FIGHTBACK: Creative Police Work


by Sylvia Weinstein



Creative Police Work

There is another big scandal in the Los Angeles Police Department.

The last major scandal was the beating of Rodney King. Cops had stopped his car and were beating him until he had lost consciousness; he was then accused by the policemen of having beaten them.

If a person had not recorded the police brutality on video, the true facts would have never been known. Rodney King would have rotted in prison for having threatened the police. Instead the video was shown on national television and scandalized the LAPD.

Now, as usual, the LAPD is up to its badge in scandal. This time it is a confession by one of their own-Officer Rafael A. Perez. Not only was this officer guilty of stealing eight pounds of cocaine that had been confiscated by police but he also told investigators he and his partner had shot an unarmed, handcuffed gang member three years ago and then framed him by planting a 22-caliber rifle near his paralyzed body.

The gang member, Javier Francisco Ovando, 19 years old and an undocumented immigrant, was paralyzed by the shooting, confined to a wheelchair, and sentenced to 23 years in prison.

Ovando was released from prison on Sept. 16 but is under police watch in a downtown hotel. He has not even been able to see his two-year-old daughter or any other member of his family.

The original police report filed by Officers Perez and Durden said Ovando had been armed with a rifle, after he burst into an apartment where the officers were staked out on a gang investigation. But now Mr. Perez admits that Mr. Ovando did not break into the apartment and was not armed.

Instead, Perez claims, Officer Durden argued with Ovando and then drew his sidearm and shot him, prompting Perez to fire his own weapon, too. Perez said Officer Durden then left the apartment, and returned with a rifle found in a gang sweep days earlier, and placed it near Ovando, having filed off the serial number.

However, Ovando disputes this and told an investigator he was in his own apartment in the building when two officers knocked on his door, handcuffed him, and took him back to their stakeout, where he was shot in the chest by both officers. Ovando says Perez then grabbed him by the front of his shirt, held him upright and shot him in the head.

Mr. Ovando was charged with two counts of assault with a firearm on a police officer. He did not testify at his trial, according to the court papers, because his lawyer advised him that “he would not be believed by a jury.” Who would believe the true story?

These officers work out of the “Ramparts Division,” which critics say was a semi-autonomous system that tolerated extreme tactics. Mr. Chang, an attorney who is representing the accused police officers, says, “It’s just developed and grown and gotten pretty bad. The citizens they serve and protect play hardball, and I guess they’re playing hardball back.”

Just who are the citizens who are served and protected by the Ramparts Division? I hope I’m not one of them.

Every once in a while, the curtain of “law and order” is lifted so that we can get just a small picture of how it operates.

Another article on the death penalty in the San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 28, says that this will likely be a record year for U.S. executions. Texas, of course, has the most, 25, with Virginia and Missouri running closely behind.

The United States has executed 576 convicted killers since 1976. Currently, about 3565 people are on death row across the nation.

I wonder how many of them had lawyers who urged them to “cool It” because the jury would not believe them. Will you feel safer after these people are executed?


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