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A discerning look at the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) reveals an unchanged underbelly, ostensibly impervious to all but rhetorical reform. A federal consent decree, notwithstanding, the department remains fundamentally racist and authoritarian, whose coded mission is to maintain its structure, policy and operations. (Witness the sustained applause for ex-police chief Darryl Gates at SWAT Officer Randal Simmons funeral—he regularly denigrated Blacks and Latinos with impunity.)
LAPD’s us vs. them mantra is unaffected by “ meddlers” who have no clue about running their acclaimed paramilitary organization.
Chief William Bratton is touted as the best thing since white sliced bread and idolized by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and well-known attorney Connie Rice. She is the media’s preferred police expert, who apparently sees no contradiction in championing civil rights and unfettered adulation for a man who presides over an organization that still personifies an anti-civil/human rights mentality. Can the head really be separated from the body.
The numerous examples of LAPD’s ongoing recalcitrance include redacting the names of officers involved in shootings, protecting (even rogue) officers in alleged abuse and malpractice cases—no LAPD officer in recent memory has been found “out of policy” for killing a civilian, sanctioned unofficial opposition to the federal consent decree, and the list goes on.
An especially transparent example of continuing rigid authoritarianism is Deputy Chief Mark Perez, head of Internal Affairs (IAG), whose atavistic response to the Inspector General’s recent audit on investigations of citizen complaints against LAPD officers was barely believable. Perez’ unit makes final decisions in the more serious complaint cases. He said, “We make judgment calls that someone second-guessing us afterwards might not like...But I have a very high level of confidence at the adjudication at the end is right,” (regardless).
Perez acknowledges deficiencies in Internal Affairs’ handling of citizen complaints, but denies the Inspector General’s audit is an indictment of the quality of complaint investigations, (which, in effect, it is.) He also says mistakes “rarely, if ever” affect the decision of whether to discipline officers. Translation: Internal Affairs is above criticism, invincible.
Perez’s comments are extremely troubling and reflect the department’s continuing resistance to “outside interference.” His response to the Inspector General’s report impedes reform efforts, such as they are, and reinforces broad suspicion that LAPD remains impervious to fundamental change.
The Inspector General’s report for fiscal year 2007-2008, pursuant to the consent decree, assesses the quality of LAPD investigations. The report focuses on three areas: Adequacy of the investigation; accuracy and completeness of paraphrased (summaries of recorded interviews) statements within the investigation; and the proper “framing” of significant allegations. The Inspector General calls these areas essential to maintaining the integrity of the complaint investigation process because they can directly impact the adjudication of a particular complaint as well as the ability of the Department to effectively track complaints of misconduct.
The Inspector General selected a sample of “high risk” complaints investigated by Internal Affairs(IAG), typically, high-risk investigations of alleged “unauthorized force,” “racial profiling,” “theft,” “unlawful search” and “dishonesty.” This Audit focused on evaluating complaint investigations that contained at least one allegation of excessive force. Of the 60 IAG complaint investigations evaluated, 29 had one or more investigation quality concerns.
Concerns included pertinent information obtained during a recorded interview that should have been considered to adjudicate an allegation were either omitted from or misrepresented in their paraphrased statement. Additional allegations made in the recorded interview were not always paraphrased in the investigation and, therefore, the allegation was never framed or addressed in the investigation and adjudication; efforts to identify or interview accused or witnessing officers, were not always made by IAG investigators.
IAG Review and Evaluation Section agreed with the majority of the findings in the report but had a few disagreements. They were largely related to the assessment of the significance/impact the finding had on the ultimate adjudication of the allegation(s).
Fueling dissent in the ranks, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s remarks at slain officer Randal Simmons’ funeral morphed into pandering to law enforcement assembled. He said, “We know that the central story of this Department has never been written in consent decrees or reports of inspectors general,” inexplicably undercutting the consent decree and the Inspector General’s role, that includes advocating for citizens’ interests in LAPD’s practices. The mayor’s remarks from the pulpit at Officer Simmons’ funeral were inappropriate and disrespectful to the family.
LAPD’s insular core is untouched by reform efforts and distrust, especially among the city’s Black population, continues unabated. Public safety is a top community priority that has always been based on a double-standard.
Will Chief Bratton reprimand Mark Perez for his obtuse comments on the Inspector General’s audit? LAPD’s culture has not changed Chief, and the rhetoric of concern is hollow; people are sick and tired of being disrespected and abused by “L.A.’s Finest.”
Larry Aubry n can be contacted at e-mail