LAPD 'RAMPAGE' Division Under Investigation

More than 3,000 convictions to be reviewed

Rampart Division anti-gang officers illegally shot suspects, framed one man and improperly beat another, stole drugs, falsified evidence and covered up misconduct.

LOS ANGELES - In a police-corruption scandal to rival the free-wheeling days of Al Capone, the Los Angeles Police Department's Rampart Division is under intense scrutiny. Long known by community members as the "Rampage Divsion," LAPD officers in the downtown area were notorious for their heavy-handed police tactics.

"This is the biggest problem I have seen in my 31 years in the district attorney's office," said Gil Garcetti, who already has seven prosecutors reviewing problem cases full time and says that number could multiply as his office reviews more cases.

So far a dozen officers have been relieved of duty, and the DA said more than 3,000 convictions will have to be reviewed by his office to determine if the convictions were unjustified.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the LAPD now believes "Rampart officers stole drugs from dealers and then used street prostitutes to sell the narcotics for their own profit." The LAPD said the officers, who belonged to a so-called CRASH unit, operated like the gangs they were supposed to police.

As of today, the district attorney's office has gone to court to obtain the release of four inmates who, prosecutors concluded, had been improperly convicted. In addition, the district attorney's office has persuaded judges to vacate the convictions of seven other individuals who are no longer in custody. Evidence has come to light suggesting that people have been framed, illegally beaten and shot without justification.

Garcetti said the task force has three priorities:

  • "To do whatever we need to do to get anyone out of prison who is wrongfully imprisoned."
  • "To assist the chief of police in getting rid of any officer who does not deserve to wear the badge of the Los Angeles Police Department."
  • "To develop sufficient evidence that will lead to successful prosecution and state prison sentences for officers who have violated their oaths as peace officers."

According to the Los Angeles Times, the DA's office has yet to indict anyone in the Rampart scandal, but Garcetti has implied that criminal cases will be filed. "I can't tell you whether we will wind up with three, four or five dirty cops or 25 or more," he said.

Garcetti said the office is not making some information public for fear of jeopardizing its ongoing criminal investigation. Sandi Gibbons, the district attorney's spokeswoman, said the office is providing information required under the California Evidence Code. Gibbons said the district attorney is not obligated to provide information on an officer when there is merely a suspicion that the officer has done something wrong.

In notifying defense lawyers or their clients of potential problems in the cases against them, prosecutors have sent letters warning them that a police officer either has been charged with a crime, convicted of a crime, or found guilty of misconduct by a police disciplinary board.

The letters are apparently too vague to be of much use to defense attorneys at this point, stating only that an officer "provided, or may have provided, inculpatory evidence" against their client, "so that you may take whatever action you deem appropriate. If you need further information, you may contact the Los Angeles Police Department."

According to the Los Angeles Times, the letters do not say anything specific about the officer's role in that lawyer's case. "I have a pile of the letters," said Cathy Dreyfuss, director of the Los Angeles County Bar's Indigent Defense Assistance Program. "There is no way to know from the letter whether it involves Rampart or what the specific problem is."

When defense attorneys have tried to get more information from the police or the district attorney, they hit a "brick wall," said Albert Menaster, who heads the appellate division of the public defender's office.

Prisoners who suspect that their case has been tainted by the LAPD's Rampart Division should contact their attorney of record. If officers Rafael Perez, Nino Durden, or Michael Buchanan testified in your case, it is absolutely critical that you notify your attorney so that your case gets the proper attention.