On November 3, 2000, the United States filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §14141 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleging that the City of Los Angeles, its Board of Police Commissioners and its Police Department (collectively the "LAPD") engaged in a pattern or practice of depriving individuals of constitutional rights through the use of excessive force, false arrests and improper searches and seizures in violation of the constitution.
The suit was an offshoot of a lengthy internal investigation of the LAPD's Rampart Division and its anti-gang unit known as “CRASH" (Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums). The investigation focused initially on alleged criminal acts of a former LAPD officer Rafael Perez. Perez was charged with possession of cocaine he stole from the LAPD evidence locker and theft. After a mistrial on those charges, Perez cut a plea deal with prosecutors, wherein he agreed to provide information regarding untold corruption and misconduct within the CRASH unit at the Rampart Division. Perez claimed that he and dozens of officers routinely framed suspects, planted and manufactured evidence, lied in court and physically abused suspects on a widespread scale.
Perez implicated over 70 police officers and based upon his allegations of fabricated evidence and perjury by officers, approximately 100 criminal convictions were eventually overturned and thousands of other criminal cases were tainted. In the wake of the Perez testimony, in September of 1999, the LAPD police chief Bernard Parks commissioned a Board of Inquiry comprised of LAPD command staff to investigate the depth of the corruption scandal and analyze departmental failures. In March of 2000, Chief Bernard did away with all of the LAPD CRASH units, and in April of 2000, the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissions formed the Rampart Independent Review Panel, to investigate the scandal.
Eventually, the Department of Justice began its own investigation into the LAPD. On May 8, 2000, the Department of Justice advised the LAPD of the findings of its investigation of the LAPD's pattern or practice of police misconduct, which included: “the unconstitutional use of force by LAPD officers, including improper officer-involved shootings; improper seizures of persons, including making police stops not based on reasonable suspicion and making arrests without probable cause, seizures of property not based on probable cause; and improper searches of persons and property with insufficient cause.” The DOJ also advised the LAPD that it intended to file suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §14141 and seek injunctive and declaratory relief. The DOJ offered to defer the filing of litigation if the LAPD agreed to negotiate in good faith and arrive at a consent decree. LAPD and Los Angeles city officials met with the DOJ and agreed upon a settlement of the government’s claims, which included the filing of a formal consent decree.
Contemporaneously with the filing of the government’s Complaint on November 3, 2000, the parties filed a joint application for the entry of the consent decree.
In November 2000, the Los Angeles Police Protective League (the "Police League"), the designated bargaining unit for the LAPD officers filed a motion to intervene. The Police League averred that 42 U.S.C. §14141 was unconstitutional and that the proposed consent decree was at odds with the collective bargaining agreement in place between the City and the Police League members. A number of community groups, including the ACLU, and individuals who lived in the community also sought leave to intervene in the underlying action. Along with their motion to intervene, the community interveners filed a complaint in intervention, asserting claims as plaintiffs under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against the defendants.
The district court (Judge Gary A. Feess) denied motions to intervene by both Police League and the community groups and individuals, but did grant them amicus status. The intervenors filed notice of appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The district court refused to stay the underlying proceedings pending the intervenors’ appeal.
On June 15, 2001, while the intervenors' appeal was pending, the district court approved and entered the consent decree. The consent decree provides specific guidelines designed to remedy deficiencies and reform the conduct and culture of the LAPD. The reform measures include:
- tighter controls on gang units;
- strict oversight on use of force;
- shift of responsibility for investigations of misconduct complaints;
- a sophisticated computerized system to identify potential at-risk behavior (TEAMS II)
- data collection relative to pedestrian and motor vehicle stops.
In accordance with the consent decree, the parties agreed upon an independent monitor Michael Cherkasky and Kroll Associates. The monitor was charged with oversight of the implementation of the provisions of the consent decree and provided quarterly reports on the progress made by the LAPD. Through the implementation process the independent monitor has submitted quarterly reports (21 as of the end of 2006) to the court and the parties have also submitted numerous status reports detailing the progress made.
On April 22, 2002, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, affirmed in part and reversed in part the District Court’s ruling on the motions to intervene, overturning the denial of the Police League’s motion to intervene but affirming the denial of the community group’s motion. U.S. v. City of Los Angeles, 288 F.3d 391 (9th Cir. 2002). The Court of Appeals noted that the Consent Decree had been entered while the denial of intervention motions were appealed, but did not require the district court to rescind the consent decree.
For the next four years, the LAPD worked on continued implementation of the overhauls called for by the consent decree. On January 18, 2006, the parties filed a joint request to extend the consent decree's duration. On March 22, 2006, the Court denied that motion, but issued ordered all parties to show cause why the consent decree should not be extended for a minimum of two additional years as several major tasks called for in the consent decree remained uncompleted.
On April 28, 2006, the parties filed another joint motion to amend the consent decree. On May 15, 2006, the Court denied that motion, but ordered that the consent decree be extended another three years to and including June 15, 2009. On June 9, 2009, the court extended the consent decree to June 30, 2009.Kristen Sagar - 06/15/2009