Police corruption guaranteed

After stealing more than $1 million worth of cocaine from the police evidence room, framing innocent people and dealing drugs, former Los Angeles Rampart Division Police Officer Rafael Perez was released from county jail on July 24 after serving three years of his five-year sentence. Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry said the ex-cop had held up his end of the bargain in the investigation of other officers in Rampart. Drug dealing, money laundering, bribing other cops to conspire, framing innocent people, stealing evidence, murdering suspects and threatening those who dared talk involved about 65 officers who have faced or will face administrative discipline.

A drug-addicted homeless woman was one informant manipulated by Perez and fellow ex-Officer Durden. She was paid with crack cocaine. Working from an alleged list of 10,000 gang members, officers used the information to shake down dealers for money and drugs. Perez helped hide three unjustified shootings and knows of at least five others in which officers and their supervisors falsified shooting scenes. In one account, officers shot a 21-year-old man and delayed calling the ambulance so he would bleed to death while they planted a gun on him to justify their murder.

Perez implicated Rubin Palomares and another officer in an unjustified shooting of a reputed drug dealer in 1998. Palomares belonged to a secret fraternity of officers and supervisors who awarded plaques for wounding and killing people; performance considered above and beyond the basic membership duties of robbing suspects of drugs and money. Palomares is one of the two narcotics officers who broke into Carlos Vertiz's apartment and shot and killed him in May of 1998. Vertiz, an unemployed house painter with no criminal record, was shot several times. Palomares was transferred to a desk job in hopes that police corruption would go away. Demonstrating how addictive easy money and drugs are, Palomares made another transfer--half of the $130,000 in payment for10 kilos of cocaine delivered by undercover cops in Chula Vista on June 8.

Palomares and three accomplices were then transferred to San Diego County Jail. His home was searched and agents found six unregistered semiautomatic assault rifles, seven other firearms, 150 boxes of ammunition and a money counting machine that wasn't used to count his paycheck from the LAPD.

Gabriel Loaiza was arrested with Palomares and wanted to be a police officer, too. He had job applications placed in several police departments. Loaiza wanted a career that demanded respect; one that gave him authority to steal drugs and money from addicts, users and dealers just like his mentor. However, widespread publicity about police corruption hasn't had the same affect upon those police departments would like to recruit. The LAPD closed its police academy in July due to lack of interest. Sign-ups for police exams in Chicago are down almost 700 percent over the past decade despite intensive recruiting at college campuses, military bases and churches throughout the Midwest. Police recruiters in cities around the country are having a personnel crisis because of low pay, poor morale and retirement, according to a New York Times report. Bad publicity over corruption and low pay for risking life and limb to stop people from taking drugs--and sometimes shooting them for doing so--is negatively affecting recruitment efforts. Imagine that.

To offset poor pay and working conditions, and because it's so easy, drug rings operate clandestinely within police departments across the country. In Schenectady, New York police officers have been giving crack cocaine to addicts for the past six years in exchange for setting up other addicts and low-level dealers, it was learned in July after a two-year FBI investigation. About 2,000 felony drug cases will be reviewed that may now be challenged by defense attorneys. Further indictments within the department are expected and police credibility is about non-existent in Schenectady.

Ten cops were busted in the San Antonio, Texas area for protecting cocaine shipments, dealing drugs and stealing public money that concluded an FBI investigation that began in 1997. In Gary, Indiana a cop was indicted in July in connection with a pair of drug-related killings and another for money laundering and selling cocaine and heroin. More than one dozen drug convictions may be set aside in Jacksonville, Florida due to slayings, robberies and drug trafficking by police. Unlike alcohol prohibition's gangland murders 70 years ago, today's drug prohibition has spawned an underground economy so lucrative that cops can't resist the temptations.

Ex-officer Rafael Perez is out of jail now, as is Francisco Ovando, the 22-year-old man who was left paralyzed from a bullet shot by ex-Officer Nino Durden, Perez's partner at the time. Sentenced to 23 years, Ovando was released after three when Perez admitted that Durden shot the suspect, then robbed him and planted the gun on the dead man. Over 100 convictions have been overturned and thousands are under review. Taxpayers will pay as much as $125 million in damage settlements, costs not factored into the business of drug interdiction by the DEA.