top of everything,” Hohan recalls, “is a picture of Rafael Perez in what we call in policeman’s parlance a ‘two-eleven suit.’ “ In the California Penal Code, two-eleven is the section for robbery, a crime that seemed to be committed by an inordinate number of people partial to nylon running suits. There was something else about the photograph that struck Hohan, something about Perez’s pose. Perez was “throwing gang signs,” Hohan says.
It was possible that Perez had been clowning around with the hand signs, engaging in some cop humor, but, at the least, detectives could now connect Perez to both ends of the cocaine theft—the witness at the evidence room, and a dealer who could put the dope on the street. Richard Rosenthal, a deputy district attorney, who was now assigned to the task force, became even more convinced of Perez’s guilt when he discovered that Perez had intervened in drug cases against Quesada and Romero, telling prosecutors that they functioned as his informants. “That evidence on top of everything else conclusively made me believe we had the right guy, and we had a provable case,” Rosenthal says.
Perez was served with a search warrant on August 6, 1998, as he was reporting to the Rampart captain’s office. When he was confronted with the news, he asked, “This is about the bank robbery, isn’t it?” He was arrested three weeks later.
Rosenthal believed in the case he had against Perez, but as the trial began, in December, he knew that getting a conviction would not be easy. Perez was something of a courtroom legend, a witness who could sway jurors with an air of utter credibility—even, as it turned out, in those cases when he was baldly lying. “What we had with Perez was somebody you would look at and feel that, if I were in his position and I were innocent . . . that’s the way I’d act, that’s when I would cry, that’s when I would stammer. And that was the kind of defendant we were against,” Rosenthal says.
Rosenthal got an early hint of how formidable a presence Perez was when, during the jury-selection process, one prospective juror stood up and commented on how handsome Perez was. She was excused. During the trial, Perez admitted that he’d had an affair with Quesada, that he’d even been at the property room the day the cocaine was taken—but denied that he was the one who had taken it. The jury was unable to reach a verdict—the vote was eightto-four for conviction—and on December 23rd the judge declared a hung jury.
The prosecution team immediately went back to work, trying to build a stronger case against Perez, who remained in custody. Rosenthal, who had spent most of his career prosecuting fraud cases, had a study of Perez’s financial records drawn up, with charts and graphs showing Perez’s unexplained income. Meanwhile, Quesada, who was now in prison, indicated that the missing six and a half pounds wasn’t all that Perez had stolen. Investigators followed up on another pound of cocaine that had gone missing the previous year—dope that had been seized in an arrest made by Frank Lyga. For a time, the investigators theorized that Perez had targeted Lyga’s evidence in retaliation for Gaines’s death. Then Detective Hohan had an idea: What if Perez had been stealing cocaine by checking dope out of the evidence locker, replacing it with another substance, and then returning the package?
The detectives went through hundreds of pieces of evidence in the storage rooms, eventually finding eleven transfers with suspicious paperwork. They had one package of cocaine analyzed. The department chemist found Bisquick instead of cocaine. Six of the other suspicious packages had been destroyed, according to routine department procedure, but four more proved to contain “bunk”—more Bisquick. Handwriting analysis and the recollections of another property clerk showed that some of the swapped evidence had been ordered by Perez.
The task force now had Perez connected to eight pounds of cocaine, which made him what the cops call a major dealer. “I had him,” Rosenthal says. “I had him nailed to the wall.” On April 6, 1999, Rosenthal got a grand jury to indict Perez on the missing pound, and, increasing the pressure, added more complaints as he accumulated new evidence. Rosenthal kept hearing that Chief Parks and the department desperately wanted to deal with Perez, to “flip” him and gain his coöperation in exposing other dirty cops, and in May Rosenthal approached Perez’s attorney with an offer.
Perez was represented by Winston Kevin McKesson, a lawyer who knew his way around police cases, but not from the orientation of defending cops. McKesson, who is in his forties, was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, a neighborhood where violent crime and a fear of police were the hammer and anvil of daily life. His younger brother was killed in a fight outside their parents’ home; McKesson’s first college research paper was on the subject of police misconduct. After graduating from U.C.L.A. law school, he became a protégé of Johnnie Cochran’s, and a notable figure in the police-brutality bar. The only cops he had previously represented were plaintiffs in discrimination suits filed against police departments.
On September 8th, during jury selection, McKesson approached Rosenthal, put an arm around his shoulder, and suggested that they talk. He had Perez give Rosenthal the barest sketch of a crime that he would confess to: the shooting of an unarmed suspect, and the planting of a gun on him. McKesson said that Perez wanted immunity on that charge and a reduced five-year term on the drug charges in exchange for exposing bad cops in the Rampart division. Gil Garcetti, the district attorney, approved the deal.
On the morning of September 10, 1999, Perez was secretly transported in handcuffs and shackles to a room in a downtown Los Angeles office tower. The unlikely meeting place, headquarters of the county transit system, had been chosen partly for security reasons, as there were concerns for Perez’s life. Everyone on the law-enforcement side of the case, from Rosenthal to Chief Parks to District Attorney Garcetti, had high expectations. Within a week, David Mack would be sentenced to fourteen years in prison, and he was being investigated in connection with the 1997 killing of Biggie Smalls, the rap singer managed by Sean (Puffy) Combs, Death Row Records’ East Coast rival. The hope now was that Perez might shed light on that and other unsolved crimes, including the whereabouts of the bank-robbery money and the identities of Mack’s accomplices. “We didn’t know if he was going to talk about Biggie Smalls’s murder, the bank robbery involving David Mack, home-invasion robberies, other additional narcotics, maybe rip-offs,” Detective Tyndall says. “We just weren’t sure.”
Rosenthal reminded Perez that if he failed to tell the complete truth the plea deal was off. “Yes, sir,” Perez said, and he began to tell a story that would stun everyone in the room, except for his own attorney. Kevin McKesson knew what Perez was going to tell, and he knew that it wasn’t a story about a criminal cadre of black cops. He knew that Perez, who by now had become a personal friend, was going to tell a story that confirmed what Johnnie Cochran, the brutality bar, and McKesson had been proclaiming for years about the L.A.P.D. “It hurts me to say it, but there’s a lot of crooked stuff going in with L.A.P.D., especially L.A.P.D. specialized units,” Perez told the investigators.
Perez said that he had gone bad while making his first drug bust on the crash team. He said that he and his partner, Nino Durden, had seized money from a drug dealer, and decided to keep some for themselves. Perez also described the botched police shooting, a 1996 confrontation with a nineteen-year-old gang member who’d surprised Perez and Durden during a stakeout. The two officers shot the man, Javier Francisco Ovando, hitting him in the head and chest before they realized that he was not carrying a weapon. As Ovando lay bleeding, Perez recounted, Durden wiped clean a “drop” gun they carried with them for just such an event, and placed it near the body. Then Perez and Durden began to concoct their cover story—that Ovando was a cop killer who had burst in on their observation post, intent on assassination.
Ovando had survived the shooting, only to find himself facing trial on felony-assault charges for trying to kill the two police officers. Ovando, a Honduran who speaks little English, was partially paralyzed in the incident and confined to a wheelchair; he protested that he had no gun, but in the trial Perez took the stand and calmly testified otherwise, convincing the jury of Ovando’s guilt. The judge rebuked Ovando for lacking remorse, and sentenced him to twenty-three years in state prison.
Rosenthal and the officers were horrified by what Perez was telling them, but there was more. Perez said that the practice of keeping a drop gun for framing suspects was quite common in crash. “Everybody . . . kept one,” he said. “Everybody.” Bogus arrests and the writing of false police reports, he said, were the rule. “I would say that ninety per cent of the officers that work crash, and not just Rampart crash, falsify a lot of information,” Perez said. “They put cases on people.”
Rosenthal was hearing a prosecutor’s nightmare. He had to find out one thing: Was there anyone else sitting in jail for a crime he did not commit? Perez didn’t quite answer the question, saying that he would first need to see the crash “recap books”—logs of all activities undertaken by the unit.
”Did it happen that frequently that you can’t remember?” Rosenthal asked Perez.
”I am really going to need to see those books,” Perez replied.
Perez talked for three hours in that first session, and he was eager to keep going (“There’s still a lot of things that we have not talked about,” he told them), but Rosenthal cut the session short. He was now desperate to get Javier Ovando out of prison, and he took the unprecedented step of filing a writ of habeas corpus (usually the work of a defense lawyer), asking for Ovando’s immediate release. Ovando was freed from prison within a week.
Ovando was only the first. Rosenthal had once thought that the debriefing sessions with Perez would be completed in a few weeks; they went on for more than a year, thirty-five sessions, which fill forty-five hundred pages of transcript. As Perez’s story continued to unfold, the circle of alleged wrongdoers steadily widened. Perez spoke of some officers as being “in the loop”—countenancing, if not necessarily participating in, wrongdoing—so the task force compiled a list of every cop who’d been in the Rampart crash and narcotics divisions during Perez’s time there, and had him “go through and identify who are the potential suspects,” Rosenthal recalls.
Perez was also allowed to peruse fifteen hundred cases, including those in the crash recap books he had asked for. Detectives would deliver packages to the county jailhouse of a hundred cases at a time for Perez to go through, selecting cases to discuss at his next debriefing. Sometimes during the debriefings, Perez would volunteer a new memory that had come to him in jail. Rosenthal says that occasionally “we’d start off on an interview and he’d say, ‘You know what? I was laying around last night, and I remembered that there was something we need to discuss.’ “ Other times, Perez would fill in the blanks on incidents that he hadn’t witnessed himself, “but he knew what was going on,” Rosenthal says.
”If we were to believe Officer Perez,” Garcetti says, “we had a rogue group of cops who were totally out of control, who were unsupervised, who were their own little enforcement group.” Indeed, Perez portrayed Rampart crash as a secret gang in blue, with its own logo (a white skull with a cowboy hat, flanked by playing cards arranged in the “dead man’s hand”—aces and eights) and an awards system for shoot-outs with gangsters.
Investigators found that at least some of what Perez said about the Rampart crash culture was true. For example, at the time Perez was under investigation the department was also looking into a complaint against a Rampart crash officer named Brian Hewitt, who was accused of beating a handcuffed gang member while he was in custody at the station. Hewitt and another policeman, Ethan Cohan, who saw the beaten gang member but did not report the incident promptly, were fired by the department. Both officers were also accused by Perez of other wrongdoing. But how much of Perez’s story was hype? Perez’s eventual catalogue of misdeeds ranged from his own shooting and frameup of Javier Ovando to allegations of guns being routinely planted on suspects, cops drinking beer on the job, and cops allowing a suspect to lie bleeding rather than calling for medical attention.
The investigation was a messy process, because it had no precedent. Perez would tell the task force about a bad case, and the detectives would fan out to prisons or to a village in Central America or to wherever the wronged party could be found, trying to corroborate Perez’s story. Rarely was Perez’s account of an event fully verified—even Ovando’s version of the shooting incident differed significantly from Perez’s—but Chief Parks had declared early on, “We take Rafael Perez at his word,” and so, for the most part, the detectives did. In a way, they had no choice, because Perez’s word was by itself enough to undermine confidence in any case in which he had made the arrest, written the report, or testified in court.
”At that point, no one was seriously questioning the allegations that he was making,” Judge Larry Paul Fidler, of the Los Angeles Superior Court, says. “It rocked everybody back on their heels.” As supervising judge of the Superior Court’s criminal division, Fidler was responsible for deciding whether or not to grant the writs and overturn the cases that Perez was identifying. Fidler held Rosenthal in high regard, and he felt that the court had no choice but to grant the writs—more than a hundred of them so far.
Inevitably, when transcripts of Perez’s debriefings were leaked, his untested allegations became fixed in the public mind. Defense attorneys began to employ the “Perez defense,” claiming that Perez’s picture of what happened in Rampart might well have happened in the case of their client, and therefore the jury should acquit. “That was the standard, if you will, the battle cry in almost every case,” Judge Fidler says.
When Javier Ovando was released from prison, on September 16, 1999, he was flown home to Los Angeles by the L.A.P.D. But, before he even boarded the plane, he was approached by Gregory Moreno, a lawyer in the Los Angeles police-brutality bar, who a few days later landed Ovando as a client. In October, Moreno filed suit against the city, and the only real question was how much the settlement would be. “When this came out, it was the opportunity that many of us had waited for,” Moreno says, “and we were blessed to be able to be at the forefront.” Rodney King had received a settlement of $3.8 million, and Moreno had recently won a settlement of $5.3 million against the county sheriff’s office. For Ovando, he says, “fifteen million dollars was the right figure.”
In February, 2000, Johnnie Cochran convened a Saturday summit meeting of the city’s leading police critics and brutality-bar attorneys, to see how they might respond to what one lawyer called “a situation that is tailor-made for reform.” Among those who spoke to the gathering was Cochran’s protégé Kevin McKesson.
As more convictions were overturned, more lawsuits were filed. Ruben Rojas, a gang member whom Perez acknowledged having framed on a dope charge, won a settlement for a million dollars. His attorney, Gregory Yates, eventually ended up with sixty Rampart clients. He bundled twenty-nine of those cases together for an eleven-million-dollar settlement last December, and the Beverly Hills branch of the Wells Fargo Bank stayed open late one Friday night just to handle all the deposits. Forty-three settlements have been made already, ranging from twenty-five thousand dollars to Ovando’s fifteen million.
Some have accused plaintiffs’ lawyers of rank opportunism, and Yates has heard the charge of “police-car chasing.” He is unmoved. “Who else is going to do it?” he asks. “Who else is going to seek redress for these people?”
In the wake of the Rodney King beating, Congress passed a law allowing federal oversight of local police departments that had been found guilty of a pattern of depriving citizens of their rights. The law has been used by the Justice Department to establish federal oversight of police forces in Pittsburgh, in New Jersey, and in Steubenville, Ohio, and was cited by those (such as the New York City mayoral candidate Mark Green) proposing federal oversight of the New York Police Department after the 1997 brutalizing of Abner Louima. The Justice Department opened a civil inquiry into the L.A.P.D. in 1996; it had no discernible result until the Rampart scandal lent it new impetus. In the waning days of the Clinton Administration, the acting head of Justice’s civil-rights division, Bill Lann Lee, threatened to sue Los Angeles to prove a “pattern or practice” of excessive force and rights abuses unless the city consented to federal oversight. Chief Parks and the city’s mayor, Richard Riordan, opposed the agreement, but Rampart sapped their political capital on the issue, and the city council relented to the feds.
Among the reforms imposed on the department are some that were first urged after the Rodney King incident, including a computerized “early warning” system for tracking problem officers. There is now also a mandate to maintain a running tally of all police stops, categorized by the subject’s ethnicity and gender—an intended guard against racial profiling.
There were some topics on which Rafael Perez had very little to say, and they happened to be the subjects that the task force had hoped he might illuminate when he was given his immunity deal. He said he had not known Kevin Gaines, and that, contrary to Frank Lyga’s assertion, he had never met Lyga while working narcotics, or anywhere else.
On the subject of his friend David Mack, Perez was similarly unhelpful. “I considered him a very good friend who saved my life,” Perez said when the subject first came up. “Was I involved in that bank robbery? No. Was this a big coincidence that we both end up in this kind of trouble, or he ends up in that type of trouble, and I—” He stopped himself, then concluded, “It’s a very big coincidence.” Perez said he knew nothing about Mack’s accomplices, or about what Mack had done with the stolen money.
”He seems to have a very strong relationship—I don’t know if that’s fear, or an affection—with Mr. Mack,” Gil Garcetti says. “I’m absolutely convinced he knows something he has never told us.”
That opinion is shared by police and prosecutors who have dealt with Perez. Suspicion grew among some of them that he had directed—or possibly misdirected—the course of the scandal investigation. “He’s deflecting us everywhere else but where we should be,” says one officer who is deeply involved in the case, and believes that he gave Perez too much credence. “The task force just went wherever he took them. He’s counting on getting out in June.”
Detective Tyndall says that he came to sense that Perez was almost taunting the investigators. “He was eating this up,” Tyndall says. “He knew that, this whole production, he was the center, he was the star. And he was going to take advantage of it to the utmost.”
When Perez directed the investigation toward other cops in Rampart crash, Garcetti hoped that at least some implicated officers would turn, and coöperate in exposing others. But that didn’t happen. Instead, cops fought the charges in police Board of Rights hearings—proceedings argued before a panel comprising two command officers and a citizen. Most of the hearings found in favor of the officers. Still, there was enormous political and media pressure for a definitive outcome, and the District Attorney’s office felt most of it. Gil Garcetti had won another term after his team lost the O. J. Simpson case, but his standing with voters was precarious as he faced the November, 2000, election. Chief Parks, determined to be seen as leading the fight against police corruption, criticized Garcetti publicly and often for not bringing criminal cases against Rampart officers, and Garcetti countered that there was no case yet to bring.
”My position is, all we have is Rafael Perez pointing the finger,” he says. “That’s all I have. A convicted perjurer, a liar, a thief. We get to a court, it will never even get to a jury. The judge will have to dismiss the case.”
Eventually, as the pressure continued, Garcetti decided that he would have to go with what he had despite his own misgivings. “Once we could see we were not going to get any police officers from within the department, that’s almost the end of the case,” Garcetti recalls. “You take the little bits and pieces that are left, and you go forward with that prosecution.”
The criminal accusations that Garcetti’s office chose to prosecute came to trial last October 4th, in the courtroom of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jacqueline A. Connor. To the extent that the Rampart scandal had become a stain on the character of the L.A.P.D., the case could not have been more fitting. One defendant, a thirty-nine-year-old cop named Brian Liddy, was the perfect embodiment of the department of Daryl Gates and Joseph Wambaugh, for better and worse.
Like Perez, Liddy had always wanted to be a cop. His father kept bar at a tavern in the Bronx which was a hangout for off-duty cops. He joined his first civilian force in Norwalk, Connecticut, and quickly became a star. Dana McIndoe, his first captain in Norwalk, says, “He had a nose for finding the bad guys. . . . I don’t know how to put it—he was just born to be a police officer, I guess.”
Liddy, a burly man with a sardonic air, was an aggressive cop who “had his rough edges,” McIndoe says, and a number of complaints were filed against him. “I talked to him a few times about minor indiscretions,” McIndoe says, “and one thing I’ll say about Brian, if he messed up, he said he did. He’d come out and say, ‘Yeah, I did it. I lost my cool and yelled at the guy, called him a coupla names.’ “
Like Frank Lyga, Liddy believed that the L.A.P.D. was the best force in the world, and after visiting a friend in California he determined to try to join the department he called “the varsity.” But the L.A.P.D. first wanted to know about an incident in Liddy’s private life, in which a woman he knew had accused him of sexual assault. Liddy had protested his innocence, and a jury acquitted him in a matter of minutes. The L.A.P.D. looked into the matter, and admitted Liddy into its ranks.
On April 29, 1992, when Liddy arrived for roll call at the Seventy-seventh Street station, in the heart of the city’s South Central district, cops were congregating around a TV set watching a news report that a Simi Valley jury without any black members had just acquitted the L.A. cops accused in the Rodney King beating. A few blocks from the station, near Seventy-first Street, a young black man named Mark Jackson was changing the brakes on a friend’s car when a neighbor came by and said she’d just heard the verdict reported. Jackson and his friends started grousing about the verdict, and soon other people came into the streets, shouting “Rodney King! Rodney King!”
A short while later, Liddy and his partner, Terry Keenan, along with a third officer, were riding in their patrol car when, over the radio, they heard a call for help, signalling that officers were in trouble. They drove to the corner of Seventy-first Street and Normandie, where a boisterous crowd had encircled two cops who were in the middle of arresting a teen-ager after their patrol car was showered with rocks and bottles. The young man had tried to escape by climbing a fence. When the cops pulled him back down, the crowd began jeering, and chanted, “Fuck the police!” Liddy, Keenan, and the other officer singled out two of the instigators, Mark Jackson and his friend Cerman Cunningham, and arrested them, but only after a struggle in which Jackson was slammed against the patrol car before finally being pushed inside.
The arrests further excited the crowd, and, as Liddy was getting ready to drive away, Jackson’s younger brother, Damian Williams, turned his back to the police and dropped his trousers, mooning the officers, to great cheers. About then, Liddy’s lieutenant, Michael Moulin, arrived and ordered all the officers at the scene to retreat, leaving a vacuum in the streets that was quickly filled by the mob.
The crowd, Damian Williams among them, moved a block south, to the intersection of Florence and Normandie, where Tom’s Liquor Store was soon overrun by looters. With booze flowing, people started throwing bottles at passing cars. Motorists were dragged out of their cars and beaten. Then a truck driver named Reginald Denny, en route to Inglewood with a load of sand and gravel, rolled into the intersection. A group of black youths pulled him from the truck, stomped him, hit him on the back with an oxygenator, clubbed him with a crowbar, and smashed him in the face with a concrete block. As Denny lay on the street, bleeding and unconscious, one of the young men spat on him, and another rolled him over and picked his pocket. The man who hit Denny with the concrete block, and then spun into a dance over his body while flashing gang signs, was Damian Williams.
Two days later, the fires were still burning. As Liddy drove to work, a car pulled up next to his on an off-ramp near the station and one of its occupants fired at him. Liddy returned fire, and at the end of the gun battle one of the car’s occupants was dead. Liddy survived the incident unhurt, and was awarded the department’s highest honor, the Medal of Valor.
Brian Liddy had made the arrest that sparked the worst Los Angeles riot in a century, and won the Medal of Valor, but what made him really famous inside the force occurred a month after the riot, when Liddy was vacationing in New York. He was showing the city to his future wife, a fellow L.A. cop named Sandra Garcia (whom Liddy had met while standing over a corpse at a crime scene), when they heard a bank alarm go off near East Twenty-third Street by Third Avenue. Three men ran from the bank into a getaway car, smashed into another motorist, then fled on foot, in the direction of Liddy. He tackled one of the men, flipped him over into the “proned out” position, then held him with his arms pinned back until a New York cop arrived and handcuffed the suspect. Half a block away, Sandra Garcia had nabbed another of the suspects. Liddy and Garcia received a letter of commendation from the commander of the N.Y.P.D.’s Thirteenth Precinct.
Unlike Rafael Perez, Liddy was not a compelling presence in a courtroom. His recitation of events was coldly professional, and he didn’t bother to mask his “coppers vs. assholes” attitude. This had been evident several months after the riot, in the joint trial of Mark Jackson and Cerman Cunningham. The racially mixed jury acquitted them, and jurors said afterward that they didn’t like the demeanor of the husky cop. “Downtown jury” was Liddy’s explanation.
Liddy and Rafael Perez came to Rampart crash on the same day in 1995. They weren’t partners, or even friends, and, when Perez left the unit for a time, Liddy argued against allowing his return. On the job, they tolerated one another.
Later, when Perez was going over lists of crash cops with Richard Rosenthal and the task force, rating officers as good or bad, he first mentioned Liddy as a pretty good cop with a nose for the bad guys. “I categorize him as a very good officer,” Perez said. “A lot of good, uh . . . uh, Obs arrests. ‘Obs’ meaning observations arrests. . . . The most I’ve seen him do was fabricate some P.C.”— probable cause for an arrest. “But could he be trusted? He could be trusted that if we told him the worst of the worst, he’s gonna go, ‘O.K. I’m gonna go along with the story.’ Uh, but he, himself, wouldn’t, uh, really be involved in doing things.”
Perez made that statement in one of his first sessions, in September, 1999. By November, as his list of wrongdoers was growing, he had changed his mind about Liddy, accusing him of falsely arresting two members of the violent Temple Street gang after a raid. Perez later told Rosenthal that he’d heard that Liddy had spoken against him at crash, and said he thought Liddy (whom he described as “a very heavy officer who couldn’t run half a block to save his life”) was just jealous of him. Perez went on to implicate Liddy directly in other misdeeds, ranging from making a bad gun-possession arrest to fabricating a report in a spray-painting incident.
By the time Perez was making those allegations, Liddy had been promoted out of Rampart crash, and was a sergeant in the Pacific division, near the beach. He held the dual ranks of detective and sergeant, and was pleased with his career status as he began to plot the next twenty years toward his pension.
was nine months pregnant, and on the morning she went into labor Liddy’s badge, I.D. card, and gun were taken from him by police authorities in the delivery room when his son was being born. He was charged, with his crash partner, Michael Buchanan; his sergeant, Edward Ortiz; and another crash officer, Paul Harper, with various acts of perverting justice in the arrests that Perez had cited.
The most important allegation arose from a July, 1996, crash raid on a meeting of the Temple Street gang, which was involved in a dispute with the Mexican Mafia. One of the gangsters the crash cops hoped to run into that night was Anthony (Stymie) Adams, who was believed to have been the trigger man in the killing of a Mexican Mafia man called Lizard in a dispute over “taxes” paid on the gang’s street trade.
When the cops, including Liddy, Buchanan, and Ortiz, arrived at the meeting place, the gang was all there—Stymie, Ghost, Diablo, Wicked, Speedy among them. A police helicopter illuminated the scene, and the gang members fled. Two of them jumped into a pickup truck and sped past Liddy and Buchanan, and down the alley. Liddy and Buchanan claimed they were struck by the escaping vehicle before the driver, Raúl (Prieto) Muñoz, was captured, in possession of a .357-magnum handgun, along with his passenger, Cesar (Joker) Natividad.
Liddy and Buchanan briefly went to the hospital, then filled out the paperwork on the arrest, charging Muñoz and Natividad with assault with a deadly weapon—the pickup truck. Both gangsters pleaded guilty, Muñoz was imprisoned and then deported to El Salvador, and, in a plea deal, Natividad was released.
The issue in question was whether or not Muñoz had actually struck Liddy and Buchanan with the truck as they drove down the alley. Perez, who had been nearby at the scene, said the officers had fabricated that part of the story, even though they both had shown injuries at the time, and had gone for treatment at the hospital. As the trial began, the talk around the courthouse was that the case seemed laughably insignificant, given the magnitude that the Rampart scandal had assumed.
Liddy gave his usual charmless witness-box performance. One of the Los Angeles Times reporters covering the trial wrote, “Liddy was so calm and deliberate that it appeared he had no stake in how he was perceived.”
Even so, Judge Connor didn’t seem to believe that the prosecution had much of a case—she consistently granted defense motions, and overruled the prosecution—and neither did anyone else. For one thing, Liddy and Buchanan hadn’t needed to fabricate a charge in order to arrest Muñoz, who was illegally in possession of a gun and was violating parole. Technically, they could have charged him with assault with a deadly weapon for simply coming at the two officers in the truck, even if the truck hadn’t struck them.
Not only had Muñoz pleaded guilty after the incident but, when the task-force detectives visited him in El Salvador to test Perez’s allegations, he told them that he didn’t know whether he had struck the officers that night, and that his passenger, Natividad, might well have opened the door of the truck, striking Liddy while trying to escape. But Muñoz’s conviction was overturned, mostly on the word of Perez. From El Salvador, Muñoz had hired a lawyer—Gregory Moreno, who also represented Javier Ovando—and filed a claim against the city.
Now Muñoz claimed that he’d pleaded guilty only because he didn’t think anyone would believe a protest of innocence. He said that he hadn’t struck the officers with his truck that night, and that the gang meeting was really just a “reunion.” Indeed, he claimed that he was not really an active member of a gang (which Moreno likened to a social club for economically disadvantaged minority youths), and that he had never been involved in any criminal activity. Under cross-examination, he was obliged to admit to a 1989 shooting outside a high school when he was a juvenile.
The jury returned a verdict of guilty against Liddy, Ortiz, and Buchanan. The jurors had focussed not on the question of whether Liddy and Buchanan had been struck by Muñoz’s truck but on a computerized report about the incident on which the letters “GBI”—great bodily injury—had been marked. The jurors said that Liddy and Buchanan didn’t look greatly injured to them.
Judge Connor overturned the decision, and, in an eighteen-page opinion, wrote that the prosecution had not presented sufficient evidence to warrant a conviction and that the jury had ruled on the wrong point of law. “While recognizing the enormous pressure on the community, on the police force, on the district attorney’s office, and on the courts to ‘fix’ the Rampart scandal,” she said, “this court is only interested in evaluating the fairness of the proceedings in this court and determining whether justice was done in this case.”
A week before the jury rendered its verdict, the voters of Los Angeles County turned Gil Garcetti out of office; his successor, Steve Cooley, has appealed Judge Connor’s ruling.
Rafael Perez, who has spent his entire incarceration in the Los Angeles County Jail rather than in prison, had hoped to be freed in June. But that hope was cast into doubt in March, when Perez’s former partner, Nino Durden, reached a plea agreement with federal and state prosecutors, promising to coöperate in an investigation of civil-rights abuses in the Rampart case. Sources indicate that the thrust of the federal effort is aimed at Rafael Perez.
Chief Parks’s future at the L.A.P.D. is uncertain. Because of term-limit reform passed after the Rodney King episode, Parks must seek reappointment to a second term next year, and low morale within the force, as well as the Rampart developments, may become an obstacle.
Defense attorneys are still scrutinizing thousands of convictions that might have been tainted by Rampart wrongdoing, and plaintiffs’ attorneys are awaiting settlement decisions in a hundred and fifty lawsuits and claims against the city.
Of the gang members who received settlements from the city, at least two have been shot by rival gang members, and three others are known to be back in prison. On March 13th, Javier Ovando, on his way to Las Vegas with friends from his old neighborhood, was arrested and charged with four felony counts of drug possession.
Brian Liddy is in personal and professional limbo, awaiting a ruling on the District Attorney’s appeal and possible federal charges related to Perez’s accusations. He has been working at a private security firm, and has plans to start his own business when the Rampart case is resolved. “My new company is gonna be called Centurion Security and Investigations,” he says.
Looking back, the people directly involved in uncovering and assessing the Rampart scandal now find themselves unable to take its measure—and that is mostly because of Rafael Perez. “I just think when you deal with the case as it appeared when it first broke, and what you have today, it is not what people thought would happen,” Judge Fidler says. “Basically, it came down to Perez. What the prosecutor has is Perez and nothing else. And when you have all your eggs in one basket and the basket’s starting to come apart at the seams . . . the case just doesn’t have as much strength.” Chief Parks contends that the Rampart case was exploited by the news media and police critics, and in the process became distorted beyond all proportion. “The media tried to make this the crime of the century,” he says. “They began to talk about ‘This is the worst corruption scandal in the history of L.A.P.D.’ When it’s all resolved, we’ll have one-tenth of one per cent of our officers involved in this issue.”
In creating and, to some degree, directing the course of the Rampart scandal, Rafael Perez may have overtly lied or withheld the whole truth, and he may have protected his friends and settled old scores by implicating his enemies. Few now believe that the wrongdoing was as widespread as Perez once suggested—of the seventy officers eventually implicated by Perez, five were fired by the department and eight more resigned. What has been verified in Perez’s allegations is nowhere near as serious as the crimes that he himself confessed to. Meanwhile, investigators find themselves no closer to answers about possible police involvement in the bank robbery, Death Row activities, or the death of Biggie Smalls.
Yet there was in Perez’s story a compelling element of truth—the revelation of a culture within the L.A.P.D. that, at the least, countenanced a strain of rough justice in the street. In that regard, the lasting significance of the Rampart scandal, perhaps, is the opportunity that it has afforded critics of the L.A.P.D. who have long been frustrated in their efforts to reform the department. “To the critics of the system,” Judge Fidler says, “this gave them the ammunition they needed to say, ‘See, we’ve always told you the system is corrupt, it only favors the prosecution or the police—we’ve proved it because Officer Perez has made these allegations.’ “ ♦