Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story 7/25/03

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The Rampart scandal, where Los Angeles police anti-gang and anti-drug squads rampaged through the near-downtown Rampart neighborhood in a years-long crime spree in the 1990s, is the scandal that keeps on giving. The scandal broke in 1999, when LAPD officer Rafael Perez confessed in a plea bargain that he and other officers based at Rampart station had routinely framed suspects, faked evidence and covered up unjustified shootings.

The Rampart scandal has seen numerous investigations by state, federal, and the LAPD, and the Los Angeles Police Commission announced Tuesday there will be yet another. A blue-ribbon, 10-member panel will review how LAPD responded to Rampart. According to the Los Angeles Times, the group "will examine institutional failures of LAPD and consider whether structural changes have been made to prevent their occurrence." The panel includes lawyers and academics with strong law enforcement backgrounds as well as some vocal critics of LAPD. Many of them have served on previous panels that reviewed LAPD misbehavior, including the Rodney King beating, the 1992 Los Angeles riots, and earlier Rampart investigations.

LAPD Chief William Bratton called for the new investigation in February. Bratton, who assumed his role with LAPD after the scandal, was unhappy with the department's internal probes into Rampart.

Although Perez and his partner, Nino Durden, told state and federal investigators that dozens of Rampart officers were involved in widespread corruption, only seven officers have been prosecuted. One was acquitted, three convictions were overturned on appeal (those cases continue), and three pled guilty. Last November, Los Angeles prosecutors announced they were dropping an additional 82 cases for lack of evidence, saying that Durden and Perez were not credible witnesses.

So far, the city of Los Angeles has paid out more than $40 million to settle claims from victims of the rampaging Rampart officers, and more than 100 convictions of alleged gang members and drug violators have been overturned. Most prominent among those was the conviction of Jose Oviedo, an unarmed gang member who was shot and paralyzed by Durden and Perez. The dashing duo then planted a weapon and arrested Oviedo for attempting to shoot them. He was convicted and spent three wheelchair-bound years in prison before being released as the scandal unfolded.

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