25 Jul 2022


The LAPD Rampart Scandal

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The LAPD Rampart scandal refers to extensive community resource corruption against Street dwellers (CRASH) anti-crime unit Los Angeles Police Department's, Rampart scandal in the late 1990s. About 70 police officers were either allocated to or involved with the Rampart CRASH unit and participated in some form of wrongdoing, making it one of the most widespread documented cases of police misconduct in United States history. The police were responsible for an extensive list of offenses including senseless shootings, unprovoked beatings, planting of false evidence, frame-ups, stealing and dealing narcotics, bank robbery, and covering up of evidence. This paper will give an overview of the Rampart Scandal, what could have been done to prevent this from occurring and steps taken by LAPD to prevent this from happening again. 

According to the "Board of Inquiry into the Rampart Corruption Incident, Executive Summary," Los Angeles police officers were involved in a grave criminal activity, such as robbery, illegal arrest and harassing of a handcuffed prisoner, and theft of three kilograms of cocaine from the Department's Property Division. One of the officers involved in some corruption collaborated with investigators and received a reduction in his prison sentence. As a result, the investigation exposed much deeper corruption in the Rampart Division. At a 1999 press conference, District Attorney Gil Garcetti voiced his concern about one very worrying aspect of the Rampart scandal, which involved the fact that innocent individuals were pushed into admitting to crimes that they did not commit. Garcetti said: "It raises the specter, certainly, that they pleaded guilty to something they were telling their lawyer, 'I'm not guilty, and I’m innocent.' That raises a question for everyone in the criminal justice system. This clearly portrayed how police sabotaged the innocent as stated by Greek, (2007). 

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On the other hand, there have been numerous allegations that Chief Parks and members of the LAPD were actively tangled in blocking the Rampart Investigation. Parks who was under the Office of Internal Affairs when Gaines and other Rampart officers were first exposed to have links to the Bloods and Death Row Records. Parks is said to have sheltered these officers from the investigation. Detective Poole, Chief Parks failed to follow the Hewitt Investigation case for six months. When Poole presented Chief Parks with a 40-page report detailing the link of Mack and the murder of notorious criminals, the report was intimidated as state by Zalman (2000). Many city officials, including Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, voiced his lack of confidence with Chief Parks' management of the investigation. On September 19, 2000, the City Council of Los Angeles cast votes and 10 to 2 and gave consent to give the chance to the U.S. Department of Justice to supervise and be on top of reforms within the LAPD for five years. The Justice section, which had been looking into the LAPD since 1996, agreed not to pursue a civil rights claim against the city. Mayor Riordan Las Angeles Mayor and Police Chief Bernard Parks opposed the idea but were forced to settle for the council decision in the face of overwhelming support by the city council. The final report was released in March 2000; it contained more than one hundred recommendations for positive change were made within the Los Angeles Police Department. 

The Rampart corruption could have been prevented by taking into account a few important aspects which may seem not to carry a lot of weight but are very necessary for the fight against corruption and police misconduct. Structural problems are one of the aspects that were neglected. William Yarbrough, Lieutenant Officer in charge of The Rampart Task Force, LAPD Internal Affairs Group, stated that indeed there were structural problems that caused the scandal. The normal rotational procedure did not exist with the CRASH unit. Normally a police officer is given an assignment for a maximum of two years; then they are supposed to be reassigned. This was not the case with CRASH unit; an officer could do the same task in narcotics for 25 years. Aside from that the selection process in the CRASH unit was faulty. The officers selected to the unit was considered primarily on the nominations of those existing in the unit. "Rampart officers would know who they wanted to work with. This aspect contributed largely to Rampart scandal, if the LAPD had a proper structure to oversee how the unit works, for how long and devised an effective selection process, the rampant corruption and scandal might have been avoided or controlled to a certain extent. 

One of the essential causes of the Rampart Scandal was poor management in the office related to CRASH. The mission statement of the department clearly emphasizes Respect and Character the officers in the CRASH unit were not held answerable for keeping these principles. This group created an independent culture that was distant from the effects of upper management. The foreshowed officers of the department were cutting corners and breaking laws, which made it easier for other officers under that administration, follow in their footsteps as stated by Reese (2007). The data suggested that CRASH was doing an outstanding job in reducing crime in the area a level of trust developed among this division and upper management. Because of the trust that was built, primary oversight functions such as audits and control checks were avoided and replaced by good faith. Suspicion of officer misconduct was ignored because "things were going well" (Reese 2007). Supervisors ignored their duty to CRASH and allowed it monitor itself which sent a message to its officers that they were their police force, made their rules, and free to take the law into their hands. For this reason, the management greatly failed in the role to protect the individuals who fell victim of the officer’s wrongdoing yet all this could be prevented with better management. 

The Rampart Division unit endorsed the “just get the job done" approach. According to one of the police official, the Rampart sergeant encouraged the planting of weapons in shootings gone wrong. Thus, many of the Rampart officers felt they were doing the correct thing. They felt right in removing the evil element in the area. Officer Edward Ortiz, Sergeant Brian Liddy, and Officer Michael Buchanan were found guilty of criminal acts; they still defended their conduct. For instance, Sergeant Ortiz specified after his guilty verdict "I believe that we did our job of keeping the citizens of L.A. safe from all the gangs and crime that is going on out there" (McCarthy, 2001). 

All in all, LAPD has taken steps to prevent the Rampart Scandal from happening again. The Supreme Court said prosecutors must give information to offenders that tend to acquit them, or casts doubt to the prosecution witnesses or supports lighter sentences. Such important information often was never turned over to offenders in the Rampart cases. The task force study suggests steps to ensure this rule is carefully followed. What's more, the task force recommends that acquitting information be revealed before a guilty plea is permitted. This lessens the probability that innocent people would be pressured into pleading wrong when confronted with the threat of a courtroom face to face with a police officer, whose word would be trusted over theirs. The most significant lessons of Rampart was that warning signals were ignored. Some officers were known to have been lying for some time, and nothing was done. Task force recommendations are for a database in the prosecutor's office that will contain the names of police officers and other important recurring witnesses whose honesty and reliability are at issue. If a prosecutor has grave fears about an agent's honesty, which must be documented to ensure that it is collective with other prosecutors who will be relying on that officer's work and proof.(Chemerinsky, 2000). 

An emphasis of police Ethics is paramount, strong governance that creates a culture of ethical behavior is supreme, an emphasis must be put on ethics education. Officers can only be considered as good when they use their characteristic skills in the right way, and for the right ends. Thorough field training is necessary to produce officers who act and react with prudence and care. Thus, ethics education should be a dangerous component of police training. Ethics instructors assist officers in understanding the basis for arriving at ethical decisions. The main idea of this training is to give the officers the analytical skills to resolve difficult personal and professional ethical problems. Officers should be trained on how to put the broad ethical theories into practice. One way in which this is achieved is by exposing officers to problematic situations and allowing them to sort through the moral suggestions of their decisions. The primary goal of police ethics training is to make moral and ethical decision-making routine and second nature for the officers. The LAPD has adopted this as a way of training their officers. 

In conclusion, the history of policing in Los Angeles over the last half-century has been sequences of scandals and incidents of shocking police behavior. A lot of recommendations have been put in place to help curb such cases. Some reports are implemented, and a lot more are not considered. This leads to another scandal, and the cycle goes on and on. Preventing scandals with a good criminal justice system that protects the innocent and upholds the rights of all requires substantial reforms. The task force recommendations are a brilliant idea to begin with (Zalman, 2000). 


Greek, C. (2007). The big city rogue cop as monster: Images of NYPD and LAPD. Monsters In and Among Us: Toward a Gothic Criminology, 164-198. 

Reese, R. (2007). The multiple causes of the LAPD Rampart scandal. found at, 88. 

Zalman, M. (2000). Criminal justice and the future of civil liberties. Criminal Justice Review, 25(2), 181-206. 

McCarthy, T. (2001). LA gangs are back. Time, 158(9), 46-49. 

Chemerinsky, E. (2000). Independent Analysis of the Los Angeles Police Department's Board of Inquiry Report on the Rampart Scandal, An. Loy. LAL Rev., 34, 545. 

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