The Rampart Scandal and Corruption Within the Los Angeles Police Department

The Rampart scandal was a major case that involved corruption within the Los Angeles Police department. The scandal lasted over the course of several years, and resulted in the Federal government having to oversee the LAPD for a period of 5 years. Many victims of the scandal had their lives torn apart as a result of things like being incarcerated for crimes they did not commit, or being victims of violence or sexual assault carried out by law enforcement.

Other people suffered from substance abuse that was related to the involvement of NYPD officers in allowing drugs to be transported and sold in the area.

Several different theories of corruption will be used in order to understand the potential causes of the Rampart scandal. Recommendations for a potential solution to future scandals will be provided. Scandals like the Rampart scandal serve to damage public trust, and contradict the values that the United States was founded upon.

The Rampart scandal refers to a series of incidents that involved corruption, police misconduct, and even things as serious as murder.

Over 70 different members of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) were either directly involved in misconduct, or were tied to it in some form. The scandal was directly related to members of the CRASH program run by the LAPD. Some officers worked directly with gang members in order to steal narcotics from evidence rooms. Some others were aware of the police conduct, and chose to turn a blind eye to it. Officers lied under oath and framed innocent people during the scandal.

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After a thorough investigation was conducted, more than 140 criminal cases were overturned as a result of the discovery of police misconduct during the trials.

Many people spent time in prison as a result of being set up by members of the LAPD. Other individuals lost their lives as a result of corruption. In addition to the negative impact that the scandal had on victims and members of the community, the scandal also broke the trust of the public, and contributed to ongoing issues like police brutality and racially motivated killings. Corruption scandals reduce public trust and served to have a negative impact on the values that the United States and the government are sworn to uphold.

The first major incident that led to the investigation was the shooting of police officer Kevin Gaines. On March 18, 1997, undercover police officer Frank Lyga shot and killed LAPD officer Kevin Gaines (Chemerinsky, 2000). Gaines was off-duty at the time that the shooting took place. According to reports by Lyga, Gaines approached his vehicle and then showed off his firearm. Lyga tried driving away to avoid an altercation, but was then followed by Gaines. As an act of self-defense, Frank Lyga fired two shots into Gaines’ vehicle (Chemerinsky, 2000). One of the bullets hit Gaines in the chest and killed him. The event triggered controversy and an eventual investigation for a few different reasons. For one, Frank Lyga was a white police officer, and Gaines was an African American.

Some people thought that racial issues may have played a role. Another reason why the event triggered an investigation is because Lyga was undercover, and he stated that Gaines was throwing up gang signs and attempting to get him to leave the area that he was working in as an undercover. Obviously, such behavior would be inappropriate for a member of the LAPD. Either Lyga was being dishonest and had engaged in a racially motivated shooting, or Gaines was in some way affiliated with local gangs and was unfit to be a member of the LAPD. Either way, further investigation was needed before a conclusion could be drawn.

During the investigation, Frank Lyga was assigned to handle administrative work in the LAPD office until they figured out all of the details. After 3 different internal investigations, it was discovered that Lyga did nothing wrong and was acting within the scope of policy (Chemerinsky, 2000). However, the Gaines family filed a wrongful death lawsuit and was eventually awarded $250,000 (Chemerinsky, 2000). Lyga was allowed to continue working for the LAPD even in spite of the civil ruling against him.

The main area of importance in the case was that it spurred several different internal investigations. Although the investigations found no wrongdoing on the part of Frank Lyga, they did turn up many other controversial things and led to further investigations after a few more major triggering incidents.

The next major incident that sparked another investigation was a bank robbery. On November 6, 1997, a Bank of America located in LA was robbed of $722,000 (Grant, 2003). What sparked an investigation into the LAPD was that the assistant bank manager, Errolyn Romero, was in a romantic relationship with David Mack. Mack was an officer with the LAPD.

Investigators immediately suspected that the robbery was an inside job as a result of the fact that Errolyn Romero ordered more money than usual to be sent to the bank just before the robbery took place. The robbery right after a major increase in funds was requested was either a major coincidence or an inside job. Romero eventually confessed to her involvement and explained how LAPD officer David Mack was the one who had planned everything out (Grant, 2003). Mack was sentenced to prison, and later investigations into LAPD officers followed in the coming months.

Several different events in the following months of the robbery led to the creation of an internal investigative team. One event was the beating of Ismael Jimenez while he was in police custody. Officer Brian Hewitt beat Jimenez until he was vomiting blood (Grant, 2003). Hewitt was later fired from the Los Angeles Police Department. In the following months, another incident spurred more internal investigations. It was discovered that six pounds of cocaine were missing from the evidence room (Burcham et al., 2000). Officers are required to sign off on evidence that they recover. However, internal investigators suspected that officer Rafael Perez had stolen evidence that was signed off on by a different officer, and that he had then resold that cocaine to members of local street gangs.

Perez played a major role in uncovering the level of corruption that existed within the LAPD. After internal investigators turned up direct evidence of missing cocaine and other crimes tied to Rafael Perez, he was forced to choose between either cooperating and getting a reduced sentence, or failing to cooperate and risking being convicted and serving the maximum amount of time. In the end, Perez chose to strike a deal. He chose to plead guilty and provide details of different things that were happening within the LAPD in exchange for a reduced sentence.

Perez ended up testifying that over 70 other officers in the LAPD were either directly or indirectly involved in what had been taking place within the department (Burcham et al., 2000). His testimonies were used in order to exonerate Javier Ovando, who had already been serving time in prison as a result of crimes that he did not commit. Perez recounted his earlier testimony about Ovando, and confessed that Ovando had been shot without a cause and that evidence had been planted in his apartment. When he was being framed, the officers shot Ovando in a way that left him paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life. He was later awarded $15 million in a civil case (Burcham et al., 2000). The testimony and confessions of Perez served to speed up the investigation into the corruption within the Los Angeles Police Department.

In addition, the confessions of Rafael Perez uncovered additional corruption within the department. Perez testified that some members of the CRASH task force had ties to the Bloods street gang that operated in LA. His testimony was important because it confirmed the earlier testimony of Lyga, which claimed that he shot Gaines after he was throwing up gang signs and acting in a way that someone affiliated with a gang would behave.

The involvement with the Bloods gang is particularly troubling as a result of the fact that the LAPD was in charge of monitoring and responding to gang activity. It is likely that many people died or had their lives impacted negatively as a result of corrupt LAPD officers who were working in conjunction with the gang. In addition, the support of LAPD officers allowed the Bloods street gang to beat out many other rival gangs. The result was that Los Angeles gained a reputation for being a gang- infested area.

The allegations against the LAPD became so severe that in September of 2000, a consent decree was issued for the Federal government to take over operations of the LAPD. The decree stated that the Federal government would oversee changes and operations within the LAPD for a period of 5 years. During the course of the next 5 years, the Chief of Police at the LAPD was replaced, and many different administrative changes were made. Although instances of corruption came up after a few triggering events, it is possible that corruption within the LAPD department spanned back many years before the triggering events occurred. Many different police officers were involved in the scandals. The LAPD betrayed the trust of the public and contributed to many people having a negative perception of law enforcement officers.

In order to gain an understanding of things that may have contributed to corruption in the LAPD, it is necessary to examine several different theories that seek to explain the root causes of corruption in an organization.

One major theory of corruption is known as the Rotten Apply Theory. The Rotten Apple theory, as it applies to police departments, is based on the idea that a few corrupt individuals naturally avoid detection and obtain a job within a police department (Gottschalk, 2012). Police departments are tasked with screening individuals in order to determine the moral values that they bring to a department. As a result of the fact that law enforcement officers are given power over citizens, it is necessary to determine which individuals will act responsibly whenever they are placed in a position of authority.

The Rotten Apply theory posits that some individuals are able to fake their way through the screening process and obtain employment (Gottschalk, 2012). In addition, the theory also states that some individuals may have weak moral standards, and may succumb to the pressures they face after obtaining employment within a police department. According to the Rotten Apple theory, the corrupt individual will naturally have a negative influence on others in the department. In the same way that a rotten apple will cause others around it to rot at a faster rate, so too will a corrupt individual slowly spread corruption throughout a police department (Gottschalk, 2012).

The Rotten Apple theory is not necessarily the best way of explaining the Rampart scandal. Due to the large number of officers involved, it is likely that there was not only a few rotten apples who spread corruption. Instead, it is likely that other factors played a role in spreading corruption throughout the department.

A separate theory of police misconduct is more based on the environment and institution, and is less based on the moral characteristics of police officers. The environmental / institutional theory of police corruption is based on the idea that external and internal factors shape the level of corruption within a police department (Crank, 2003). For example, one police department could be located in an area that has a high level of organized crime. The criminals could have a vast amount of financial and other resources. Officers working in such an area would naturally be more susceptible to things like accepting bribes and working with criminal organizations.

The theory also states that the local government in which a police department is located can also relate to the likelihood of police corruption taking place (Crank, 2003). Police departments are funded by the state, which gives leaders in police organizations an incentive to have a good relationships with mayors, governors, and other politicians (Crank, 2003). If the political officials in a particular area have a history of corruption, then it is possible that such corruption will naturally make its way into the police department of a particular area.

The environmental theory of police corruption does a better job of explaining the corruption within the LAPD than the Rotten Apple theory does. One reason is because LA has a long history of having gang and criminal activity. Officers who sign up to work for the LAPD are entering a harsh environment that is filled with violent crime and gang activity. While some lower-level gang members may not have ample resources, some higher-level gang members may have enough financial and other resources in order to bribe police officers into working for them.

They may also use things like threat and intimidation in order to establish working relationships with law enforcement in Los Angeles. While it is possible that some officers joined the LAPD while already having ties to gangs or other criminals, it is likely that many officers began engaging in corrupt behavior after entering a police department that worked in a high crime area. It is important to note that it is not possible to directly conclude exactly what led to the widespread corruption within the LAPD. It is possible that a combination of different factors led to the massive scandals that shook the LAPD in the late 1990s.

The Rampart scandal had a negative impact on different groups of people. For scandal had a terrible impact on members of the LAPD who were uninvolved in the corrupt activities that their coworkers had been engaging in. The entire culture of the police department in LA was changed after the scandal was brought to light. Many innocent LAPD officers may have been subjected to negative media attention, accusations, and other complications that likely made their job much more difficult than it already was. Not all of the LAPD were implicated in the Rampart scandal, and the incident had a negative impact on the innocent police officers who conducted themselves with integrity.

Another negative implication of the scandal was a loss of trust from the public. Politicians, government officials, and police officers rely on establishing a trusting relationship with the public in order to perform their job. Some officials rely on gaining votes in order to retain office. Although LAPD officers do not need to be get votes from the public in order to get hired, they still rely on public trust in a number of different ways. Taxpayer funds are what allow the LAPD to operate. If people have a negative perception of a corrupt police department, then they may be less likely to pay their taxes. Some people may even choose to move to a different area as a result of publicized corruption of a police department.

Some other individuals may be less likely to follow the law if they think that they cannot even trust their own police officers to remain honest and fair when dealing with them. People from across the nation were informed of the scandal when it made major news. The result is that honest police officers from different states may have been subjected to a loss of trust in police officers in general after the scandal went public.

The Rampart scandal cost the city a substantial amount of money. In total, over $100 million in money was awarded as a result of civil lawsuits related to the Rampart scandal (Chemerinsky, 2000). States and cities operate on limited budgets. As a result of millions of dollars being awarded to victims of the Rampart scandal, it is likely that other departments within the city were forced to reduce their budgets. The city may have had less money to allocate to things like education as a result of the Rampart scandal.

The most obvious impact of the Rampart scandal happened to people who were victims. Some victims lost their lives as a result of the corruption within the LAPD. Others remained alive but were forced to spend time in prison as a result of being wrongfully accused and convicted of a crime. Although many of them won civil suits and received financial compensation, there is some damage that cannot be undone. The psychological impact of being wrongfully convicted of a crime is something that can stay with someone for a lifetime.

Another outcome of the Rampart scandal was increased governmental regulation on police departments, and stricter regulation regarding how officers are screened. Regulation took the form of Internal Affairs divisions playing a more important role across the nation. IA divisions existed prior to the scandal, but they only played a major role whenever important issues like the Rampart scandal came to light. The modern world of policing is different. IA divisions play a much more active role in the daily operations of police departments. They sometimes regulate operations and conduct investigations even before a major scandal is suspected or reported.

Lastly, the Rampart scandal contributed to increased tension among different racial groups and social classes within Los Angeles. Even before the scandal took place, racial tension was an important issue in LA. Incidents like the beating of Rodney King in the 60s contributed to a sense of distrust between citizens and law enforcement in the area. Racial relations were improving over the years as a result of the civil rights movement. However, the Rampart scandal caused relations to take a turn in the opposite direction. The head of the police department was white, and people like Gaines were African American.

Gaines and other minority race individuals were killed or incarcerated as a result of the scandal, and many of the members of the LAPD were white. Some other individuals criticized that the actions of the LAPD contributed to a rise in substance abuse among members of the community. Some individuals may have had their lives ruined as a result of the accessibility of narcotics on LA, and the ways in which the LAPD was failing to address such issues.

Corruption within police departments is not something that only happened in the past. Although enhanced regulations and investigations may have reduced the level of corruption within police departments across the United States, it is unlikely that they have completely eliminated it. A recent scandal occurred within the Ney Work Police Department. 3 Commanders in the NYPD were arrested in a major corruption case that involved many different individuals (Rashbaum & Goldstein, 2016).

A google search on the Internet for recent police scandals turns up many different results of police corruption cases happening all over the United States. There is no simple solution to the problem of police corruption. One potential idea is to offer financial incentives for people who report corrupt practices. Such policies are referred to as whistleblower statutes. The only major problem is that they encourage people to pursue financial incentives and other rewards, which can also be offered by the criminals who would otherwise have been reported. The situation then becomes a case of whether the government or the criminal can offer a larger bribe in exchange for whatever cooperation they are seeking.

The Rampart scandal was a major even in the history of the United States. The scandal lasted for years, involved many different individuals, and had a major impact on society. Some victims were killed as a result of the scandal. Even some participants, such as Kevin Gaines, lost their lives as a result of their involvement in the corruption. On the other hand, victims also lost their lives. Some victims were forced to spend time in prison for crimes that they did not commit.

The incident cost the city millions of dollars as a result of civil cases that arose following the scandal. In addition, changes that took place after the scandal have not eliminated police corruption in the United States. Several recent cases of widespread police corruption in different states indicate that it is still a problem that needs to be addressed. There is no simple solution to the problem of corruption within police departments. Sometimes criminal organizations have enough resources and influence in order to increase the likelihood that police officers will succumb to bribes and other forms of corruption.

In addition to having a negative immediate impact on victims and the community, scandals like the Rampart one have a larger negative impact public trust and on the values that the United States of America was founded upon.

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The Rampart Scandal and Corruption Within the Los Angeles Police Department. (2023, Feb 19). Retrieved from

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