It's time for the mayor to wake up. This city and its police department need an independent commission - and we need it now. Relying on the police department to ferret out all of the underlying problems is like having a cancer patient operate on himself. Only an independent, blue-ribbon commission with a broad mandate to examine the entire criminal justice system and then to ensure that the necessary reforms are implemented by the police department can do the job the residents of Los Angeles deserve.
First we were told we were just looking at a few bad apples - now Chief Parks is calling this corruption a cancer eating away at the LAPD. Chief Parks has proposed a number of good reforms, but at root he continues to treat this as a character issue that he can resolve by going around to every precinct and personally telling officers to up their professional standards. Well, that is not enough. This indeed is a cancer. It's structural and it's cultural - and it stems from the LAPD's ongoing refusal to open itself up to public scrutiny so that officer misconduct can be screened for, detected and eradicated before it has a chance to spread.
The problem with this report is it really tells us nothing new; it just acknowledges longstanding problems within the department: a faulty complaint system, inadequate tracking systems, poor supervision, and bad hiring practices - problems that groups interested in police reform have pointed out for years. Chief Parks wants us to believe that "we do not need to reinvent the wheel, introduce a flock of new programs or institute revolutionary approaches to police work. What we do need to do is emphasize a scrupulous adherence to existing policies and standards."
Chief Parks, the present system cannot be defended. The LAPD claims credit for uncovering this scandal and making it public, but the report admits systemic failure to find the problems in the first place. If Rafael Perez had not been arrested for theft and copped a plea following a mistrial in order to gain a lighter sentence, the structural problems that have been festering for years - shootings, beatings, cover-ups, perjurous statements - would not have been discovered.
Chief Parks blames, in part, the lack of an adequate computer tracking system to track officer misconduct. The Christopher Commission recommended this system back in 1991; the federal government gave seed money to the department to implement it. Why didn't the chief, the second in command of the department until 1992 and then in charge of Internal Affairs, make sure that this system was in place long before he learned of the Rampart scandal?
The Board of Inquiry report fails to look at what is going on in divisions outside of Rampart. It fails to take into account the most recent revelations of corruption within the department. It fails in its attempt to ensure the public that true structural changes will be made and must be made.