The Motives Behind the LAPD's Mea Culpa

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The LAPD is hoping the 362-page mea culpa it delivered Wednesday will keep the federal government at bay. The perpetually rehabilitating police force is feeling the heat as details emerge about its worst-ever scandal, which includes horrifying reports of police corruption and violence in an anti-gang unit. But the eerie familiarity of the report assembled by the LAPD Board of Inquiry and posted on the department's web site ( has many in the city hoping that federal intervention is still on the way.

In 1991, the department's heads vowed to accept the reforms detailed in the Christopher Report, which was compiled by a public-private panel following the Rodney King beating. One portion of the report called for "a new standard of accountability," and predicted that "ugly incidents will not diminish until ranking officers know they will be held responsible for what happens in their sector, whether or not they personally participate." Yet despite LAPD commissioner Bernard Parks' 1998 announcement that the department had met all of the Christopher Report's recommendations, the new report concludes that "regardless of the source, complaints all seemed to be viewed as recalcitrant [sic], and allegations [are still] not taken seriously." It also says that a complaints tracking system created as a result of a Christopher Commission recommendation was never properly administered.

While this ostensibly makes the department's top brass look bad, the report may be Parks' best hope at avoiding an FBI-induced department overhaul. Throughout the report, the board paints Rampart CRASH — the unit being investigated — as a rogue outfit separate from the LAPD's central powers. Further, it repeatedly suggests that the best way to battle corruption is to consolidate power in Parks' office and increase the budget of Internal Affairs, the department's internal policing unit. But in the wake of protests following the acquittal of four New York City police officers in the Amadou Diallo case, police brutality is a hot issue. Compound that with the fact that we've heard the LAPD promise to improve its self-policing in the past, and it's hard to imagine the department being left to its own devices again.