The Rampart Scandal was a police scandal which broke in the late 1990s in the Rampart Division of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). The events of the Rampart Scandal attracted the attention of the nation, and shocked many people, who were surprised by the depth of police corruption revealed during the Rampart investigation and subsequent trials. Several Rampart-related cases remained untried as of 2008, demonstrating the extent of the scandal.
The police implicated in the Rampart Scandal were all members of the Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH) unit within the Rampart Division. The scandal broke when a police officer named Rafael Perez was arrested for stealing narcotics from evidence lockup, and he cut a deal with prosecutors in exchange for immunity. All told, around 70 police officers were implicated in testimony made by Perez; there was enough evidence to bring 58 of them to trial. Of those 58, five were ultimately fired, while seven resigned and additional 12 officers were placed on suspension.
Corruption sunk to such depths in the Rampart Scandal that it almost beggars belief. The trial documents indicate that several police officers were in the direct pay of drug dealers and other neighborhood moguls, for example, and they were involved in shootings, beatings, frame jobs on innocent people, a bank robbery, drug dealing, and the planting of evidence at crime scenes. Once the Rampart Scandal started to break, guilty officers compounded their crimes by committing perjury on the stand and attempting to destroy evidence.
One of the immediate effects of the Rampart Scandal was a dramatic loss of faith in the LAPD, and many people suspect that the scandal directly contributed to the ouster of Police Chief Bernard Parks, who had supervised the department while the “Rampart Cops,” as they came to be known, had free rein. In addition, the scandal overturned thousands of criminal convictions, due to concerns about tainted evidence and corrupt police work.
This scandal triggered major reform in the Los Angeles Police Department, along with more widespread reform of police departments around the United States, as news outlets kept citizens informed about the ever-widening corruption scandal. Opponents of the policies and tactics of the LAPD were eager to seize upon the Rampart Scandal as evidence for the need for greater control over and oversight of the LAPD, arguing that the police had too much autonomy and that this fed the culture of the CRASH unit, leading to its ultimate corruption.