Two Los Angeles police officers currently relieved of duty in connection with the continuing Rampart corruption probe were disciplined earlier this year after one of the officers admitted having sex with a drug user whom he and his partner stopped and questioned while on patrol.
The woman subsequently accused the 29-year-old officer of forcing her to submit to sex acts in a motel room, as his partner stood by. The first officer maintains that the sex was consensual.
LAPD investigators referred the case to the district attorney’s office for possible prosecution as a rape under the color of authority. In April, however, prosecutors declined to file charges, stating that there was insufficient evidence and that the alleged victim was no longer interested in pursuing the matter. In reaching its decision, the district attorney’s office relied solely on reports from the LAPD’s Internal Affairs Division and never interviewed the woman.
Although criminal charges were never brought, an LAPD discipline board said the officers’ actions could have been construed as an abuse of authority. The board suspended both policemen without pay; the officer who engaged in sex got 66 days, the other 44. Both officers worked at the troubled Rampart station.
Their conduct adds to mounting evidence of an out-of-control division where some officers violated department policies and even broke laws as they victimized a largely minority community whose members were reluctant to challenge the LAPD’s authority and were often ignored when they did complain.
The unfolding scandal, fueled by the testimony of a former Rampart officer convicted of stealing 8 pounds of cocaine, already includes allegations that officers were involved in improper shootings, evidence planting, false arrests, witness intimidation, beatings, theft, drug dealing and perjury.
Some of the officers, according to sources, maintained a “crash pad” near the station where they drank heavily and sometimes had sex while on duty. Since September, when the scandal broke wide open, more than a dozen LAPD officers who worked or had worked at the Rampart station have been relieved of duty. Police officials say they expect more officers to face suspension, firing and, in some cases, prosecution.
The latest disclosure stems from a May 4, 1998, incident in which the partners, working an anti-drug detail, stopped a car in which a woman, identified in law enforcement documents as Tina R., was a passenger.
Tina said the officers found two crack cocaine pipes in her car. As the officers questioned her, she said, one of them made comments about her appearance and asked if she was dating anyone, according to an internal LAPD review of the case.
That officer, who Tina said later raped her, directed her to drive to 3rd Street and Union Avenue--where police offices are located--and wait for them.
“She said that she did as directed because [the officer] threatened that he would go to her residence and ‘get her’ if she didn’t,” according to the district attorney’s review of the case. “She interpreted this to mean that he would arrest her if she failed to cooperate with him.”
The officers apparently went off duty about 9 p.m. and met Tina outside the police building. She said they followed her--apparently in an unmarked police car--to a motel on La Cienega Boulevard that is a “known location for prostitution activity,” police reports state.
She said the officers told her to rent a room. As she did so, the officers went to a nearby 7-Eleven to buy beer, wine, potato chips and a package of condoms.
Once inside the room, Tina said, she was ordered to lie naked on the bed. She said she and one of the officers then went into the bathroom, where he forced her to engage in sex acts.
“She told investigators that she complied because she felt she had no choice in the matter,” the district attorney’s documents state.
After the alleged sexual assault by one officer, Tina said, she left the bathroom and the other officer grabbed her breasts and buttocks.
The attorney for the officer who had sex with the woman declined to comment. The attorney for the other officer did not return repeated phone calls over several days.
But the officers’ version of events given to police investigators differs sharply from Tina’s. They said she flirted with them when they pulled her over, even showing them nude photos of herself. According to police documents, this account was lent credence by the driver of the car in which she was riding, who told investigators that Tina was “sweet talking” the officers.
Tina and the driver of the car say the officers found drug paraphernalia in the vehicle--a criminal offense for which they were not arrested. The driver said one of the officers destroyed evidence, stepping on one of the crack pipes in the street.
The officers denied that they found any drug paraphernalia in the car. They also disputed that they instructed Tina to rent a room at the motel and, in fact, the district attorney’s report said she had rented the room earlier in the day.
The officer whom Tina accused of raping her does not deny having sex with her, but he insists it was consensual. The other officer denies inappropriately touching Tina but acknowledges that he was inside the motel room while his partner had sex with her.
An LAPD board of rights exonerated the officers on the sexual misconduct charges, but found both guilty of improperly turning an official on-duty contact into a “social relationship” in a motel room.
Of the officer who engaged in sex, the board wrote: “By having sex with [the woman], [the officer] subjected himself and the city to criminal and civil liability.”
Board members wrote that though the other officer did not engage in sex, “the board believes that officer . . . also had sexual intentions as evidenced by his purchase of condoms . . . and his statement that his interest waned when she became overly aggressive.”
Board members also criticized that officer for allowing the incident to occur.
“You followed [your partner’s] lead, instead of leading him away from a dangerous situation,” the board report stated.
The report continued: “You both violated the responsibility entrusted to you. . . . It is particularly troubling when officers assigned to a hype [anti-drug] unit would convert an on-duty contact to an off-duty social relationship with a drug user.”
Board members, however, added that they were “very impressed by the ratings and commendations” in both officers’ personnel packages and found that both have “valuable contributions to make to the department.”
After serving their suspensions and then returning to work, both officers were relieved of duty in September, when Rafael Perez, their former colleague in the Rampart Division, began providing information on allegedly dirty cops to shave time off his prison sentence for cocaine theft.
At least one of the officers in the sexual misconduct case was present and fired his weapon during a July 1996 shooting that Perez has since told investigators was “dirty.”