More Corruption At The LAPD?

LAPD police brutality scandal investigation
The scandal surrounding the Los Angeles police department's anti-gang unit started in the Rampart neighborhood -- one of the toughest in the city -- where residents are shocked by allegations that police officers have been involved in everything from planting evidence to murder.

As bad as that sounds, it appears it hasn't stopped officers from using shockingly aggressive tactics.

It all started when former officer Rafael Perez cracked the code of silence wide open, reports CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes. He was convicted on drug charges, and as part of a plea bargain to reduce his sentence, admitted that he and other officers in the Rampart anti-gang unit killed at least one person, lied under oath and shot unarmed gang members like Javier Ovando.

"Only God knows why they did it. They put a gun to my head and shot me," Ovando said through a translator.

The allegations rocked the city and touched off a massive internal police investigation that has so far led to the resignations or firings of 20 officers.

Even as the investigation continues, CBS News has learned that Rampart officers are still being accused of using overly aggressive tactics -- this time against fellow law enforcement officers.

Sources say federal officials are ready to open an investigation into a confrontation between LAPD officers and agents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Witnesses who say they are afraid to go on camera said the incident took place on a street in the Rampart neighborhood.

Five LAPD officers allegedly confronted two undercover agents working a stakeout. After handcuffing an African American agent, police tackled a second agent to the ground even as they desperately tried to identify themselves.

CBS News has learned that the second agent, a Latino man, was brought to California Hospital with an injured shoulder and multiple bruises over his body.

One police source says the INS agents did not notify the LAPD that they would be working in the Rampart division. Police chief Bernard Parks is defending his officers' actions.

" There was not an immediate understanding of who they were but that there was an attempt during that process to make identification," Parks said. "Although it was not perceived to be as clear as that, Rampart officers thought it was necessary."

The latest allegations touched a nerve in a city where some residents are beginning to fear the police more than the gangs.

"We're fearful because we have been brutalized. Because to us, the policeman is not the officer next door but is the adversary," said Rev. Richard Byrd of the Coalition for Police Accountability.

Just last week, the LAPD turned over three officers to the district attorney for prosecution on charges of assault and perjury.

And as many as 3,000 criminal cases could have been tainted by the dirty officers. Already 11 convictions have been overturned and four inmate released from prison.

©2000, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved