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LAPD Self-Scrutiny

Poor supervision and a clique culture that encouraged officers to break the rules caused the widespread corruption scandal that rocked the Los Angeles Police Department, according to a report prepared by the LAPD board of inquiry.

The 362-page internal report on the scandal is on the LAPD Web site.

Police working in one of the city's most crowded, violent and gang-ridden areas "believed they were in a life-and-death struggle with the gang element," the report said.

The scandal, which could take years and millions of dollars to resolve, might have been avoided if supervisors had noticed a troubling series of red flags first raised in the mid-1980s.

"Pursuits, injuries resulting from uses of force, officer-involved shooting and personnel complaints had a clearly identifiable pattern ... Yet no one seems to have noticed and, more importantly, dealt with the patterns," the report said.

The board investigated for six month. It recommended 108 changes in department policies and procedures.

Police Chief Bernard C. Parks discussed some of the recommendations when he gave the City Council an update last month, including expanding the use of lie detectors and strengthening other procedures to weed out bad recruits.

Parks talked then about a shortage of supervisors and asked the Police Commission for a $9 million package of reforms that would include hiring more command staff.

The report targeted poor paperwork, lax supervision and poor understanding of police rules and policies.

Mostly, the report said it was a case of "people failing to do their jobs."

Parks ordered the inquiry by dozens of investigators last fall. Other investigations are still under way -- a police criminal investigation, Internal Affairs review and an investigation by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

The scandal unfolded after the August 1998 arrest of disgraced ex-officer Rafael Perez, who stole cocaine from an evidence locker. Since then, 20 officers have been relieved of duty and 40 convictions have been overturned.

The board of inquiry acknowledged the Rampart scandal "has devastated our relationship with the public we serve and threatened the integrity of our entire criminal justice system."

However, the City Council on Tuesday refused to order an outside investigation into the scandal.

The FBI and U.S. attorney's office announced last week that, at Parks' request, they were joining the police investigation.

The scandal has centered on allegations by Perez that officers in the Rampart anti-gang CRASH unit -- for Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums -- beat, framed and shot suspects.

The board of inquiry concluded the unit "developed its own culture and operated as an entity unto itself."

"It routinely made up its own rules and, for all intents and purposs, was left to function with little or no oversight."

The unit had its own logo -- a skull in a cowboy hat -- and officers worked with little contact or control from supervisors, the report said. Officers would sometimes even sign a sergeant's name to arrest reports, the report said.

However, the entire Rampart station embraced a cliquish, rule-bending attitude that was dubbed the "Rampart way," the report said.

On Tuesday, a federal judge refused to bar Rampart area police from contact with suspected Hispanic gang members who may be in the country illegally.

The proposal involving "young male Hispanics" was "vague" and "overbroad," U.S. District Court Judge Margaret M. Morrow said in turning down a request for a temporary restraining order in a civil rights lawsuit.

The suit, filed Monday, contends that officers would identify suspected gang members and witnesses to police misconduct and target them for deportation.