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LAPD Takes Another Hit: TV ‘Rampart’

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The scandal gushing from the LAPD’s Rampart station house has generated a torrent of lawsuits, overturned convictions, investigations of police officers and a nasty stain on the image of an already reeling department.

Now it’s Hollywood’s turn.

FX, the flagship general entertainment cable network from Fox, announced production Friday of a new series focusing on the “morally ambiguous world” of some fictitious Los Angeles officers.

The title? “Rampart.”

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It is hardly a scenario that has endeared itself to the self-conscious LAPD.

“Shows like these capitalize on sensational headlines without realizing what harm that can do--undermining the great work of 99.9% of the men and women who work in the precinct and negatively influencing youth,” said Sgt. John Pasquariello, an LAPD spokesman.

The scripted, hourlong weekly series is tentatively scheduled to premiere next spring, said Kevin Reilly, president of entertainment for FX. The network placed an order for 13 episodes of what will be its first original drama series.

The Rampart scandal, with its ugly evidence of police wrongdoing, loosely inspired the series, said Shawn Ryan, the creator of the pilot and co-executive producer of the series. But the program is fictional and departs from the reality outlined in news reports.

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With police misbehavior at its core, however, it is clear that this will not be another LAPD-worshiping “Dragnet.” The principal character, a rogue detective named Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis, who appeared in “The Commish,” “Nixon” and “Soldier”) is in cahoots with a drug trafficker. Joe Friday he is not.

“It’s not just a story about crime in the area,” said Ryan, 34, a native of Illinois who has lived in Los Angeles since 1990. “It’s also a story about cops who cross the line, plus cops who stick to their principles.”

Tension Between Captain, Officers

The series’ dramatic verve derives from a central conflict: the tension between a group of corrupt but effective officers and a captain torn between bringing them down and his own political ambitions.

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No one at the LAPD was consulted, said the department spokesman.

“One thing we’ve learned is that there’s no ‘moral ambiguity’ in police work,” Pasquariello said. “When good guys do bad things, the whole system falls apart. Still, programs like these are short-term. Police work continues every day.”

In Ryan’s view, he was trying to capture the nuanced reality he witnessed during nighttime police ride-alongs in San Francisco while writing for the CBS series “Nash Bridges.”

“I’m not trying to paint an entire Police Department with a broad, ugly brush,” said Ryan, who has also written for the WB’s series “Angel.” “But I am trying to push the boundaries. For the most part, the cops on cop shows are all superheroes.”

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The pilot’s director was Clark Johnson (who starred in NBC’s “Homicide” and previously directed HBO’s “Boycott”). Johnson will also direct some episodes.

The series is to be filmed entirely in Los Angeles, but not in glamour locales. One chase scene in the pilot goes through a pinata shop.

“We’re filming in nooks of the city where they never have anyone filming,” Ryan said. “It’s really showing the color and tapestry of Los Angeles.”


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